SINGAPORE - The Malaysian Government announced yesterday that it will screen selected World Cup football matches free-to-air.
Malaysia's communications and multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo told his country's media after a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Putrajaya yesterday.
Gobind said: "There will be 41 matches, 27 of them would be aired live and 14 delayed.
"It would be about RM40 million (S$13 million) and, of course, there would be sponsors to absorb part of it. For now, we are announcing that the World Cup will be aired on RTM1 (Malaysia's national broadcaster Radio Televisyen Malaysia). Other information will be relayed at a later date."
A total of 64 matches will be played at this year's World Cup in Russia, which will be played from June 14 to July 15.
With Malaysia showing selected games in the world's biggest football tournament for free, it has raised the possibility of fans in Singapore attempting to take advantage of it.
RTM's TV1 channel is shown free on StarHub's Channel 178 but The Straits Times understands that football's world governing body Fifa is likely to block the RTM transmission on StarHub's cable network.
In 2010, when the tournament was hosted in South Africa, StarHub issued a statement saying: "StarHub understands from RTM that it has received instructions from Fifa to encrypt its satellite signal source so that only viewers in Malaysia are able to receive access to the 2010 Fifa World Cup matches on TV1.
"As the satellite signal source for TV1 is unavailable to StarHub, we are unable to offer the channel to viewers during this period."
Singtel was unable to comment by press time.
StarHub, Singtel and national broadcaster Mediacorp are in a three-way partnership to show this year's World Cup. Viewers here will be able to enjoy nine key matches - the opener, five group games, both semi-finals and the final - on free-to-air television with Mediacorp, five more than in previous years.
But determined fans can still find ways to tune in to the free RTM coverage. It was reported that in 2014, viewers could still buy rabbit-ear antennas, which could cost as low as $3, to receive the Malaysian signals although results vary according to location.
Singaporean football fan Aaron Yong, who has not subscribed to any of the telcos' World Cup offerings, is considering watching the games on RTM.
"It's worth a go," the 43-year-old marketing manager, who lives in Bukit Panjang, said. "If my home is near enough to receive a RTM signal, I will try. It is free, after all."