Early birds to pay S$98 to catch World Cup action, a slight increase over 2018 prices

Singtel, StarHub and Mediacorp on Sunday (Oct 30) announced a three-way partnership to beam all 64 World Cup matches.

The announcement comes 21 days before the tournament's kick-off on Nov 20 and brings an end to a drawn-out negotiation process that has stretched over a year.

Singtel and StarHub customers can subscribe to a World Cup package for an early bird price of S$98 (S$118 after the promotion period ends on Nov 6), which is a slight increase from the S$94 (S$112 after the promotion ended) that fans paid to watch football's premier event four years ago.

StarHub consumer business group chief Johan Buse said: "Football is a universal language, and nothing shows this better than the World Cup which turns spectators into the most passionate fans.

"We are excited to take to the field once again with Singtel and Mediacorp, bringing the action-packed game directly to our customers, to keep them fully immersed at the heart of live football."

Aside from the S$98 package for just World Cup games, both pay-TV operators have introduced re-contract offers for existing customers.

StarHub is offering its subscribers a World Cup bundle at S$52.40 a month on a two-year subscription, which will enable them to watch the World Cup as well as access a slate of other entertainment offerings which include Disney+.

Existing HomeHub+ customers who subscribe to the package can also top up an additional S$45.11 monthly to enjoy 1Gbps fibre broadband, Netflix and a TV+ Pro box.

All of StarHub's World Cup offerings will be available on its TV+ app, which will feature highlights, live statistics, and an interactive timeline allowing viewers to jump back to key match moments.

Singtel meanwhile is offering the World Cup as a "value-added bonus" for those who re-contract for a two-year Singtel TV plan at S$52.90 a month and above. This will also allow them to watch matches on the Singtel TV GO app.

Singtel customers who subscribe only to its S$98 package can watch the games on their mobile devices as well on the CAST app. It added that its mobile offerings will be enhanced by "network slicing technology" which allows dedicated capacity for video streams through its 5G network.

Mediacorp will air nine games on free-to-air TV - the opener, five group matches, both semi-finals and the final - similar to four years ago, when its costs were managed by the government. There is also an option for fans to purchase a similar S$98 package which will enable them to watch all the matches on its meWATCH app.

Prices keep rising

The 21 days till the Nov 20 kick-off is the latest World Cup broadcast rights announcement here since subscription was introduced in 2002. Prior to this edition, the next shortest gap was the 35 days prior to the 2010 tournament in South Africa. This year's delay had some football fans expressing their frustration at the lack of updates from broadcasters.

Packages to watch the 2018 World Cup in Russia - announced 50 days before the tournament began - were similar to those for the World Cup in Brazil four years prior, the only time rates had not increased.

The latest rise marks the general upward trend of costs for viewers over the last two decades. The sharpest increase came in 2010, which followed a bidding war between Singtel and StarHub to showcase the English Premier League from 2010 and 2013, which Singtel won in October 2009.

Subsequently, less than seven months later, packages were announced at a quadruple of what fans had to pay in 2006.

In 2014, after another hike, this time of about 30 per cent, then-senior minister of state for Communications and Information Lawrence Wong explained in Parliament that world football body Fifa owns the rights to the event, Singapore is "a price taker and not a price setter". He also said that globally, the price of sports content had been rising.

Fifa's revenue from selling global rights to the World Cup has nearly doubled in the last 20 years. Rights for the 2002 World Cup netted Fifa US$1.69 billion. In 2018, it collected slightly over US$3 billion.

Singtel chief executive officer (consumer Singapore) Anna Yip believed that with this year's World Cup in Qatar, "the favourable time difference will bring even more football fans together to share in the excitement".

Out of the 64 matches scheduled in Qatar, more than a third - 24 - will be played at 3am (Singapore time). This includes both semi-finals. The other kick-off times are:

6pm: seven matches scheduled

9pm: eight matches

11pm: 16 matches (including the Dec 18 final) and

Midnight: nine matches.

Elsewhere in the region

Malaysia

The Malaysian government announced in August that Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) would broadcast 41 of the 64 matches free. Of these, 27 will be beamed "live".

The matches will be broadcast through three channels: TV2, TV Okey and Sukan RTM, as well as streaming platform RTM Klik. RTM will bear the RM32.5 million (S$9.8 million) cost, although the government called on private companies and government-linked companies to chip in.

Subscribers to pay-TV provider Astro's sports pack - which is available for RM59.90 for a six-month subscription for new customers - can catch all 64 games.

The Philippines

TAP Digital Media Ventures, the country's main sports and entertainment media company, announced late in July that it would broadcast all 64 games on pay-per-view channel, WC TV.

An "All Access Pass" package costs 1,999 pesos (S$48.50) and includes streaming options.

Indonesia

Media group Emtek acquired the rights and games will be aired on its free-to-air TV channels SCTV, Indosiar, O Channel and Mentari TV.

It will also offer matches on its pay-TV platforms Champions TV and Nex Parabola, as well as its streaming platform, Vidio.

Vietnam

On Monday, Vietnam's VTV network announced it had acquired rights for about US$14 million. This is nearly 30 per cent higher than the cost for the 2018 edition. THE STRAITS TIMES

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