S'pore govt rejects SingTel appeal, orders EPL content to be shared

Minister dismisses the pay TV operator's final appeal and orders it to share broadcast rights of the English Premier League under Singapore's cross-carriage rule. SingTel unveils its price plan of S$59.9 per month, making EPL content available to customers of rival StarHub.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor
EPL content will be available to both StarHub and SingTel mio TV customers at S$59.9 a month.

SINGAPORE--The government has rejected SingTel's appeal to overrule a previous order to share the broadcast rights of the English Premier League, putting an end to a tiff between the country's two main pay TV operators that had dragged for months.

In a statement released Friday evening, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said SingTel's appeal was dismissed after he considered whether clauses in the agreement between the pay TV operator and the Football Association Premier League (FAPL) would "prevent or restrict, or are likely to prevent or restrict" the EPL content from being acquired for transmission by other pay TV operators in the country. 

In light of this, Yaacob refused to reverse a previous directive issued April 24 by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA), instructing SingTel to cross-carry EPL content. The minister's decision is final, marking the end of any further appeal.  

This means SingTel must now share the next three seasons of the English football league with StarHub under Singapore's cross-carriage rule, which mandates pay TV operators in the country must carry each other's content, eliminating the need for viewers to switch or subscribe to another operator.

In October 2012, as the end of its previous three-year EPL deal nears, SingTel stunned many including its rival when it announced it had secured the rights to broadcast the league for another three seasons--this time, on a non-exclusive basis. By doing so, it had effectively omitted itself from the corss-carriage rule, leaving StarHub free to negotiate its own terms for an EPL deal. Its rival cried foul and lodged a complaint with the regulator MDA, claiming SingTel's negotiations with the FAPL left little room for it to ink a fair deal of its own. 

In a statement following the minister's final decision on the matter, StarHub's senior vice president of corporate communications and investor relations, Jeannie Ong, said it was "heartened" by the government's decision to stay MDA's cross-carriage directive. "To ensure that cross carriage works successfully to give customers real choice, it is important for MDA to ensure that the pricing for the EPL packages is non-discriminatory. No customer should be disadvantaged whether he chooses to view the football matches on StarHub's platform or otherwise," Ong said. 

SingTel expressed its "disappointment" over the decision, but followed up with a first look of its price plans for the football league. The standalone package comprising nine channels of EPL content will be available at S$59.9 per month to both SingTel mio TV and StarHub pay TV subscribers. In its previous price plan, SingTel charged S$34.9 per month for its sports bundle, which included EPL channels and the Champions League.

Existing subscribers of the mio TV Gold Packs, who pay S$64.9 per month, will continue to receive 80 channels comprising EPL content, sports, movies, and other family entertainment packages. 

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