The Cup, its cost and controversy

The Cup, its cost and controversy
Neymar kept his composure and put Brazil ahead for the first time with a right-foot penalty which Croatia keeper Stipe Pletikosa got a hand to but could not save.

SINGAPORE - First, the good news: SingTel has secured the rights to World Cup 2014. And, whether you are a pay-TV subscriber of SingTel or StarHub, you will be able to enjoy all 64 matches of the fiesta in Brazil, thanks to the cross-carriage rule.

And now for the bad news: It will cost you $112.35 (including GST) to watch the likes of Neymar and Messi - if you do not sign up for, or recontract to, SingTel mio TV's Gold Pack and mio Stadium+ offerings.

Those who do, however, will get to watch the World Cup for free. The Gold Pack starts at $64.90 (with GST) per month, while mio Stadium+ goes for $59.90 (with GST) per month.

The two-year sign-up or recontract for the latter package, which includes the Barclays Premier League channels, will be available to StarHub's pay-TV customers as well.

The $112.35 price is up from the $70 (early-bird price, with GST) which Singapore subscribers paid four years ago. Even the non-early-bird price was still only in double figures: $94.

The SingTel deal was blasted by StarHub, which issued a statement saying that its rival is setting "a precedent for operators to acquire exclusive content at high prices to lock customers into extended contracts".

StarHub's chief marketing officer, Ms Jeannie Ong, said that, in a time of escalating sports content costs, StarHub had made a "sincere offer" to SingTel to put in a joint bid for the TV rights. She said this "would have spread the cost of the content and allowed both operators to offer the tournament at a more affordable price".

Ms Ong added that it was unfortunate that SingTel chose to bid for it exclusively, adding that the higher price paid compared to 2010's event exacerbates the trend of soaring content costs.

"Overbidding resulting in soaring content costs will have far-reaching implications in the future for viewers in Singapore," she noted.

Still, yesterday's announcement will come as a relief to fans, who had feared a possible replay of 2010 when Singapore secured its World Cup TV deal just 35 days before the opening game.

The early deal may not necessarily help SingTel find more sponsors because of the early kick-off times in Singapore, noted telecoms expert Ramakrishna Maruvada from Daiwa Capital Markets.

Mr Maruvada said: "The World Cup is just a one-off event, and not a profit generator. What operators will try to do is to think of it as a marketing opportunity to strengthen their platform, more than anything else."

For fans unwilling to pay for this year's content, they will be glad to know that four key matches - the opening, semi-finals and final - are available on free-to-air TV channels.

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