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Sat 9 Feb 2019 11:42 AM

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Formula One looking for new Middle East broadcast partner

Spokesman for Formula One said it was in the late stages of finalising arrangements with a new licensee for the region

Formula One looking for new Middle East broadcast partner
Race winner Lewis Hamilton celebrates on track during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 25, 2018. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Formula One is searching for a broadcaster in the Middle East and North Africa after BeIN Sports decided not to renew its five-year contract, in a setback for the motor-racing competition’s US owner Liberty Media.

TV network BeIN walked away because of disappointing viewing figures and rampant piracy in the region, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the discussions were private.

BeIN’s 2014-19 deal for live broadcast rights was worth $30 million to $40 million a year, according to people with knowledge of the terms.

That’s as much as 7 percent of Formula One’s estimated broadcast income, said media analyst Richard Broughton at Ampere Analysis.

A spokesman for Formula One said it was in the late stages of finalising arrangements with a new licensee for the region.

Shares of Liberty Media were down 2.1 percent as of 11:38 a.m. in New York.

The dominant international car racing series has lost viewers in the past decade. Billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Media bought the sport for $4.4 billion in 2017 with a view to reviving interest beyond its European base, boosting sponsorship and harnessing virtual reality and video games to cultivate a new generation of fans.

Liberty has extended Formula One’s reach in Asia by agreeing to a new circuit in Vietnam from 2020, and now hopes to add Miami. It has begun a direct-to-consumer digital streaming service that aims to have around 2 million subscribers by 2027. Formula One says audiences have begun to grow more recently.

It has fared less well with its partner in the Middle East. BeIN warned in November it would cut spending on major sports events unless the industry did more to stop a rival Saudi-based network from stealing its content and broadcasting it illegally.

The Saudi government denies having any links to BeoutQ, whose channels are distributed online and over a satellite network based in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

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