According to several reports by World Cup viewers in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom has blocked a Qatari-owned streaming service that was supposed to broadcast football matches directly and live from Qatar.
Saudi Arabia has blocked Qatari broadcaster BeIN’s popular streaming service Tod TV since the start of the World Cup on November 20, according to a number of reports by the Tod TV subscribers in the kingdom. The subscribers told AFP, a French international news agency, on Saturday that they had been unable to access the service since the start of the World Cup.
According to the words of one Saudi subscriber, the service cut out fully about an hour before the broadcast of the opening ceremony. Another said the service still works briefly but for no more than 10 minutes before an error message appears.
When entering the Todd.tv page on the Internet from inside Saudi Arabia, a message of apology appears stating that the requested page violates the regulations of the Ministry of Information.
“Sorry, the requested page is violating the regulations of Ministry of Media,” the error message says. “I want my money,” one subscriber told AFP, saying efforts to get a refund on the service, which costs about 300 Saudi riyals (roughly $80) per month, had been unsuccessful.
This is while the tv channel was operating quite normally 10 months before it was suddenly disrupted without explanation.
In a short statement announcing the disruption of the Tod TV in Saudi Arabia, beIN said to its subscribers that “due to matters beyond our control, we are experiencing an outage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is currently impacting TOD.tv, the official streaming partner of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Additional information will be provided as soon as it is available”.
As of this Monday, the Saudi government has not yet responded to a request for comment about the disruption.
Tod TV, a victim of political tensions since 2017
Tod TV is the official broadcaster of the FIFA World Cup 2022, providing service in 24 countries to fans in the Middle East and North Africa. The platform is owned by the Qatari broadcaster beIN Media Group, which was banned in Saudi Arabia for several years during conflicts between the two countries but was then allowed to operate again in the kingdom in October 2021.
The story of the kingdom banning the platforms dates back to 2017, when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s 37-year-old de facto ruler, created a regional boycott of Qatar beginning in June that year.
At the time, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar over allegations that Doha supported extremists and was too close to arch-rival Iran, none of which Doha admitte.
During the boycott, beIN Sports was blocked to broadcast in Saudi Arabia, and Saudi viewers lost their only way to watch soccer from Europe’s biggest leagues and Asia’s top competitions outside of pirated services. But last year after Saudi Arabia mended ties with Qatar, beIN resumed operation in the kingdom.
And now, the move to again block the platform, especially at the time when the most important sport event of the world is happening, has surprised and disappointed Saudi football fans. The irony is that last October, bin Salman had ordered all government institutions to facilitate everything related to the Qatar World Cup for Saudi people.
“The Crown Prince has instructed all ministries, commissions and government entities in the Kingdom to offer any additional support or facilitation that their counterparts in the brotherly Qatar need in order to support its effort in hosting the World Cup 2022,” Saudi Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal said in a statement back then.