mioTV takes EPL from StarHub

SingTel division also grabs three ESPN channels

HONG KONG -- Singapore Telecommunications and its mioTV subsidiary have won the rights to English Premier League soccer after outbidding incumbent broadcaster StarHub. It also persuaded ESPN STAR Sports to switch platforms.

The deals have the potential to change the course of pay-TV development in Singapore. Sports, in particular the EPL, and movies are the single biggest incentives to subscribers.
MioTV won the rights for three years, starting August 2010, in a package that also includes Internet and mobile rights.

In a related move, mioTV also secured exclusive rights to a trio of ESS sports channels -- ESPN, STAR Sports and STAR Cricket – which will leave StarHub in mid-2010. ESPNEWS, a new 24-hours sports news channel, also goes live on mioTV in November 2009.

"Football fans can look forward to a revolutionary way of viewing 'live' soccer matches on TV, the Internet and their mobile phones," said Allen Lew, SingTel’s CEO Singapore. "Best of all, they will not be charged more than what they are currently paying to their cable TV operator, while at the same time enjoying superior experience and convenience from our integrated platform offering."

StarHub confirmed the losses and suggested that the price was simply too rich. "While we are committed to offering quality sports content, we are mindful of the balance in meeting consumers' expectations in regards to price, and shareholders' expectations in terms of profits," said Kathleen Syron, StarHub's head of content. "Presently our sports package is priced below the cost of the content that makes up that package. Our bid for [EPL] was aggressive, but also made with the intent to hold retail prices stable."

MioTV, which uses IPTV technology rather than terrestrial, cable or satellite transmission, was launched two years ago. It has competed with StarHub for channels and content and emphasized its ability to deliver an a la carte channels menu, but slow growth did not satisfy some channel providers. The BBC, which launched three channels in Singapore with mioTV, switched all five of its channels to an exclusive deal with StarHub in March.

At that time StarHub claimed 527,000 subscribers against 78,000 for mioTV.

Households and sports fans were quick to voice discontent in online forums. Some said they would be forced to switch providers in order to continue watching the soccer. Others said that the government and the Media Development Authority should not allow the platforms to claim exclusive content.  

Still others said that the aggressive competition between the two platforms served little purpose as ultimately both StarHub and SingTel are both controlled by state-owned holding company Temasek.
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