Is SingTel’s pricing for World Cup 2014 a sneaky marketing move?

Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) has secured the rights to bring the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil to all television and mobile screens in Singapore. However, the way SingTel plans to charge customers has left it open to criticism.

SingTel has priced the plan where content will be offered at no additional charge for consumers who sign up for its mio Stadium+ or Gold Pack contracts. But otherwise, those who wish to enjoy the matches without committing to a contract will have to pay a hefty price of SG$105.

Several football fans Marketing spoke to were outraged by the price, although some said they would still pay the fee.

Johnathan Tiang, 27, expressed outrage at the price, but said he would pay the money anyway. “It’s ridiculous, but yes I would still pay for it.”

Ryan Reuben, 40, said: “SingTel is too much. This is a ploy to benefit from this commercially. But how will it work out if they piss off their customers?”

Meanwhile, competitor StarHub is also taking shots at SingTel for the move, saying it “sets a precedent for operators to acquire exclusive content at high prices” and then “lock customers into extended contracts”.

Jeannie Ong, chief marketing officer of StarHub, said: “We do not support overbidding of content prices by our competitor, as it will have long-term adverse implications for the industry and Singapore viewers.”

Ong argued a joint bid would have spread the cost of the content and allowed both operators to offer the tournament at a more affordable price, benefiting all viewers in Singapore. “Unfortunately, our competitor chose to acquire the rights exclusively.”

A SingTel spokesperson rebutted StarHub, saying a joint bid with the latter was one of the first options explored, although this was later ditched as both were not able to agree on a joint offer “that would meet the content rights holder’s expectations”.

“With a very real threat of Singapore not having the World Cup, we had to proceed with the next option, which was to go on our own. The price eventually secured was reflective of global sports content costs – contrary to our competitor’s unsubstantiated comment, we did not overbid. We negotiated as low a price as we could achieve and have now delivered for the first time ever a compelling option for fans allowing them to enjoy the thrill of the World Cup for free,” she said.

She did not comment on fans’ sentiments.

SingTel had earlier sought MDA’s approval to acquire these key matches on an exclusive basis, as part of its overall deal with FIFA, and was given the approval by the government agency, the MDA told Marketing. This is on the condition that it sub-licenses and makes available these matches to free-to-air broadcaster MediaCorp.

MDA has also required the four key matches of the World Cup 2014 (opening, semi-finals and finals) be made available on free-to-air television channels.

The securing of broadcast rights for Singapore audiences comes a little later than most of its neighbouring nations as Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia had long before secured their broadcast rights to the 2014 World Cup.