Football: StarHub secures broadcast rights to English Premier League for six seasons

Manchester City celebrates winning the Premier League on May 23, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Entertainment services provider StarHub on Monday (Feb 21) announced it had signed an exclusive six-year partnership with the English Premier League (EPL) starting from next season, which begins in August.

This will see the popular EPL return to StarHub after 12 seasons, with Singtel TV the official broadcaster in Singapore during that time.

It is understood the cross-carriage arrangement between Singtel and StarHub, which has been in place since 2013, will continue for live EPL broadcasts on TV.

StarHub declined to disclose how much it paid for the deal. In 2007, it reportedly paid $250 million for a three-year contract, before Singtel was said to have forked out $400 million for rights from 2010 to 2013.

The EPL will be the crown jewel in StarHub’s football offerings, with other top European leagues, as well as the European Champions League and Europa League already on its channels.

StarHub promised it would make its EPL broadcast of all 380 games next season “affordable” to Singaporeans, although it added pricing details and “go-to-market strategies” are being finalised and will be announced only in June.

“Open, agile and flexible access” would be rolled out to customers across StarHub TV+, mobile and broadband offerings, with features such as split-screen viewing, performance statistics and on-demand match replays, it added.

Mr Johan Buse, StarHub’s consumer business group chief, said: “We are hard at work to stitch together unparalleled and more affordable Premier League access.”

Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education at Singapore Management University, noted that StarHub’s outlay would have been “a large sum” and may yet be beneficial in the long run, even if it just breaks even on the investment.

“Just having a stronger programming suite, the glamour of the rights to one of the world’s premier sports leagues, the ability to show off its expertise in bundling the broadcast with other digital bells and whistles.

“This may make StarHub the ‘go-to’ media company for other major sporting and non-sporting events,” he explained.

He added that given the length of the EPL deal, StarHub stands to gain significant revenue even if just “a fraction of consumers” shift from Singtel. 

Dr Ramaswami added that the enhanced viewing experience would allow it to charge “a bit of a premium” but added it was unclear how the pricing would be relative to what consumers have paid in the past. Singtel customers currently pay $64.90 a month to catch the EPL on TV and $49.90 a month on its video streaming service Cast.

Singtel said in response to queries that it was “disappointed” to lose broadcast rights after the end of this season.

Ms Anna Yip, chief executive officer of Singtel’s Singapore consumer business, said that it would “actively seek to continue to provide our customers with access to (EPL) matches live on Singtel TV to avoid unnecessary inconvenience or disruption of service”. 

One Singtel Cast subscriber, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, said he received a text message yesterday evening assuring him that EPL games would still be available to him until May.

But he is concerned that the cross-carriage measure will not be applicable to a video-streaming service like Cast, and is also bracing himself for a price hike next season.

“Even now, I pay almost $50 a month which I think is quite expensive for just watching games on my phone or laptop,” said the 37-year-old, who is self-employed.

“Given StarHub beat Singtel in the bidding (for rights), they would have likely paid a lot, so I think many consumers like myself are worried the cost is only going to go up.”

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