SingTel’s mio TV secured Barclays Premier League rights on a non-exclusive basis in October 2012. The Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) issued a direction ordering SingTel to cross-carry all live matches from the upcoming three seasons of the BPL with rival operator StarHub, starting from 2013/2014 to 2015/2016. SingNet Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of SingTel, subsequently informed the Minister for Communications and Information of its intention to appeal against the Direction issued by the MDA.
The appeal was dismissed, but MDA decided to exempt SingNet from cross-carrying channel packages comprising the BPL content and other non-BPL content (BPL Bundles) on the StarHub Cable Vision (SCV) platform. SingNet will only have to make available the channel package containing solely the BPL Content (Standalone BPL) on the SCV platform. The Standalone BPL to be cross-carried comprises nine BPL channels.
This exemption applies to both residential and business customers.
According to the Media Market Conduct Code, any channel or content bundled with Qualified Content is also subject to cross-carriage. This “same form, same price” principle was put in place to ensure that there is no discrimination of consumers regardless of the platform they use to access Qualified Content. Nonetheless, the Code also states that pay-TV retailers have the option of seeking exemption from one or more aspects of their cross-carriage obligations, if they can establish that it would benefit the public and the media industry. In this respect, having examined SingNet’s exemption request to only cross-carry BPL 2013-2016 as a standalone offering, MDA determined on July 24, 2013 that public interest is better served by allowing SingNet to offer only the BPL channels for cross-carriage.
With the exemption, SingNet will not need to make available its BPL Bundles on SCV platform. SCV subscribers wanting only the BPL content will not have to subscribe to two separate bundles – one from each retailer – just to watch the BPL content.
SingTel’s ala-carte content will cost $59.90 per month for both SingTel and StarHub customers. This price is significantly higher than its previous $34.90 per month sports bundle which came with EPL channels, Champions League and other sports content, reported The Straits Times.
Local news channel Channel NewsAsia reported that SingTel said it “expresses disappointment with the Minister’s decision to not grant its appeal against the directive by MDA” for the cross-carriage of BPL content, but added that it respects the Minister’s decision even though it believes that the BPL rights contract is “non-exclusive”.
“We have made every effort to ensure our representation was heard because we believed that this was in the best interest of football fans. mio TV was set up to give customers choice and breathe new life into sports coverage. Our intention was to give customers certainty of content at competitive prices,” said Mr Allen Lew, Country Chief Officer-Singapore, SingTel, added the report.
Jeannie Ong, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications & Investor Relations, StarHub, released the following statement:
“StarHub is heartened by and fully support the Minister’s decision to uphold MDA’s cross-carriage direction.
We also support MDA’s decision to ensure that the BPL channels will be available, on a stand-alone basis, to StarHub customers. MDA’s decision means that StarHub customers can buy only the BPL channels, without being forced to buy other non-BPL channels which they are already receiving from StarHub. This approach prevents customer confusion.
To ensure that cross carriage works successfully to give customers real choice, it is important for MDA to ensure that the pricing for the BPL packages is non-discriminatory. No customer should be disadvantaged whether he chooses to view the football matches on StarHub’s platform or otherwise.
While there are implementation hurdles in the cross-carriage discussions with our competitor, we assure customers that StarHub will do its utmost to resolve them, to ensure that customers get what they desire: a seamless broadcast of the BPL.
We remain committed to complying with MDA’s direction. We look forward to sharing more details of StarHub’s competitive content packages, alongside the BPL to be cross-carried, once we have the BPL pricing details from the local broadcast rights holder. We strongly urge customers eager to view the BPL on StarHub’s reliable network, to look at our offerings before making their purchase decision.”