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EPL might cost more, or it might not

Last week the UK TV rights for the English Premier League were sold for £3 billion.  Does that affect Hong Kong viewers?  No, because the rights for other countries will be sold separately.

But here’s a stupid story in the SCMP based on the incorrect assumption that international rights are included in the UK deal, and that Cable TV and Now TV will have to  “buy the international rights from the British broadcasters”.  No, they won’t.  They will bid separately and all the money will go to the EPL.

The article is padded out with quotes from people who don’t want to pay more (well, there’s a surprise) and an accountant who prefers to pay nothing and watch the games through dodgy online streaming.  The best quote is from so-called (but unnamed) “media analysts” who think that fees might rise by “as much as 30 per cent”.  Well, yes, they might.  Thanks for giving us that insight…

English Premier League TV rights deal to hit fans

71pc increase in cost to British broadcasters, to HK$36 billion, is likely to be passed on when they sell rights overseas, meaning higher fees for HK viewers

John Carney | South China Morning Post | Jun 17, 2012

Hong Kong soccer fans can expect to pay more to watch English Premier League matches after the signing of a record-breaking £3 billion (HK$36 billion) broadcasting deal in Britain.

The league's domestic agreement with BSkyB and British Telecom is worth 71 per cent more than the current deal, and suggests local broadcasters will have to pay far more to continue carrying matches of the world's most popular soccer league.

Asian media analysts say the three-year agreement could lead to subscriber fee rises of as much as 30 per cent after providers buy the international rights from the British broadcasters. The deal begins after next season, when local Cable TV's current deal also runs out.

The news strikes soccer fans in the midst of the Euro 2012 Championship in which many EPL fans who might subscribe to Cable TV's i-Cable  are packing local sport bars to watch Now TV's exclusive broadcast of the matches.

Just last month, sport fans learned that they might not get free television broadcasts of the London Olympics as talks drag on between the sole local rights holder, Cable TV, and over-the-air broadcasters ATV and TVB.

Freelance writer Ed Mathews complained that cost of watching the EPL was already too high.  "It would be cheaper to watch your pick of the best matches now in a sports bar," Mathews said.

Teacher Sean Holmes shared the sentiment, complaining that local broadcasters use soccer to attract new viewers, but continually charge them more.  "It's also an increasingly inferior product," Holmes said. "The best footballers in the world play in Spain in La Liga. I'll be cancelling my subscription and just watching La Liga in the future."

But not everyone had a bad word to say about what soccer fans have to put up with here.  "I don't care because I already watch it via an internet feed for free anyway," accountant Francis Powell said. "So you could actually say I'm grateful for the quality that i-Cable's broadband provides."

Cable TV did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did PCCW , which runs Now TV.

Elsewhere news of the potential fee rises was met with an air of inevitability.  "I would welcome the opportunity for the general public to view the Premier League for free," tourism lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun said. "But we have to realise that we're living in a commercial world and the Premier League has become huge worldwide."   But he said providers should show "social responsibility" and make sure fees remain affordable.

Toby Cooper, owner of The Globe bar in Central, said the EPL's periodic switching between i-Cable and Now TV put off home subscribers as it compelled them to switch providers. However, he believed most bar owners would accept any fee rises because the channel pays for itself.

"The Premier League is just something you have to have," Cooper said. "The price is going up because everyone wants to watch it. It's the biggest league in the world and the interest here far eclipses La Liga and Serie A. That's not going to change."


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