CAIRO/DOHA (Reuters) – BeIN Sports, a Qatar-based broadcaster that holds exclusive television rights to top sporting events such as Premier League football in the Middle East, said it had cut its service to Egypt on Tuesday amid a contract dispute with its service provider.
The news is likely to jolt Egypt, which stands to lose access to a deep pool of content held by beIN that also includes LaLiga, the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A as well as major international club and country competitions.
The service cut came after “lengthy negotiations” to agree commercial terms for a new contract with Cable Network Egypt (CNE), beIN said in a statement, without providing further detail of the terms.
“As such we are unable to provide our services on CNE as of January 8th, 2019 until such time that CNE agrees reasonable terms,” the statement said.
CNE said in a statement that it was working to resolve the dispute with beIN “as soon as possible.”
The outage comes the same day that Egypt won the right to host the 2019 African Nations Cup final, edging out South Africa for the tournament after Cameroon was stripped of it last month over concerns at the slow pace of preparations.
It also means Egyptians may not be able to cheer on Egyptian Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, who shot to fame in 2018 as one of the world’s biggest football stars.
“The situation is dangerous for young people because we’re following the Premier League for Mo Salah. How are we now going to watch the only thing that makes us happy?” said 20-year-old Mohamed Rabei, sitting in a downtown Cairo coffee shop.
Salah was awarded 2018 African Player of the Year in a ceremony broadcast on beIN on Tuesday, which Egyptians were able to watch
He is seen as a national hero after earning the Premier League’s Professional Footballer Association player off the year and leading Egypt to it’s first World Cup berth in 28 years with their appearance in Moscow last year.
His success has been a rare bright spot for Egyptians hit by years of tough austerity and economic hardship following the 2011 uprising.
BeIN is blocked in Saudi Arabia under a boycott imposed when the kingdom and its allies including Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017 saying it supported terrorism. Qatar denies those accusations.
(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty and Eric Knecht; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Angus MacSwan)