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."


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."


FA Cup final–just another game

Ah, the FA Cup Final.  Used to be the only club game played at Wembley, and the only one that was live on TV.  Now we have the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley, play-off finals, the League Cup, the Charity Community Shield and I don’t know how many other matches played there.  And hundreds of games live on TV.

There was a time when winning the FA Cup was also special because it provided entry to the Cup Winners Cup, but today it gives entry to the interminable Europa League, and the place usually goes to the runners-up (when the FA Cup winners are a big club who have qualified for the Champions League).

It also used to mark the end of the football season, but now we always have play-off finals after the FA Cup final, and this year there’s another set of Premier League fixtures coming up  next weekend – but worse than that we actually have four Premier Leagues matches being played at lunchtime today, including the game that will most likely see Manchester United being confirmed as champions, so you could argue that the FA Cup Final isn’t even the biggest game being played today.

Still, at least we have “It’s a Cup Final Knockout” on BBC One.  Surely?

Er, no:

1.30 pm Cash in the Celebrity Attic
2.15 pm Bargain Hunt Famous Finds
3.00 pm Father of the Bride
4.40 pm Don't Scare the Hare


Magic TV MTV7000D

I have been waiting for a long time for Now TV and Cable TV to provide the facility to record programmes (as Sky TV do in the UK with Sky+), but there’s still no sign of anything useful.

Step forward the MTV 7000D, which allows you to record programmes from Now TV and Cable TV on to a 500gb hard disk. 

I was slightly wary of this device, having been told by a friend that it was difficult to set up.  Well, not in my experience, it isn’t.  Yes, you have to connect both decoder boxes to the Magic TV box, and then attach the IR transmitters to the front of both boxes, but that was all fairly straightforward.  I happen to have an Ethernet cable that was installed by Now TV (but which is no longer needed), so it was also easy to connect it to the Internet (you can use Wi-Fi - if you have a wireless network and purchase a Wi-Fi adapter). 

After that there is some basic setup to be done, and it’s ready.  Which means that you can put your TV, Cable TV and Now TV remote controls into a drawer and control everything from the Magic TV remote control.  You also get an integrated EPG (Electronic Programme Guide), and from there you can record anything on any channel. 

The only problem I have had so far was when the machine forgot the date and time and decided it was 1st January 2000, and was unable to find any programme schedules for this date.  My first thought was that the Internet connection was down (it wasn’t) and then I found an option to change the date and time.  Frustratingly, this forces you to restart the Magic TV box – and then it doesn’t actually change the date.  I tried that a few times, always with the same result.

Then I finally realized how it must get the date and time.  A few seconds of TVB Jade HD, and all was well again.  But what’s the point of the option under “settings” that appears to allow you to change the date and time? 

That small frustration apart, it's an excellent device.     


So much football, lah

It doesn't seem that long ago that we only got one EPL game live on Saturday night.  Then it became two of the 3pm kick-offs, and then (3 years ago) every single game.

Perhaps even more amazing is that we now get up to 3 live games on Saturday from the Championship (the second tier of English football) courtesy of Goal TV, which has recently been added to the Now Sports package.

Goal TV also has selected programmes from the club channels of Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona, including full matches (but recorded rather than live).

MUTV (Manchester United’s channel) is no longer available through Goal TV but has become a standalone channel on Now TV - for which you have to pay extra.  They seem to show their EPL games a few hours after they have finished.

So what is available? 

  • English Premier League - Cable TV has the live rights
    • MUTV (Manchester United TV) - Now TV
    • Chelsea TV, Liverpool TV – Goal TV (Now Sports) 
  • Champions League and Europa League - Cable TV
  • Italian Serie A - Cable TV and Now Sports
  • Spanish La Liga - Now Sports
  • German Bundesliga - Cable TV
  • French Ligue 1 - Now Sports
  • Scottish Premier League -  Goal TV
  • Dutch League -  Goal TV
  • English FA Cup - Star Sports (Now Sports)
  • English Football League -  Goal TV

As ever, updates and corrections are very welcome.


No daleks

imageJust watching The Hotel Inspector on BBC Lifestyle, and I was puzzling over what had been blurred out.   BBC Lifestyle has been known to blur out all manner of fairly innocuous things lest they offend sensitive viewers.

Turns out that it was a dalek (unblurred image shown right)…

It did seem odd that there were numerous references in the programme to the dalek in the entrance hall, that somehow we never saw it, and apparently it was for copyright reasons rather than for reasons of decency.

Thanks, by the way, to the person at Now TV who finally figured out that it is now being broadcast in widescreen and made the necessary changes so that we didn’t have wide bands at the top and bottom and a squashed picture.  You might want to do the same thing on BBC Knowledge.


Hovering overhead

Sky News have been making the most of the lengthy post-election negotiations, and they even have (or had) a helicopter flying around London to try to make it all more exciting. On Monday when Gordon Brown was making his first resignation speech of the week you could clearly hear it overhead. It was a curious speech, presented in such a low-key way that you might almost have missed what he was saying. You could imagine the headmaster saying "Speak up, boy, and apologize properly", but Brown couldn't quite bring himself to say that he was resigning.

Predictably, the right-wing newspapers were not happy. They had wanted Brown out, but became even more angry when he confirmed that he would be leaving. Their real fear, of course, was that it increased the chance of a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition. For a few hours this terrifying prospect did seem to be a real possibility, but thankfully the moment soon passed, and last night Gordon Brown really resigned and David Cameron finally became PM.

The Liberal Democrats seem to have got a lot of what they wanted, including the promise of a referendum on the Alternative Vote system and various concessions on policy, but is this really an election that anyone would want to win?  You might think not, but 13 years out of power for the Conservatives (and considerably longer for the Liberals) obviously bring a different perspective.

The difficulty for Sky News is that a “rolling news” channel wants things to be happening all the time - and in public. And when the most exciting thing the Sky helicopter can find is Sky's own reporters interviewing other journalists outside the Houses of Parliament there’s clearly a bit of a problem - though there has been other excitement on the channel.


Where’s it gone?

Now TV have 9 sports channels.  However, they don’t have enough sport to fill all these channel 24 hours per day and by the time you get to channel 638 (Now Sports 8) there’s usually just a blank screen.  OK, fair enough.

But hang on, there are several Premier League games tonight.  Shouldn’t one of them be on 638 or 639?  You might think so, but actually Blackburn vs. Manchester United is on channel 898 (TVB Pay Vision Info).  This is not advertised anywhere on their website, and it’s hardly an obvious channel to try.

It’s possible that if you watched the football on Now Sports 2 they might be explaining (in Cantonese) that this game is on 898, but apart from that viewers are left totally in the dark.  Very puzzling.  


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?