by Bertha Henson
There’s a new game in town – a soccer “unfriendly’’ between two home-grown giants, SingTel and StarHub. So exciting for the rest of us watching from the stands!
So the Media Development Authority (MDA) has finally decided to blow the whistle and ordered SingTel to share its EPL soccer screening rights with StarHub. Read BT and you can practically hear SingTel’s Allen Lew spluttering and foaming at the mouth. The playing field has been tilted again, he said. “It makes StarHub more powerful. They pay nothing.’’
He’s shot a note to the minister, not even waiting for the 14 days leave to appeal the decision.
What are spectators supposed to make of this spectacle? The first reaction would be: Hooray! No need to switch set top boxes to catch a game, since it is going to be aired on both pay-TV stations. No different from the way StarHub had offered cross-carriage of the 64 Euro 2012 matches to the SingNet mio TV platform after acquiring exclusive rights last year. All paid $69.55 to watch the games. Now, StarHub didn’t make a fuss about sharing. So what is SingTel going on about?
The thing is, the MDA decision boils down to whether SingTel had an exclusive deal with the Football Association Premier League on broadcast rights. SingTel said it was non-exclusive and it can’t be helped if StarHub can’t get the football bosses to the negotiating table.
StarHub, on the other hands, thinks some kind of deal was done to keep it away, like the football bosses having to pay a “rebate’’ to SingTel if a second operator got the rights too.
All is speculation.
MDA isn’t going to disclose the terms of the agreement and cite chapter and verse on which parts contravene its cross-carriage rules. Now, has anybody gone to the Football Association yet to get its response?
The question then is what price would consumers have to pay to watch EPL? Currently, mio TV customers pay $34.90 for its sports package. They are safe if their packages go beyond the August kick off date.
As for the rest, Mr Lew was pretty blunt: pay more to watch EPL. Because he cannot “upsell’’ other programmes if people are watching on the StarHub channel.
Does the price for the rights matter? SingTel is said to have paid US$200m to US$250m for the rights, lower than its first foray in 2009 when it wrested the rights from StarHub for some US$400million. That’s much lower.
In any case, it seems SingTel is digging in on basis of principle. It maintains that it did nothing wrong and the MDA decision amounts to some kind of unfair penalty. It might even take the legal route to challenge MDA. Woah!
StarHub is naturally gleeful.
Spectators should keep the cheers down – you don’t know how much you’ll be paying and the way both giants are talking, you’d best hope that the matches will be screened after all!