MBC Group, the Saudi-owned Middle East broadcasting giant and the largest media operation in the region, has become the latest company to join the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the Motion Picture Association’s anti-piracy organization, as it gathers steam internationally.
ACE recently added its first Latin American telecommunication film and two Asia-based entertainment companies.
“The addition of MBC Group to ACE demonstrates the value of continuing to build our membership base and network in key local regions,” said Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association and chairman of ACE. “Together we will strengthen our global network and expand the resources and expertise needed to tackle the serious threat piracy poses to media and entertainment companies all over the world.”
Based in Riyadh and majority-owned by the Saudi government, MBC is a behemoth across the Middle East and north Africa, with numerous satellite channels across news and entertainment, a streaming platform and a growing production unit that has recently been investing heavily in major Hollywood features, such as the Gerard Butler-starring Kandahar, which shot in Saudi Arabia last year.
According to local insights shared by MBC, hundreds of websites pirate its content daily, including Arabic-language and locally produced films, series, and programs, as well as international content such English-language titles from North America, anime, and Korean series. Pirates commonly aggregate content from multiple pay-TV operators and subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platforms in the region through so-called “IPTV” offerings that can cost as little as $15 annually.
“Protecting our content is of critical commercial importance for us and, as the leading streamer in the region, this has become a significant component to our success,” said Natasha Hemingway, chief commercial and marketing officer at MBC’s streaming platform Shahid. “We are delighted to partner with ACE to strengthen our anti-piracy efforts.”
ACE has already made significant progress combating piracy operations in the MENA region. Earlier this year, the coalition took down four illegal piracy operations in Egypt in coordination with Qatar’s beIN Sports, which joined the coalition in April. Last year, the coalition shut down the popular, illegal streaming services Electro TV Sat in Morocco and 123movies.la in Tunisia. In 2020, ACE shuttered Algeria-based IPTV subscription service Akfasat, which provided access to over 3,500 live channels and over 26,000 movies and TV shows.
Interestingly, Saudi Arabia was accused of being behind one of the world’s largest piracy operations. The now-shuttered beoutQ began illegally streaming sports channels stolen from beIN in 2017 but then moved into set-top boxes and subscriptions, even going so far as to hire its own sports commentators and selling its own advertising. beoutQ reportedly cost beIN several billion dollars, before being abruptly closed down in 2019.
First launched 2017 by the MPA and many of the world’s media and technology companies to jointly combat the threat and prevalence of online piracy, ACE is now comprised of 41 members. In October, ACE welcomed Tigo, a Latin America-based telecommunications company, as a member. In June, ACE added Hong Kong-based Viu and Thailand-based True Visions, marking the first Asia-based media and entertainment companies to join the coalition.
ACE’s governing board is comprised of the MPA’s six members — Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. — as well as Amazon and Apple TV+. Since its creation, ACE has successfully led or participated in thousands of global enforcement actions, averaging several dozens of actions a month against illegal streaming services and sources of unauthorized content and their operators.