Viewers of the World Cup in Saudi Arabia say the government has blocked a Qatari-owned streaming service that was supposed to broadcast matches in the kingdom.
Saudi-based subscribers who were unable to watch the World Cup matches flooded the TOD TV Twitter account this week with refund requests and screenshots from the service’s website saying, “Sorry, the page you requested violates Ministry of Information regulations.”
In a message shared by subscribers, TOD TV apologized to viewers for “the temporary loss of service.”
“This is due to reasons beyond our control,” she said. “We value our viewers for having an outstanding user experience and are working to resume normal services as soon as possible.”
TODTV, the Saudi Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Qatari beIN group has been caught up in a bitter political dispute between Riyadh and Doha in recent years. In 2017 Saudi Arabia led a group of four Arab countries to impose a boycott of Qatar over its support for political Islamists, its ties to Iran and its funding of the Al Jazeera satellite news channel, which at times has been highly critical of the governments of other Gulf states.
During the boycott, beIN Sports lost its broadcast license in Saudi Arabia, and Saudi viewers lost their only way to watch football from Europe’s biggest leagues and major Asian competitions outside of pirated services. But last year, after Saudi Arabia mended ties with Qatar, beIN resumed service in the key Saudi market.
TOD TV broadcasts some matches for free, including those from Saudi Arabia, but 42 matches were only available on the streaming service, which was apparently banned before the tournament began on November 20. He has not been able to make it to the service since the opening ceremony, as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sat just a few seats ahead of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Competition for revenue and millions of subscribers in the Middle East is intensifying among regional streaming services, including Shahid, which is run by Saudi-owned MBC Group.
The Saudi government is believed to own a controlling stake in MBC Group after a series of arrests in 2017 ordered by Prince Mohammed over corruption allegations helped him centralize power in the kingdom.
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