Basketball: StarHub to end NBA telecast from next month

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. StarHub will cease transmission of the 24-hour basketball channel NBA TV on its pay-TV service come next month.
San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. StarHub will cease transmission of the 24-hour basketball channel NBA TV on its pay-TV service come next month. PHOTO: REUTERS

StarHub will cease transmission of the 24-hour basketball channel NBA TV on its pay-TV service come next month, when its rights deal with the National Basketball Association (NBA) expires. This ends a partnership that started in 2010.

A StarHub spokesman said yesterday: "We had been in negotiations with NBA for the renewal of their content and channel. Regrettably, both parties have not been able to reach an agreement."

The spokesman added that StarHub is looking to beef up its sports offerings and that basketball fans can still catch the Asean Basketball League, Eurocup and Euroleague on its pay-TV service.

Cost is believed to be a stumbling block in negotiations. NBA matches typically take place in the morning, when viewers would usually be at work or in school.

Aravind Venugopal, vice-president at consulting and research provider Media Partners Asia, said: "StarHub is already cutting channels. Maybe it doesn't think there's enough viewership to justify a certain price.

"Content costs in Singapore, as a percentage of subscription revenue, is the highest in Singapore compared to other South-east Asian markets, and StarHub is likely to try and rationalise the costs as the market gets more competitive and as subscriber churn."

Churn rate is the percentage of subscribers who discontinue their subscriptions within a given time.

An NBA statement said: "We are constantly looking at ways to optimise the distribution of our programming and are currently engaged in that process in Singapore.

"We will provide an update in the near future and continue to deliver NBA games, programming and local event coverage to all our passionate fans in Singapore."

It is believed that Eleven Sports Network is in talks with the NBA to secure broadcast rights here.

Eleven has three channels - Eleven, Eleven Sports and Eleven Plus - and broadcasts, among others, English Premier League matches and the Fina/airweave Swimming World Cup. It is unclear if it will create a new channel for NBA TV.

However, existing StarHub subscribers will likely have to pay extra if they want to catch NBA action. StarHub did not say if these customers will be compensated.

San Antonio Spurs fan Andy Chia, 29, said: "It's disappointing that this uncertainty over sports content is happening again. I'll have to see whether the new price is worth it. Otherwise I'd just go to YouTube and watch the highlights for free."

The breakdown in talks follows a trend of local broadcasters wrangling over escalating rights fees.

Last month, Singapore secured live coverage of the Olympics sporting action only a day before the opening ceremony, with the high costs leading to an impasse at first.

StarHub's contract extension with Fox Networks Group also went to the wire. More than 20 channels, including popular ones like National Geographic Channel, were in danger of being yanked off its pay-TV service. Both parties agreed a new deal early this month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'StarHub to stop NBA telecast from next month'. Print Edition | Subscribe