ESTABLISHMENTS here are likely to stick with SingTel as their sports cable-TV provider, even as they are aghast over the prospect of having to pay more following StarHub's re-entry into the English Premier League (EPL) scene.
With the added competition, pubs and coffee shops had hoped their subscription rates would go down from the roughly $1,000 they fork out monthly for each set-top box.
However, SingTel threatened the exact opposite on Thursday, a day after the Media Development Authority (MDA) invoked its cross-carriage rules and mandated SingTel to share the Singapore broadcast rights for the next three seasons of the EPL with rival StarHub.
Allen Lew, chief executive of SingTel's digital life unit, warned of an imminent price hike for its EPL channels should it fail in its appeal to the Minister for Communications and Information to overturn the media regulator's decision.
SingTel, he noted, is no longer incentivised to offer subsidies to its customers as it must - under the MDA ruling - also do so for StarHub subscribers.
This claim was met with incredulity by Winnie Choo, who owns the popular Star West Eating House in Geylang.
She said: "If more than one company offers the same service, the prices should be competitive and the customer is supposed to benefit. It doesn't make any sense for it to go up."
Muddy Murphy's in Orchard Road has both cable TV providers to cater to different clients.
Mark Walsh, its general manager, said: "Hopefully, if they are going to share the EPL, it will introduce some competition and bring down the prices.
"Subscribing to two providers does bring costs up and it's a big part of our marketing budget."
Hong Poh Hin, chairman of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association, added: "If the subscription goes up, I know some of our places will definitely raise their drink prices to cover the costs so customers must be ready to accept that."
While most fans say they will be ditching the SingTel boxes in their homes when the new EPL season kicks off in August, the same cannot be said for public establishments.
Bob Khan, general manager of La Cave, Le Baroque and Table 108 bars at Chijmes, echoed the views of many in the industry when he said his outlets would stay with SingTel for the sake of convenience.
He explained: "We've invested quite a bit in wiring up to their service so it's troublesome and costly to switch over.
"Most of our customers don't mind which provider we use, as long as we show the sport they want to see."
Bahtera Khalim, senior manager of Archipelago@The Straits in Boat Quay, urged SingTel and StarHub to offer short-term contracts to gain a competitive advantage.
He said: "Take the Cricket World Cup, for example - we had to commit for the whole year even though the competition was only for two months.
"If the operator can come up with a deal where we sign only for a few months, that would be the best option."
Additional reporting by May Chen
This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 27, 2013
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