Qatar’s beIN Media said on Sunday that “lengthy” talks with Emirates telecom company Du had broken down, potentially denying thousands of fans the chance to watch World Cup games live.
“beIN Media Group announces that after lengthy negotiations, it has not been able to reach to this day an agreement to continue its services over Du’s network,” the Doha-based broadcaster said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Du and Etisalat are the two only telecom companies in the United Arab Emirates showing channels from beIN, which has exclusive rights to show all 64 matches lives across the Gulf.
The announcement comes just 11 days before the World Cup starts and on the eve of the one-year anniversary of a diplomatic dispute between the countries.
As well as ongoing political tensions, beIN says its channels are being pirated in a sophisticated operation across the region, with pictures broadcast illegally by a company called beoutQ.
Services to Du had been interrupted since Saturday, with the UAE firm saying the blank screens were the result of action taken by beIN.
An agreement with Etisalat has been reached so that it can continue to broadcast beIN channels to its customers.
A source with knowledge of the matter said the dispute with Du had been caused by ongoing commercial negotiations over TV carriage rights, and had nothing to do with political tensions or pirating claims.
A group of countries including the UAE cut all ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, accusing Doha of supporting extremism and being too close to Iran. Qatar denies the allegations.
In the immediate aftermath of the crisis beIN channels were blocked in the UAE, but were back on air by July last year.
Earlier this week beIN urged FIFA to launch legal action against those bootlegging their broadcasts in the region.