SingTel hits back at MDA EPL ruling

After being asked by the Media Development Authority to share its screenings rights of the English Premier League with rival StarHub, SingTel has said it will contest the decision.

Under the ruling, StarHub cable TV subscribers can now watch the next three seasons of EPL matches by paying SingTel for the channel subscription. Consumers no longer need to switch cable operators to watch the matches.

Allen Liew, CEO of SingTel's digital life unit said it is gravely disappointed by MDA's decision and will be contesting it. Liew also said that that customers who wish to watch BPL on its own will most likely have to pay significantly higher monthly fees as it will "become untenable for SingTel to subsidise" these customers.

"We will ensure that existing SingTel customers who are on contracts will not be affected," Liew added.

However, under the cross carriage law, any pay-TV provider who acquires exclusive content must offer the same content to its rival's customers at the same price and terms as it charges subscribers.

A spokesperson from SingTel clarified to Marketing that the quote is slightly misleading adding that under the rule, SingTel would have to charge everyone the same price.

She explained that while it could not "subsidise competitor's customers," it may have to raise prices across the board and it will not just be StarHub customers who pay more.

"That's why this decision is bad for football fans and the industry and we intend to appeal it," she stated.

StarHub told Marketing that it lauded the move, since "Singapore viewers are the biggest beneficiaries of this decision."

A spokesperson from StarHub also added that when StarHub had the exclusive broadcast rights to UEFA EURO 2012, ‘live' matches were aired on both on its pay TV service and mio TV. SingTel's customers could also access the matches at the same price as StarHub customers.

When asked if the new ruling would affect advertisers during the EPL season, Neil Stewart, CEO APAC of Maxus said the matter at hand is a subscriber strategy issue rather than an advertising issue.

However he added that "over time things might play out where reaching sport lovers more cost effectively via different providers may impact share of spends and how we recommend channels to clients."

The feud was triggered when in October last year SingTel announced it had inked the non-exclusive broadcast rights for the next three years with the EPL.