Sports

EPL back on Now TV

So the English Premier League is back on Now TV.  It seems to be the pattern now for it to alternate between PCCW’s Now TV and Wharf Group’s Cable TV every three years.

Of course they charge you extra for the EPL.  You might think that a Now Sports Megapack would cover everything, but rather than using the old channel numbers they have created new numbers (from 621 upwards) that are only available in the Super Sports Pack.  And, yes, you need to subscribe for two years.

They also charge extra for Premier League TV, which is a 24 hour channel in English that is originated from the UK and available worldwide to all broadcasters who have EPL rights.  One of the presenters is John Dykes, once of ESPN Star Sports.  I have so far refused to pay for this because I objected to them quoting me a price for EPL coverage and then calling me a few days to ask for more money for one of the channels.  

Good thing about Now TV?  The video on demand service (which cable TV don’t have).  They also claim to have “Super HD” but it seems that my existing decoder doesn’t support it - so again I would have to pay extra for that.

In other Now TV news,  Eurosport is now available in HD, and they showed the recent US Open tennis.  They also have English rugby league and French rugby union, cycling, and some odd bits of football.

Meanwhile, Goal TV has closed down.  They stopped providing coverage of the Championship last season, but still had programmes from several club TV channels  (Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona).

There was a letter in the SCMP from someone complaining that ITV Choice is no longer on Now TV.  The only time I ever watched it was once when I was surprised to discover that it was available in a hotel in Bangkok, but the programmes were old and very second-rate.  So, no big surprise that PCCW chose not to continue offering the channel. 


Pay TV channel wants viewers to pay to watch TV

Incredibly stupid story from the SCMP.  Now TV have purchased the rights to the Rugby World Cup and will be charging viewers between nothing and HK$388 to watch the tournament.  Well, what did anyone expect?

Fan fury as PCCW cashes in on rugby cup

Broadcaster tells home viewers and publicans they will have to pay more to watch code's flagship event

John Carney
Jun 11, 2011

Rugby fans and publicans are angry over PCCW's plans to televise this year's Rugby Union World Cup after learning they will have to pay extra for the privilege of seeing it.

It was one of Hong Kong sport's worst-kept secrets that PCCW had the rights to broadcast the World Cup on Now TV and yesterday the broadcaster said it would screen the tournament, which will take place in New Zealand from September 9 to October 23, on Now TV channel 686, with four deals available.

There is a one-off package fee of HK$388 or an early-bird offer of HK$288 for those subscribing before June 30. Existing customers who just have the Setanta Sports Channel, and not PCCW's full Mega Sports Pack, can pay a one-off HK$198, while new or existing customers who have the Mega Sports Pack can get the event free but only if they extend their current contracts for another 18 months.

Now TV will be running an advertising campaign on its channels from today to promote the new deal. However, critics say PCCW is only using the competition to make some quick cash out of rugby fans.

"This tournament only goes on for six weeks and the first three weeks' play isn't worth watching," teacher Brian Hastings said. "No one in their right mind is going to subscribe for this."

Accountant Denis Browne agreed, saying: "PCCW must think we are all stupid if they think rugby fans here will spend their money on this. I'll just go to the pub and watch the games."

However, pubs will also have to pay a commercial fee to show the matches on their premises. The fee has yet to be announced, but bar owners are fed up with having to pay regularly for particular sporting events like this.

"This is a complete joke," said Noel Smyth, publican of the Dublin Jack in Lan Kwai Fong. "Just to show Setanta Sports Channel that's on Now TV costs us an extra HK$1,000 a month. Now it'll be the same for a competition that will last for only six weeks. It's like PCCW has a licence to print money."

PCCW's Now Sports vice-president, Lai Yu-ching, denied the allegations and said the company had done its utmost to provide customers with the best possible deal.

"Initially we had hoped that the World Cup could be shown on the Setanta Sports Channel free of charge, but this did not happen," he said. "We then had to negotiate with the International Rugby Board. We're unlikely to make a profit, but we were determined to televise the event, as there are so many rugby union fans in Hong Kong."

The 2007 World Cup was broadcast by Cable TV and Lai said that the rival broadcaster had been in the running for the 2001 rights.

"As far as I'm aware, Cable TV also put in a bid to buy the television rights for it in Hong Kong as they know how popular the sport is here," he said. "But our deal proved to be a better one than theirs."


English or HD, not both

Another year goes by, and we still have the same old problem.  TVB are apparently unable to provide an English language commentary for the Rugby Sevens on Jade HD.  You can choose TVB Pearl, but with a fuzzy picture, or HD with no English.

What really puzzles me about this is that the picture quality on the digital version of TVB Pearl is more than adequate for US dramas, so if they have an HD feed why can’t they at least manage to have good quality standard definition for the rugby?


Skeletons in the sliding centre

I have no interest in the Winter Olympics, but this headline from the BBC caught my attention:

Britain's Amy Williams sets a new track record to lead the women's skeleton after the first of four runs at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

They have an event called skeleton?  There’s a venue called the “Sliding Centre”? 


Ashes to Ashes

Andrew StraussWhen England won the Ashes 4 years ago it seemed like an amazing achievement after so many years of disappointment (OK then, humiliation), but doing it for the second time doesn't seem quite so exciting.

Maybe it's because it has seemed like a contest between the teams ranked 4th and 5th in the world (which is how they stand after this series).  Of course, it's always good to beat Australia at any sport, but don't they normally put up a better fight than this?clip_image002

Or is it because things could have turned out very differently.

  • Australia could easily have won the first test, and how might that have changed things?
  • England's margin of victory in the Oval test match was rather flattering, and it was really decided by Australia's batting collapse on Friday afternoon and their poor bowling in England's second innings. 
  • What might have happened if the England selectors hadn't taken the inspired (as it turned out) decision to replace Bopara with Trott.  And, yes there were some very dodgy umpiring decisions. 

Or is it just that I have missed out on the live TV coverage and all the media hype in England?

Gotta love the Google contextual advertising.  Ashes, you see. 


The Olympics on TV

Elmer over at Living in Hong Kong has 7 Observations from Hong Kong TV Olympic Coverage, and I have to say that I agree with most of what he says.

(1) I have to admit that I haven't been paying very close attention, but I think he's right that the local Chinese channels of TVB and ATV show identical events (at least some of the time).  What's the point of that?

(2) The commentators have been a disgrace.  TVB Pearl has Andrew Sams with a few sidekicks (who are presumably meant to be the experts), but they both talk rubbish most of the time.  The two Chinese channels follow the usual Hong Kong practice of having a studio full of presenters in mistaken impression that more means better.

(3) Worse, they employ actors, actresses, comedians, singers and former Miss Hong Kong contestants as part of their large teams of presenters, who again talk rubbish most of the time. 

(4) Every country has a bias in favour of events where their own competitors might do well, and the Hong Kong coverage is no different in that respect.

(3) Scheduling seems to cause the terrestrial channels great difficulty.  I didn't watch the third set of the men's singles tennis final, but apparently TVB Pearl kept cutting away for the news.  Earlier in the same coverage they kept explaining that The Pearl Report would be shown later, though I'm not sure whether it ever was.  The previous day they were supposed to have a film at 8 pm but they had Olympic coverage instead and kept apologizing, as if anyone cared!  It's the Olympics - just cancel all the regular shows and have brief news bulletins when they can be fitted in! 

I'll leave Elmer's #6 & #7 because they are pretty much the same as 2 & 3, but I have a few more of my own.

  1. Watching the HD channel on Jade makes it very obvious that Now are cutting some corners with their so-called HD service for the English Premier League. 
  2. Why don't ATV have a HD channel?  Their normal HD channel has been given over to a screen that tells you what's on the other digital channels.  That's even worse than their normal pathetic 2 hours a night of HD programming.
  3. Of course, the information about what's on the other channels is all in Chinese.  Would it really have been so hard to have English as well?
  4. i-Cable have an online service providing live coverage and highlights.  Which would be great except that the website is entirely in Chinese!
  5. Oh, and I can't get it to work at all in IE or Firefox.
  6. I miss the on-demand service that Now TV had for Euro 2008.  I'm sure something similar must be possible with digital tv. 

All in all, it's definitely been a case of quantity rather than quality.


Infamy, infamy

I think the SCMP only employ Lau Nai-keung to annoy people (or maybe he pays them to publish the nonsense he writes).  Today he gives us the theory that the Western media are just jealous of China (Fakes offend Chinese as much as anyone - subscription required):

After the grand opening of the Beijing Olympics, some aspects of the show were later pounced on by the media. For one, some of the "live" fireworks seen marching through the city towards the "Bird Nest" stadium were computer generated. Then, the nine-year-old girl with the seemingly perfect combination of an angelic face and voice actually lip-synched her routine because the real singer was not pretty enough.

[...] this was like finding treasure for some China-bashers in the western media, and they made a big fuss about it. Let me tell you something: if the Chinese authorities had really wanted to fake things, like any other government, they would have made it a state secret, and nobody would have been allowed to even talk about it.

What nonsense!  How can you fake a firework display in Beijing and keep it secret?  It's not possible.  I don't think anyone would have cared too much if they had announced at the time what they done, but they did try to keep it secret, they failed, and of course that aroused media interest - as it would done if a UK or US broadcaster had done something similar (and fakery is a very hot topic in the British media right now).

The real fuss, it turns out, is not about the show. Critics just used these facts to insinuate that China is faking it and cheating in the competitions. A case in point are the female gymnasts. Unlike their American counterparts, the Chinese girls are so tiny that westerners suspect they must be underage. An American reporter pointedly asked one of the athletes whether she was, in fact, 16. Many western media reports dwelled on this point, citing incidents in the opening ceremony as substantiation of their claims.

It all boils down to one thing: some people are bad losers. If indeed they have so-called "evidence", as they claim, I suggest they file a formal complaint with the International Olympics Committee, which is obligated to do something. Defamation will not help anybody get a gold medal.

Watching the Chinese athletes grabbing one gold after another, I fully understand the feelings of some westerners. Many find it difficult to accept that the Chinese are coming up so fast. It will take time for them to adjust their superiority complex and acknowledge Chinese as equals. It is a western problem, not a Chinese one. The Chinese are basking in the glory and pride; they do not care what these people think.

I'm sure the Chinese people don't care, but if some of the Chinese gymnasts were too young to compete then that's breaking the rules, and again it is bizarre to think that any country would get away with this.  A complaint has been made to the IOC (Olympic probe into gymnasts' ages) and they are investigating - but I think we would all expect the documentation to support what the authorities have been saying all along. 

Any country that wins as many medals as China has done is bound to come under scrutiny.  It comes with the territory.


All the important news - about injured athletes

Shattered DreamsI don't have any problem with the national hysteria that surrounds the Beijing Olympics, but isn't the South China Morning Post meant to be a serious newspaper?

So what's this headline all about, then?

As if this hysterical front page wasn't bad enough, the story continued inside, occupying the whole of pages two and three.

The resignation of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf did make it on to the front page, but was only given a small space at the bottom of the page.

Clearly not so important as a runner getting hurt before the 110 metres hurdles.


It's all over... oh no, it isn't

My favourite moment from the typically shabby TVB Pearl coverage of the Olympics came earlier tonight when Andrew Sams thought that Nadal had won the Olympic Gold Medal when he won the tie-break at the end of the 2nd set. 

Strangely, Nadal didn't look too excited, simply going back to his seat ready for the 3rd set, and the commentators then mumbled some nonsense about needing a lead of two clear sets.

I must say that I thought the scoreboard showing a possible 5 sets was a bit of a clue.  You might also think that the media would be provided with information about the format (which admittedly was different for the final), but perhaps Andrew Sams and his co-commentator were too busy thinking of inane things to say to read all that sort of stuff.


Wimbledon on Star Sports

Well, Wimbledon is over for another year.  Star Sports seem to do a fairly competent job of covering the championships, with live coverage every evening, a highlights show in the morning, and extended highlights in the afternoon.

However, I can't help feeling that they could do better.  In a multi-channel world it seems a little odd that we don't get a choice of games (as the BBC provides in the UK through digital TV), especially when Star Sports choose Tamarina Tanasugarn in preference to Roger Federer.  It seems to be possible to show multiple Champions League matches live, so why not Wimbledon?

I'm also puzzling over why Star Sports sometimes take the BBC commentary, and other times have their own team.  I'd far rather hear what John McEnroe and Virginia Wade think about the game, and it's also slightly frustrating when the camera picks out someone in the crowd and the Star commentators ignore it completely (as happened frequently in Federer vs. Nadal).

If you really wanted the BBC commentary for the mens and womens finals you had to watch TVB Pearl - which made Star's claim (in a newspaper advert) to have exclusive coverage look very silly.

Meanwhile, with Star Sports and TVB Pearl both showing Wimbledon, where was the British Grand Prix?  Nowhere to be seen.