Football: Broadcast woes continue for some EPL fans; StarHub says 'many teething issues' resolved

Football fans watching a live screening of an EPL match between Fulham and Liverpool at Our Tampines Hub’s Festive Plaza on Aug 6, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Disruptions continued to plague StarHub's broadcast of English Premier League (EPL) games for some local football fans on Sunday night (Aug 7) - a day after many frustrated subscribers took to social media to air their grievances.

Issues such as broadcast lags, low quality pictures and audio, as well as sudden freezes on their screens were reported since the season's opening match on Friday, when Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 2-0.

Some customers also complained about issues with logging in or linking their subscription to their devices.

Local telco StarHub posted an apology on its Facebook page just before midnight on Saturday, saying it was "deeply sorry" for the experience and acknowledging it had "fallen short of expectations". It also pledged to "spare no effort to resolve these issues as quickly as possible".

However, the problems persisted during Sunday's game between Brighton and Manchester United.

A number of customers said that they faced "the same issue again" and flocked to social media to vent their frustrations, although a few said the problems were "not as bad" as the previous day.

StarHub subscriber Er Li Heng streamed the Brighton-Manchester United match on both his phone and iPad to find the best way to watch the Red Devils.

The audio on his iPad lagged and while the stream on his phone was better, he said that it "gets disconnected with an error message every now and then".

"Yesterday (on Saturday) it was way worse," said the 35-year-old project manager. "The quality was comparable with what you would get on an illegal stream."

Another subscriber, Jeremy Tan, compared the quality of the Chelsea-Everton game he watched on Saturday to the quality of "a pirated CD".

The Blues fan ended up watching the game on his phone after he failed to cast it to his TV.

Said the 38-year-old: "I was alone thankfully, if I had invited friends they'd probably kill me, or we'd kill StarHub together.

"My friends are also talking about it, the WhatsApp groups are going crazy too. Even some people with StarHub TV are facing problems too. Imagine using a box also and having your broadcast lag... That's bad."

Arsenal fan Victoria Lim was one of those who faced problems despite having a TV box.

She said her team's game was "generally fine" but the broadcast became poor during the Fulham-Liverpool game on Saturday.

"The screen would completely go black and error messages would pop up... It was quite a nightmare to be honest, especially when you're in the middle of the game... (and) it keeps getting disrupted, it really ruins the mood," said the 26-year-old.

Lim also reported that the problems became worse for the Chelsea match, adding that the audio was "weird" and "echoey", which drove her and her parents to watch the game on mute.

In response to queries, StarHub said on Sunday night that "preliminary investigations indicate that the network did not scale quickly enough to meet the viewership surge".

"This triggered error messages on some of our customers' devices and affected broadcast quality for them," said the telco.

"We confirm that these issues were isolated to the OTT (over the top) streaming of the Premier League. Our IPTV service remained robust throughout and there was smooth broadcast at our 'live' community screening at Our Tampines Hub, which was delivered via IPTV."

It added that there were "fewer reports pertaining to the OTT streaming" on Sunday, and it was " heartened that many of the teething issues encountered by customers yesterday have since been resolved for today's games".

"However, we will continue to work hard to address technical issues faced by some customers and improve the viewing experience... We thank our customers for their patience and understanding," it said.

Subscribers whom ST contacted felt that StarHub should offer some sort of compensation for the disruptions, a sentiment that was also widely stated on social media.

Tan suggested it should "at least" make the first month's subscription free.

Agreeing, Lim however just wants the issues to be fixed. She added: "Personally for my family, what's most important is they iron this out and we get to enjoy watching the rest of the EPL matches in peace."

StarHub this year won the EPL broadcast rights in Singapore for the next six years, starting from this season. Singtel had owned the rights for 12 years prior.

During that time, Singtel was penalised for disruptions to pay-TV services. In 2013, the telco was fined $180,000 by authorities for a mio TV service outage during the final matches of the 2011/12 Premier League season which affected about 115,000 subscribers.

StarHub was also fined $50,000 that same year after 170,000 subscribers experienced a complete loss in signal for its TV channels and in 2015, Singtel was fined $90,000 for a disruption that affected 11,000 subscribers.

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