By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - The sports media rights "bubble" is about to burst because of global broadcast piracy and the business model will have to be overhauled, the head of Qatar-based beIN Media Group said on Tuesday.
Chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly told the Leaders Week Sport Business Summit in London that beIN now regarded all sports rights as non-exclusive, and future commercial offers would reflect that.
"I'm here to tell you how the endless growth of sports rights is over," he said. "Not only that, but in certain cases, rights values are going drop off a cliff, and the very economic model of our industry is going to be rewritten.
"Any rights-holders who think that the technology companies of the (U.S.) West Coast are their financial saviours are going to be swiftly disappointed."
The broadcaster has invested more than $15 billion in sports rights, including the English Premier League and other major soccer leagues and tournaments around the world.
It has urged sports bodies to take legal action against the BeoutQ channel which carries pirated broadcasts of global sports events to which beIN Sports holds the rights.
BeoutQ emerged in 2017 after Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar, accusing the tiny Gulf state of supporting terrorism, which Doha denies.
Reuters has not been able to confirm where BeoutQ is based, or to contact the firm. The channel is widely available in Saudi Arabia but Riyadh has previously said it is not based there and that Saudi authorities are committed to fighting piracy.
BeIN Sports said in February it had not renewed its Formula One contract for the Middle East and North Africa as a result of piracy. The sport is now broadcast free to air in the region under a five-year deal with MBC Group.
Al-Obaidly told the summit that the industry was refusing to confront the "piracy elephant" in the room and make attempts to tackle the problem.
"The glorious media rights bubble is about to burst. And ... the truth is that our industry is completely unprepared," he said.
"If you don't get your house in order and quickly, the sports rights market will disintegrate beyond recognition. In fact, winter is already here."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Pravin Char)