According to the latest news reports, Saudi Arabia is planning to end Qatari-based beIN Sports' monopoly over entertainment television in the region and internationally by launching its own sports network, supposedly titled PBS Sports.
The news comes amid the ongoing Qatari crisis and over two weeks after several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen severed diplomatic and transport ties with Doha.
Speaking about the soon to be launched network, Chairman of Saudi Media City, Muflih al-Hafatah, was quoted as saying:
“One channel will be launched initially as a promotional platform for the network, and with the beginning of the new season there will be 5 channels which will gradually increase to become 11 channels.”
Al-Hafatah also stated that the channel will not be encrypted; therefore accessible free of charge.
Even though many are already sharing material pertaining to the launch on social media, with a few even posting a supposed "PBS" logo, all details related to the network's launch remain unconfirmed until further notice.
An upcoming sports network?
The television rights that beIN Sports currently holds include rights for: "The 2018 and 2022 World Cup, the Cup of Nations in Europe, the Asian Cup, Africa Cup of Nations, the Champions League, the AFC Champions League, CAF Champions League tournaments."
To end the monopoly, the kingdom would have to acquire their respective rights for future seasons.
Currently, distribution decisions such as these would have to be made by Fifa's (International Football Federation) court.
In an interview with Gulf News last week, Saudi lawyer Majid Gharoub, who has worked with the federation's Legal Committee for several years, said:
“Due to the political situation in the region, Saudi Arabia will have to negotiate with Fifa on the rights issues. We will be submitting a report on the developments and Fifa will have to look into it.”
An unofficial PBS Twitter account launched a countdown to the possible launch
"The countdown to the PBS Sports launch has begun."
People are already excited about the whole thing
"We'll no longer need beIN Sports with PBS because it'll offer us a chance to watch all championships and cups for free."
"Goodbye beIN Sports, welcome PBS"
beIN Sports now officially banned in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE
Reports of the new network come just a week after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE banned Qatar's beIN Sports receivers and cards in the countries.
Prior to that, users of the channel in the latter Gulf countries claimed the channel had already been blocked.
Many also added that they were unable to access the channel's website.