Singtel TV, StarHub drop channels from line-up

Channel RTL CBS Entertainment, home to shows such as House Of Cards (starring Kevin Spacey, above), has been dropped from Singtel TV.
Channel RTL CBS Entertainment, home to shows such as House Of Cards (starring Kevin Spacey, above), has been dropped from Singtel TV.PHOTO: RTL CBS ENTERTAINMENT

House Of Cards has collapsed at Singtel TV, as more television viewers are thinking out of the cable TV set-top box.

The channel RTL CBS Entertainment, which is home to shows such as the Emmy-winning political drama, was dropped from Singtel TV on Oct 16.

Its sister channel RTL CBS Extreme, which focuses on action- packed titles such as Bear Grylls: Mission Survive, is also gone from Singtel TV's line-up, effective on the same date.

The culling of these two channels from Singtel TV comes on the heels of another cable TV operator, StarHub TV, dropping the 24-hour basketball channel, NBA TV, after its contract expired last month.

When The Straits Times contacted Singtel, it would say only that it "has always been focused on delivering a wide range of quality content to customers" and "regularly reviews content offerings".

The Singtel spokesman adds: "Unfortunately, we were not able to reach an agreement with the content provider despite our best efforts."

The company's website has a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on this matter. It says that subscribers who wish to terminate their contracts because RTL CBS Entertainment and Extreme are no longer available may do so, but they would have to pay an early termination fee.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority's guidelines on early termination charges require only that they are reasonably related to "the extent of the discount or special consideration provided" and "the duration of the period during which the service was consumed".

Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore, says: "There is no stopping consumers from negotiating with the service providers to seek early termination when a channel is withdrawn.

"We like to urge service providers to be flexible in providing early termination without penalty as a matter of good business practice particularly when the withdrawn channel is important to the aggrieved consumers."

RTL CBS Entertainment and Extreme are still available on StarHub TV and Singtel TV is trumpeting the fact its subscribers can watch National Basketball Association (NBA) action on Eleven Sports (Channel 110) on its platform.

But more channels could disappear from both cable TV operators in the future, say media watchers.

After all, not too long ago, there was a chance of viewers losing Fox Network Group channels on StarHub.

Costs were believed to be a sticking point in the protracted discussions over the fate of channels such as Star World, Fox Premium Movies and National Geographic Channel.

All parties eventually reached a new deal on Sept 2, after the original one ended on Aug 31.

Mr Aravind Venugopal, vice- president at Media Partners Asia (MPA), an independent consultancy and research provider, points to pressures on both pay TV providers with subscriber numbers dropping, thus "forcing them to look towards their channel line-up to see how to trim costs and keep their service profitable".

According to his organisation, Singtel and StarHub's combined net decline for pay TV was 26,000 subscribers in the first half of this year.

Mr Venugopal adds that the other key factor for cable TV operators' loss of channels and subscribers is the growth of over-the-top and subscription-video-on-demand services such as Netflix, in which content is delivered directly to consumers via the Internet instead of traditional cable or satellite pay-TV services.

And while video-on-demand platforms such as HBO Go and BBC First are currently linked to StarHub, it would not be inconceivable for them to be offered completely independently, a la Netflix.

In fact, HBO Go has already been launched as a standalone over-the- top service in the United States in April last year.

Mr Venugopal says that going forward, pay TV operators need to provide access content "without boundaries, across broadband (wireless and wired) and traditional TV".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Singtel TV, StarHub drop channels from line-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe