Football: La Liga TV deal off

Barcelona, the reigning European champions, start their La Liga title defence with revenge on their minds when they visit Athletic Bilbao on Monday morning (Singapore time).

The match will be an opportunity for Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Co. to put an ever-improving Bilbao side in their place, after Ernesto Valverde's men posted a 5-1 aggregate victory over Luis Enrique's aristocrats in the Spanish Super Cup.

It is a potentially explosive encounter, but football fans in Singapore will not be able to watch it on TV.

Fox Sports Asia, which has had the local rights to the Spanish top flight since 2012, was not successful in securing a deal this time around. The channel, which is available on both StarHub and Singtel TV, will not screen any La Liga matches this season.

The New Paper understands that the Asian rights to the league were secured by beIN Sports, which does not have a channel in Singapore. Owned by Qatari Sports Investments, beIN is a global network of sports channels founded in 2012.

When contacted, a spokesman for Fox Sports said: "Fox Sports has been officially informed by (Spanish communications group) Mediapro that it has not been successful in renewing its broadcast rights to the Liga BBVA in Singapore.

"However, they (La Liga) remain open to discussions with the new broadcast rights holders."

Singapore telcos StarHub and Singtel are both screening the English Premier League this season.

When contacted, Lee Soo Hui, StarHub's head of media business unit, said: "The previous season of La Liga was broadcast on Fox Sports which is carried on StarHub TV.

"We understand that Fox Sports has yet to acquire the La Liga matches this season."

A Singtel spokesman said: "Fox International Channels has not succeeded in renewing their rights to La Liga, so this will not be available on Fox Sports, which is carried by Singtel TV."

The situation has not been helped as there is a confusing tangle over the broadcast rights for La Liga in Spain, with Telefonica and Mediapro both owning parts of it.

The first of the highly anticipated "El Clasico" between Barcelona and Real Madrid is scheduled on Nov 8 at the Santiago Bernabeu and, as it stands, many Singapore fans will miss out on another clash between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real fan James Koh was shocked to hear he won't be able to watch his favourite team in action.

"It's a real shame. We have so many sports channels across two (telcos) and yet, we can't even broadcast one of the biggest leagues in the world," said the 34-year-old banker.

"Now I'll have to look for 'live' streaming on the Internet every weekend, and often the feed you get isn't very good."

Another fan, Mohd Hashidy Anuar, a 37-year-old transport officer, feared the worst after beIN Sports paid top dollar to win the bid. "It's a case of one network buying out the competition, and it's the fans who suffer," he said.

"Maybe, either StarHub or Singtel can work towards acquiring the channel (beIN Sports). I hope they can begin screening La Liga in the next few weeks."


There was unhappiness last year when neither telco acquired the broadcast rights to the 2016 European Championship qualifiers.

With England's Wayne Rooney set to surpass Bobby Charlton's long-standing England scoring record of 49 goals - the Manchester United star has 48 - the Three Lions' fans here will almost certainly miss out on the chance to witness history, when Roy Hodgson's men take on San Marino (Sept 5) and Switzerland (Sept 8).

Said StarHub's Lee: "We are in constant engagement with our content partners to add quality sports content to our programming, as seen by the recent addition of the Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League to our line-up.

"Our customers are our top priority and we will only acquire content sensibly to ensure good value for them."

Singtel's spokesman said: "With regard to the Euro 2016 (tournament) and qualifiers, those rights have not yet been given out in Singapore by the rights owner.

"However, we are always looking out for good content for our customers and will provide updates as they come."

"Maybe, either StarHub or Singtel can work towards acquiring the channel (beIN Sports). I hope they can begin screening La Liga in the next few weeks." - Football fan Mohd Hashidy Anuar

This article was first published on August 20, 2015.
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