F1 goes free-to-air in Middle East under new MBC deal

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File photo shows Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during practice in this recent photo during the Formula One Australian Grand Prix at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne. Formula One will be broadcast live and free-to-air in the Middle East and North Africa under a new five-year deal with MBC Group. — Reuters

LONDON — Formula One will be broadcast live and free-to-air in the Middle East and North Africa under a new five-year deal with MBC Group, the sport announced on Wednesday.

Qatar-based pay-TV broadcaster beIN Sports said in February it had not renewed its contract as a result of broadcast piracy in the region. The previous five-year deal expired at the end of last season.

Formula One said MBC, the Middle East's largest media company, had acquired the exclusive rights to air all 21 races, broadcasting live with a "considerable on-site presence" including guest commentators.

"They are in a unique position to help grow F1 throughout the region," said Formula One's director of media rights Ian Holmes.

The group, founded by Saudi businessman Waleed Al-Ibrahim, includes 18 free-to-air channels as well as digital and social media platforms in a region with a population of more than 400 million. — Reuters


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