To all sports fans

0

Lea Yi-Long

This letter is written with regards to Singtel securing the broadcasting rights for the UEFA Champions League for the next three seasons.

Although details are yet to be released, it is quite obvious that football fans will be forced to subscribe to Mio TV, and in turn pay higher costs for watching their favourite football action.

Are we going to take it lying down and accept this endless increase in price? Or should we stand together and make our feelings known? Action speaks louder than words.

Just a year ago, StarHub outbid its rivals to secure the rights to broadcast the English Premier League for three seasons, at a reportedly staggering cost. Soon after, the monthly subscription rates for the sports group increased by a whopping 66.7%, to S$25.

Just five years ago, the sports group had cost just S$8 per month.

This means that, in that short span of time, the cost for enjoying "live" sports action (not only football) has increased by more than three times.

This letter is addressed to all sports fans because the price increase affects all sports fans. The current pricing structure does not segregate the types of sports. An NBA fan has to pay the same as a football fan, even though he may not watch a minute of EPL action, and vice-versa. This is gravely unjust for either party, especially so for NBA fans as the huge increase in subscription rate is brought about by football content costs.

It is an undeniable fact that costs for sports broadcasting rights have sky rocketed across the globe, and it may seem only right that costs for end-consumer subscription go up. But is there really no way out of it? Given that it is a global trend, nobody can say for sure that a mere showing of resistance and discontent will be enough to deter the trend from continuing. However, one can be sure that if nothing is done, the trend will continue!

The liberalisation of the pay-tv market was supposed to encourage competition among the providers. In theory, it should have translated into savings for end-consumers. Well, it hasn’t. On top of that, the competition should have brought about a higher standard in the quality of programmes. In short, it was supposed to be a value for money situation for end-consumers.

To voice our discontent, I hope football fans will refrain from subscribing to Mio TV for the Champions League seasons. In doing so, I hope the “boycott” will garner enough strength to force the pay-tv providers to re-consider their current strategy of outbidding each other for exclusive content, to attract customers.

There is room for collaboration even in a fiercely competitive environment. Let’s look at the Telco market. Some years back, Singtel customers were only able to send SMS to fellow subscribers of the Red. It was likewise for M1 and Starhub customers. But for a brilliant plan that was put in place, we would still be living in the “stone age”, where only people of the “same clan” can communicate with one another. It is a classic example of how collaboration between big companies, even in a fiercely competitive market, can benefit consumers, without compromising the profit-driven motive of big companies.

Fast forward to last year when Starhub won the broadcasting rights for the EPL. Has the quality of our football watching experience gone up? It is highly debatable.

In my personal view, I would have preferred John Dykes and his team of pundits doing the half-time shows. For my case, the increase in pricing was not justified by an increase in viewing pleasure. The current season has been consistently bugged by transmission problems too! And Starhub has taken almost an entire season to come out with the “live information menu bar” feature. Moreover, watching football-related programmes like Football Focus on ESPN channels without the images is a joke in my view. Is this the so-called “better viewing experience”?

It is the time to act now. What we can do might be limited as of now, but it may well force the companies into re-strategising. That is our only chance of seeing the end of these endless price hikes.

I hope the online petition will garner enough signatures, to show that we are not alone in feeling disgusted by this endless “milking” of consumers’ money. Secondly, a direct boycotting of subscribing is not to hurt Singtel; it is to force Singtel and Starhub to re-think their current outbidding strategy and monopolizing the particular content for the length of the contract.

Along the way, I hope that this campaign will be brought to the attention of the regulatory bodies in Media Development Authority. They might want to tweak the regulations a little to ensure a win-win situation for both consumers and service providers, and not a win-lose situation either way.

It remains to be seen if we can achieve our targets. However, if we are to lose out in this battle of wills, we know that we did not go down without a fight.

Please sign the online petition at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/sportshike/

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