How has beIN managed to navigate the seismic challenges presented by the pandemic, and what have been your takeaways from this unprecedented year?
It is hard to exaggerate how dramatically the sports and entertainment industry has changed; and how after years of careful planning and strategy everything was turned upside down in a matter of days. 2020 was due to be one of our biggest years of sport, with the Tokyo Olympics and the UEFA Euros being just two of dozens of major events we were scheduled to broadcast. What makes me enormously proud is how we responded and worked through the night for weeks to ensure we kept the show on the road for our subscribers and partners. All our studios—Arabic, English, French, Turkish, and many more covering 43 countries—never once stopped broadcasting. We had teams creating original non-live sports content from scratch. We launched a new beIN Cinema service in April. And when live sport returned on May 23 with the return of the Bundesliga, for three frenetic months up until the UEFA Champions League final on August 23, we produced more premium live sport in that period than any other broadcaster in history. It was an immense achievement. What I learned was that at the end of the day, when challenges come along, you can either make excuses, or make a difference—we chose the latter.
You are known around the world for leading the global fight against broadcast piracy. It's been a momentous year for beIN and for Qatar on that front, hasn't it?
We have been relentless in our fight against piracy for over three and a half years now; and we won't stop. Through international legal cases, political lobbying, media scrutiny and commercial pressure, we have deployed every lever of influence to hold to account anyone who steals intellectual property. In June, Qatar won one of its most high-profile legal cases of recent times at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This was an important moment for beIN and for Qatar as together—side by side—supported by the entire international community (including the most senior levels of the US and UK governments, the European Commission, the WTO, and world sport), we upheld international law. It was also an important moment for the truth, which always prevails.
What are your strategic priorities for 2021, and how will they contribute to the 2030 Qatar National Vision goals?
First and foremost, like all businesses, our priority is to keep our head above the water as the pandemic continues – no doubt there will be many more twists, turns and challenges ahead. For us, this means being nimble; being creative; and constantly listening to our subscribers to give them the content they want, when and where they want it. We now have an enormous year of rescheduled sport in 2021, with marquee moments including the Olympics, the Euros, Copa América, the CONCACAF Gold Cup—which Qatar is competing in—to name only a few, and premium live sport will remain the bedrock of our business. However, we will also continue to build our entertainment business in MENA—investing in our movies, series, kids, gourmet, and documentary offerings. We will improve our OTT platform and infrastructure, we will keep fighting piracy, we will promote under-represented sports and talent through our beINSPIRED initiative, and we will continue supporting the WHO and the UN in the global fight against COVID-19. Sport and entertainment are at the heart of Qatar's national vision, and we are proud to support that mission every day. More than anything, I am immensely proud that we are a Qatari company that is constantly raising the bar of excellence locally, regionally, and on the global stage. In everything we do, we strive to showcase the very best of Qatar to the world and bring the world to Qatar.