Can local telcos afford to raise the price on UEFA matches?

Football frenzy is hitting Singapore as the 2016 UEFA European Championship looks to air on local TV screens on 10 June 2016. Ahead of the matches, local telco Singtel has priced its package at SG$88, almost SG$20 more than when it aired in 2012 for SG$69.55.

Singtel's pricing unfortunately, has caught the attention of local consumers as well as radio personalities. A quick conversation with listeners by Mediacorp DJ's known affectionately as "The Muttons" indicated that customers would rather steam online than pay the steep price to the telcos.

No doubt over the years with digital streaming so readily available and the rise of on-demand services, TV viewership has been on a downward spiral. With such a high pricing placed by the telcos, do they then run the risk of alienating themselves from consumers even more?

According to a Singtel spokesperson, it is looking to draw in fans by  bundling the Copa America Centenario USA 2016 together with the UEFA Euro 2016. These are two of the world's popular international football tournaments.

"While customers have the option to pay a single ala-carte price to get access to the two football tournaments, we encourage customers to sign-up or renew their contracts so they can watch all the matches of the two tournaments for free. In addition, as a bonus, these customers can also watch all matches from the two tournaments for free on the Singtel TV GO app anytime, anywhere," she said.

In a conversation with Marketing, Lin Shu Fen, Head, Family Segment & HubLife, StarHub said, in a bid to ensure customers are coming back to its services and keep up with changing consumption habits, the the telco has been  delivering content on multi-screen platforms. It no longer focuses on delivering products simply on the TV screen but rather layers it across its available platforms.

However, StarHub was unable to share with Marketing its pricing details.

Currently it has a dedicated online streaming service app. Moreover, for those who do not have a StarHub TV subscription, the telco also rolled out two packages for the mobile platform called Go Select and Go Sports.

"With our data analytics and knowledge of our customers, we are able to curate and recommend accurately the content that are popular and relevant to our customer segments.  And package them with an easy user experience," Lin added.

Industry views:

Lawrence Chong, chief executive officer of Consulus said that in such cases telcos are stuck in the middle.

“Unfortunately, they are just one of the many channels that UEFA sells content to and it is a bidding system so prices will increase from time to time to justify the investment. However, Singtel did not communicate the pricing rationale well to its customers hence it is difficult for the latter to understand the context,” he said.

Chong added that as such, consumers will continue to see the telcos as a monopolising force and find other ways to watch their favourite game.

Singtel needs to find a creative way to strike the right balance to manage business cost and customer expectations.

If there’s one learning from the fierce recent activity in the streaming and OTT space, it’s that consumers are increasingly willing to pay for the content they’re passionate about - as long as it’s in the form and on the format of their choosing, according to Jamie Lewin, head of innovation for Mindshare APAC.

"While no discerning consumer wants, or even expects, to see inflation in goods and services they purchase, it’s a reality of supply and demand. That said, Singtel, and indeed any content licensee, needs to carefully weigh the direct commercial pros of a price-hike versus the cons of (inevitably) negative brand perception," he said, adding that:

And a word of caution to Singtel - there’s no such thing as a silent football fan.

Street talk:

Marketing also spoke to several members of the public on their thoughts. Members of the public seemed split on the pricing with some asking for pay-per-view facilities others saying that the pricing wasn't too steep for hard-core fans.

Danesh Charlie, 41 said:

"I personally would not pay because the match timings are way off from our time zone and it's not a great competition like the Champions League. It's losing its luster. I'd rather see pay per view for selected games. That would be more appealing."

Nyi Nyi Thet, 25 however added he would still pay for the package because convenience is definitely a big draw.

"I would also like to be less dependent on internet speed as opposed to streaming the matches live online. However, as I don’t have the time to watch the matches late at night due to different time zones, I would have to give this a miss," he said.

Agreeing with Thet,  Victor Tay aged 59, said for hard-core football enthusiasts, the price is still reasonable because of the love of the game.

I prefer to watch the sport on a big HD screen with no intermittent disruptions while the match is ongoing. Plus, I can see action replays and comfort is at its highest.