SingTel's World Cup offer dubbed 'a marketing ploy'

Singtel's game plan to offer free World Cup telecasts to subscribers of its English Premier League (EPL) packages has been described as a marketing ploy by industry observers and fans.

In announcing that it had secured exclusive rights to the football tournament, the telco on Wednesday confirmed that all 64 matches will be offered free to those who ink two-year subscription contracts for either one of its two EPL packages.

The alternative is to pay a one-time $105 fee for watching the month-long showpiece which kicks off in Brazil on June 12.

SingTel has taken "the most effective route" to ensure revenue stability for its pay-TV business, said Mr Ramakrishna Maruvada, head of South-east Asia and India telecoms research at the Daiwa Institute of Research.

Signing customers on for two years gives the telco such stability that it can subsidise the cost of the World Cup to a certain extent, he added.

Local football fans whom The Straits Times spoke to agreed.

"It feels like we're being held to ransom," said Mr Joshua Lee, 32, an associate business director. "In what is a price-sensitive environment, they're certainly making the most of their investment."

School technical officer Muhammad Reddy, 32, said: "It's a marketing gimmick. I wouldn't want to be tied down to a contract like that."

Already, some fans are prepared to catch only four key matches - those for the opening, semi-finals and final - which will be available on free-to-air television channels, as required by the Media Development Authority.

"The time difference means that I won't be able to watch all the matches anyway," said human resource business partner Dennis Check, 30.

"I'll just head to a community club or coffee shop."

Likewise, 51-year-old transport specialist Hussain Razzak has no intention of either extending his existing EPL subscription or paying the $105.

"I can always watch the matches online," he said.

"There's no way I'm going to waste the money, even if I can afford it. Football is a sport that binds and lower-income families should not be deprived of that opportunity."

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