Motor racing-F1 returns to beIN Sports in Middle East with 10-year deal

Formula One F1 - Bahrain Grand Prix - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - March 5, 2023 Alpine's Esteban Ocon in action during the race REUTERS/Rula Rouhana/ File photo

(Reuters) -Formula One is returning to Qatar's beIN Sports in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey after agreeing a 10-year deal with the pay-TV broadcaster who walked away in 2019 due to piracy in the region.

Liberty Media-owned Formula One and beIN announced the exclusive deal on Wednesday ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

No financial details were given but one source suggested the deal could be worth $500 million over the course of the contract.

The pay-TV broadcaster had decided not to renew its previous deal after a pirate 'BeoutQ' channel emerged in 2017.

Saudi Arabia and its allies had launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar, accusing the tiny Gulf state of supporting terrorism, which Doha denied.

BeoutQ was widely available in Saudi Arabia but Riyadh denied it was based there.

The 3-1/2 year boycott ended in 2021 and Qatar has been steadily mending ties with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain since then.

BeIN's popular streaming service was blocked in Saudi Arabia during the 2022 soccer World Cup, however.

The regional F1 rights went free-to-air in 2019 under a five-year deal with MBC Group, founded by Saudi businessman Waleed al-Ibrahim.

The new deal gives beIN rights to broadcast every race weekend, starting with Saturday's opener to the record 24 round season.

Formula One said they would work closely together to develop localised content for the region across various formats and platforms.

The Middle East has four grands prix with Saudi Arabia following Bahrain next week and Qatar and Abu Dhabi the final two rounds in December.

BeIN is also the exclusive broadcaster of Formula One in 10 Asia Pacific countries as part of a deal running to the end of next year.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)

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