English Premier League TV rights

EPL: Singapore unlikely to pay less for EPL broadcast rights, say analysts

Chelsea's Diego Costa (centre) celebrates with Thibaut Courtois (right) and David Luis after winning the English Premier League at Stamford Bridge, on May 21, 2017.
Chelsea's Diego Costa (centre) celebrates with Thibaut Courtois (right) and David Luis after winning the English Premier League at Stamford Bridge, on May 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

With Britain's Sky Sports and BT Sport set to pay less for English Premier League (EPL) broadcast rights from 2019 to 2022 than what they paid in 2015, does that mean the same for Singapore in the next bidding process after the 2018-2019 season?

While some analysts believe the dip in the United Kingdom is a "rectification of the market" on what were overpriced fees in 2015, there is strong sentiment that the cost of securing EPL broadcast rights in Singapore is unlikely to go down, and could even rise - with consumers possibly facing higher subscription fees.

"The price will be what Singapore is able to pay, and the high per capita income here means that the country can pay. And for a product like the EPL that has such a loyal following, Singapore will pay," Song Seng Wun, chief executive and regional economist at CIMB-GK Research, told The Straits Times (ST).

"The Singapore market is small, and, if Singtel wants to retain the rights, they will have to pay for it, and the fans will likely have to bear the cost of any price increase."

Pay-TV operator Singtel outbid previous rights holder StarHub for the EPL broadcast rights from 2010 to 2013, having reportedly paid $400 million - more than three times what StarHub paid in the previous cycle.

Singtel also won the last bid in 2015 for another three seasons from 2016 to 2019.

Singtel subscribers paid $59.90 each month before 2016, with rates staying the same even after it won the last bid.

Deloitte Singapore and South-east Asia sports business group leader James Walton believes there are two key factors that could result in the increase of the EPL broadcast rights fee for Singapore and consumers bearing the burden.

"A lot would depend if companies like Amazon and Netflix actually do come in as it has been rumoured," he said. "The possibility that one of these streaming companies comes in to give competition to Singtel is something that has not happened in the last couple of years."

While such competition would tend to push prices up, it would make sense for companies like Amazon to enter the battle.

Football content presents them an opportunity to gain a firm foothold in markets like Singapore and Thailand.

Walton asserts that an increase in the bidding fee could see a corresponding hike in subscription fees, because besides fees, the other major avenue for a rights holder to monetise the property is advertising.

"But there doesn't seem to be much of an appetite for television advertising in Singapore," said Walton, pointing to the EPL telecasts on Singtel that appear to "show the same advertisements over and over again", with in-house promotions also a regular feature.

"I think Singapore would prefer a situation where Singtel and StarHub come together, because such partnerships could bring prices down.

"It's going to be very interesting but, honestly, I can only see the prices going up, because of the monopolistic attitude that companies tend to take when going into such negotiations."

In response to ST's queries, a Singtel spokesman said: "It's too premature for us to comment."

StarHub cited commercial confidentiality, saying in a statement that it would be "premature to speculate" on the sale of EPL broadcast rights in Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore unlikely to pay less in bidding process: Analysts'. Print Edition | Subscribe