The most popular subject in Talkback (the SCMP's curious letter column that isn't) seems to be problems with Pay TV, and specifically the sports channels.
This is an interesting example of greater competition not having the normal effect of reducing prices. Quite the contrary in fact - the cost of subscribing to all the sports channels in Hong Kong is much higher now than it was a few years.
There was a time when all you needed was a subscription to Cable TV (and for your building to have Star Sports). Now you would need Cable TV, PCCW's Now Broadband TV and TVB Pay Vision (Star Sports has, of course, become a pay channel on Now TV). On top of that, there are now several extra channels dedicated to specific sports (Golf, Cricket, Basketball), and of course they cost more. If you add all that up it is certainly not cheap - though it's hard to imagine that anyone would have all the extra channels.
Greater competition drives up the price that the channels pay for rights to various sports, and that gets passed on to viewers. It's happened in the UK, where Sky Sports used to have exclusive rights to the Premier League, but now Setanta have some games, so you need to pay an extra £10.00 for their package on top of £34.00 for all the Sky sports channels.
However, two things make Hong Kong different from the UK
- In HK, almost all the sports channels are exclusive to just one platform. In the UK you can choose satellite or cable and still get all the channels - although cable TV are in competition with Sky, they still carry all the Sky sport and film channels, and a Sky dish will pick up Setanta Sports.
- In HK, you have little choice but to sign an 18 month (or longer) contract. In the UK, most people are on monthly contracts. If you have an 18 month contract for Now's golf channel you are stuck with it even if they lose the rights to the events you want to watch.
When you consider that there is no guarantee than any given channel (or combination of channels) will continue to hold the rights to any event indefinitely, it's easy to see how you can end up paying for one channel and then have to pay extra because another channel has acquired the rights.