Fewer Singapore fans signed up for 2014 World Cup telecast

Dip from 2010 figures due to high price, timing of matches, say analysts

It was billed as one of the most exciting World Cups in years, but in Singapore, fewer households parted with cash to watch the 2014 event compared with the previous tournament.

SingTel, which had exclusive rights, reported yesterday that more than 100,000 households signed up.

This figure is at least 25 per cent lower than the number of subscribers in 2010 when SingTel and rival StarHub had joint rights, said industry sources. Both telcos declined to give subscription figures for the 2010 World Cup.

Analysts said two factors account for the recent dip: high price and poor timing.

SingTel priced the games at $112 as a stand-alone service; its early bird price was $94.16. Those who signed up or renewed their two-year English Premier League (EPL) contracts got World Cup matches for free - although this meant paying $1,400 over the two years.

During the 2010 World Cup, fans here were charged $94.16, or an early-bird price of $70.62. In 2006, StarHub charged $26.25 and $10.50 respectively.

The timing of many critical matches, which were played in Brazil, also contributed to the lacklustre subscription. Most were played at 3am or 4am Singapore time.

Producer Joe Peter, 35, was one of those put off by both the price and timing. "I didn't subscribe to the World Cup for the first time this year," he said.

The figures suggest that SingTel has largely failed in its attempt to lure more subscribers with the combined EPL-World Cup offerings, analysts said.

"This carrot did not work very well in 'converting' more mio TV subscribers to watch the games," said OCBC Investment Research investment analyst Carey Wong.

IT consultant Nigel Tan, 28, for instance, said he got his World Cup fix by tuning in to the websites of free-to-air British television channels ITV and BBC.

These channels put their content online only for consumers in Britain. But using an online service like UnoTelly that masks a person's real location, Singapore users like Mr Tan were able to access content on the websites of these British broadcasters.

Broadband provider MyRepublic said traffic for ITV and BBC iPlayer increased four times to 3 terabytes during this year's World Cup season.

Singapore telco analyst Clement Teo at United States-based market research firm Forrester said that sign-ups may drop even more when the time comes for the 2018 World Cup, with increasing access to overseas websites and better streaming technologies.

"Fewer potential subscribers could possibly lower telcos' bids for the 2018 World Cup," he said.

itham@sph.com.sg