I seriously await the day that we have one operator getting the telecast rights for each of the leagues/cups that’s being shown on TV. Imagine. Every home may end up having a server rack in the living room. In fact, if this idea kicks off, there’s even a new market or industry for it! Special furniture for TV set up boxes!

Ok, enough of nonsense.

When the word competition came up here, I thought it didn’t quite fit into the scenario. Yes, there’s competition amongst the pay-TV powerhouses to fight for telecast rights. However, the reason why these competitions do not result in more savings for consumers is because they are actually showing different games! This seems like a competition-followed-by-complementary situation where it’s competition to see who gets what piece of the pie, while at the end of the day, after they have gotten their piece of the pie, they have their own pricing. There’s no overlap in telecast rights which results in 2 or more companies trying to get football fans to subscribe to them for the same match!

Quoting the papers (and MDA):

MDA’s stand is that the free market approach is the right one, and competition is the way to go.

Its media policy director Ling Pek Ling told The Sunday Times that ‘competition has helped widen the choice for viewers’, and pointed out how StarHub introduced the Eurosports channel after competition came in.

This is called competition? I see…

Football fans will have to pay more to get their weekly fix of quality matches on TV, but that’s the reality they will have to live with.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has said it will not intervene even though fans have to dig deeper into their pockets for pay-TV subscriptions to matches such as the English Premier League (EPL) and Champions League.

This comes as pay-TV powerhouse StarHub and SingTel’s fledgling mio TV battle it out for football telecast rights.

MDA’s stand is that the free market approach is the right one, and competition is the way to go.

Its media policy director Ling Pek Ling told The Sunday Times that ‘competition has helped widen the choice for viewers’, and pointed out how StarHub introduced the Eurosports channel after competition came in.

She added: ‘The authority encourages and facilitates competition, but the players should be sensitive in their pricing.’

She cited Hong Kong as an example of how competition had played itself out in a positive way.

i-Cable was the dominant player there before 2003 with 656,000 subscribers. But instead of seeing its customer base shrink when rival now TV debuted that year, both firms witnessed substantial growth.

Both players ended up sharing the market with 882,000 subscribers each today.

In any case, she said, viewers are not entirely powerless and cannot be underestimated.

‘Consumers do call the shots and they can opt not to buy the pay-TV packages.’

MDA’s remarks come amid complaints from fans following the announcement by SingTel on March 20 that it had won the rights to screen Champions League and Uefa Cup matches on mio TV from next year.

Good news for the ambitious new pay-TV player, but bad news for football fans.

SingTel’s victory means that from next year, in addition to subscribing to StarHub’s $49 plan for EPL – which includes the Sports Group ($25) and the compulsory three Basic Groups ($24) – fans will have to pay more if they want to catch Champions League football as well.

Currently, those who sign up for mio TV must spend a minimum of $16.05 a month, as well as make a one-time payment of $53.50 for installation and $64.20 for a compatible telephone modem to hook up.

Without disclosing figures, a SingTel spokesman said it will price its European coverage ‘fairly, considering that fans have to pay for other football content as well’.

SingTel’s announcement follows news last October that StarHub was raising its Sports Group charges for EPL matches from $15 to $25 a month. So, from next year, fans will have to pay at least $65.05 in monthly subscriptions if they want to catch both EPL and Champions League matches.

Indeed, the StarHub-SingTel rivalry means Singapore fans will have to cough up more than those in other Asian countries to get their football fix.

‘It never ends,’ lamented businessman Zac Leong, 48, an Arsenal fan. ‘We consumers have suffered long enough and it’s getting out of hand. Isn’t competition supposed to push prices down?’

Another bugbear for fans: the need for a separate mio TV telephone modem in addition to the StarHub set-top box, a move that teacher and Manchester United fan Subash Pillay, 31, believes is ‘too inconvenient’.

Project manager Chan Chong Hong, 35, another Man U supporter, wondered: ‘What if M2B (the smallest pay-TV operator here) wins rights to the FA Cup? Will we need three set-top boxes?”

Senior analyst Marc Einstein from research firm Frost and Sullivan said: ‘It’s all about content when you are pushing the bundled services. And it’s fair to say consumers are bearing the cost of this competition.’

Liverpool fanVivek Govind, 31, said he will sign up for mio TVbecause ‘the temptation of football is just too great, even though I don’t care about the other channels on mio TV’.

But Mr Leong is not buying it, saying: ‘I can afford mio TV but I will not get it as a matter of principle. It is unfair to get another subscription plan just for Champions League games.’

Additional reporting by Alfred Siew

meng@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 6th April 2008



Reader's Comments

  1. DK | April 6th, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Singapore is really unique. When there is competition, the prices usually go down. But for this case, competition bought the prices up.

  2. Peter | April 8th, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Say “NO” To Endless Sports Contents Price Hikes!

    Sign the online Petition here! Note: No Fee for signing online Petition!

    http://gopetition.com/petitions/no-to-endless-sports-contents-price-hikes.html

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