World Cup war of words

Rival Singapore telcos SingTel and StarHub are locked in a war of words, after SingTel announced overnight that they had acquired exclusive broadcasting rights to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Football fans in Singapore will have to fork out a one-time fee of S$112.35 (after GST) to watch World Cup action from Brazil, yet another increase after rising prices in recent years.

Suscribers to StarHub TV may yet be able to purchase the package from SingTel thanks to the Media Development Authority's cross-carriage measure, but missing out on rights to the World Cup has not gone down well with the losing party.

StarHub released a media statement last night criticising their rivals' exclusive bid for the World Cup rights, only for SingTel to respond with their own statement claiming that failed negotiations over a joint bid had left Singapore with a real threat of missing out on coverage entirely.

"At a time of escalating sports content costs, we made a sincere offer to our competitor for a similar arrangement as the last World Cup," StarHub Chief Operating Officer Jeannie Ong said.

"A joint bid would have spread the cost of the content and allowed both operators to offer the tournament at a more affordable price, benefitting all viewers in Singapore.

"Unfortunately, our competitor chose to acquire the rights exclusively."

SingTel will not be implementing an early bird discount for viewers this year, but have announced that current or potential SingTel MioTV subscribers will recieve the World Cup package free of charge if they sign up for or extend their mioStadium+ or Gold Pack contracts.

It is a move that has not gone down well with StarHub, with Ms. Ong warning that the promotion would set a dangerous precedent.

"The higher price our competitor paid for the exclusive rights for this year’s World Cup - resulting in soaring content costs will have far-reaching implications in the future for viewers in Singapore," she said.

"Our competitor’s World Cup offer sets a precedent for operators to acquire exclusive content at high prices to lock customers into extended contracts, which runs counter to the cross-carriage regime’s objectives."

Ms. Ong also explained that StarHub would not be able to provide a rebate for their customers who were going to purchase the World Cup package from their rivals, saying that earlier moves to do so with SingTel's Barclays Premier League coverage had "inadvertently encouraged our competitor to continue making higher exclusive bids".

SingTel were quick to respond though, claiming that a joint venture was mooted but had not looked like a viable option with the World Cup fast approaching.

"A joint bid with StarHub was actually one of the first options we explored," a SingTel spokesperson said.

"However, we 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 spokesperson went on to defend the increase in the price of their World Cup package this year, stating that their eventual bid was "reflective of global sports content costs".