StarHub to 'simplify' EPL rebate as telco war intensifies

StarHub has vowed to simplify its rebate offers to football fans looking to sign up for English Premier League coverage after admitting they are "confusing". -- FILE PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
StarHub has vowed to simplify its rebate offers to football fans looking to sign up for English Premier League coverage after admitting they are "confusing". -- FILE PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

It looks to gain edge on rival even as fans grow tired of telcos' bickering

StarHub has vowed to simplify its rebate offers to football fans looking to sign up for English Premier League coverage after admitting they are "confusing".

The telco is stepping up its battle with rival SingTel after both advertised rebate offers at the weekend for those who take up or renew broadband and TV packages.

StarHub offered a $300 rebate and SingTel, $480.

However, consumers said they were puzzled by the offers, which did not make clear who was eligible for them.

Both channels will be screening EPL football this coming season after SingTel was told to share its broadcasting rights with StarHub by the Media Development Authority.

Ms Jeannie Ong, StarHub's newly-appointed chief marketing officer, said: "We hear you - that it is confusing. We will simplify the rebates. So stay tuned."

Announcing its second-quarter financial results at a briefing yesterday, Ms Ong added that the telco is confident that "people will come back to the real bros" - after SingTel used the streetwise term for "brothers" in its TV ad.

However, many fans have grown tired of the two operators exchanging blows and have dropped one of their two set-top boxes in protest.

Over the past three years, SingTel had exclusive rights to screen the EPL after wresting them from StarHub in 2010.

SingTel's $34.90-a-month Sports+ bundle came with EPL matches, Champions League games and other sports content.

But now both telcos are offering a channel showing only EPL - for $59.90 a month, nearly twice the price of Sports+.

Business development manager Heng Wai Keong, 38, returned his SingTel mioTV set-top box last week, saying the price hike "left a bad taste in my mouth".

Lawyer S. H. Almenoar, 69, is returning his mioTV box, which he added to his StarHub pay-TV subscription in 2010 just to watch the EPL. "Now I have no need for it," he said.

Communications manager Mustaffa Ehsan, 34, said he was dropping mioTV because everything that he watches - EPL, tennis and Formula 1 - is now available through StarHub, which he said has a "more stable platform".

Yesterday, StarHub revealed it lost 2,000 pay TV customers in the three months to June 30, reducing its user base to 530,000 households.

The operator wants to reverse the 18-month decline in its pay-TV subscribers and is counting on the next three seasons of the EPL to help it do this.

The EPL content will be available on StarHub's set-top box thanks to the MDA's cross-carriage rule requiring SingTel to share its EPL broadcast rights.

This followed a war over screening rights which erupted last October when SingTel said it signed a "non-exclusive" deal to show EPL football.

itham@sph.com.sg

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