StarHub to raise price of pay-TV basic package

SINGAPORE - Starhub is increasing the price of entry for one of its most basic packages by around $5 a month from September - a move which could see some subscribers pay for channels they do not want.

Currently, customers sign up for a basic pay-TV package by choosing at least three categories, such as education, entertainment and kids, from seven Basic Groups. This costs $27.82.

They can choose to "upsize" these groups with more channels, bringing the total to $33.17.

But in a statement on Friday, the telco said it will be scrapping the upsize option, and merging the extra channels into its Basic Group. So the option to pay $27.82 is no longer available.

Instead, new customers must go with the higher charge.

Analysts said it is unlikely StarHub made the move just to raise the average revenue it gets from each user, despite falling subscriber numbers.

The telco lost 4,200 pay-TV customers in the first three months this year, reducing its user base to 532,000 households.

"It does leave less choice for new subscribers. It looks like they are forcing the channels on them," said research firm Forrester's analyst Clement Teo.

In its statement, StarHub's head of home solutions Lin Shu Fen said that with the majority of its customers already opting to "upsize" their Basic Groups, it decided to "consolidate" and "simplify" the sign-up process for customers.

Existing customers on contracts will not be affected by the changes.

Those who will be affected will be offered rebates to mitigate the additional charges, the telco added.

StarHub still offers cheaper packages which start at around $27 a month but customers do not get to mix and match the channels.

Whether Friday's move will make it more costly for new pay-TV users to sign up with StarHub compared with SingTel's mioTV remains to be seen.

SingTel operates a different pricing mode but its Family+ package - which is similar to its rival's $33.17 basic offering - costs about $30 a month.

StarHub subscriber and blogger Alfred Siew, 38, said the move might push those who are more Net-savvy towards cheaper Internet video-streaming services like Netflix or Hulu Plus - known collectively as over- the-top content.

He said: "It does make the sign-up process simpler but, for those who want a simple set of programmes, I might as well just get Netflix, which is less than US$10 (S$13) a month."

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