StarHub doubles rebate for EPL

SINGAPORE - Starhub has doubled its rebate to $600 in its latest bid to win back football fan subscribers, even as it prepares to make a loss through this move.

The rebate will be enjoyed by all of the telco's TV customers who choose to catch the English Premier League (EPL) cross-carried on its set-top box.

It offers $30 off every month for up to 20 months - meaning those whose monthly bills are less than $30 will not have to pay StarHub a cent during this period.

The separate payment of $59.90 for EPL goes straight to SingTel, since it holds the rights to the popular league on cable TV here.

But the green camp believes it is worth it.

"While we will be absorbing a loss for this rebate to benefit customers, we believe the loss will not materially impact our overall financials," StarHub's head of home solutions Lin Shu Fen told The Straits Times.

"We feel it is important to show a sincere gesture of appreciation to our customers who support StarHub."

Funding for this rebate will come from a cross-carriage fee that StarHub will get from its red rival.

"The cross-carriage fee was meant to cover the operational costs of cross-carrying the EPL on StarHub's network," said Ms Lin.

"However, we hear and empathise with the sentiment of our customers on the marked increase in cost of the EPL dictated by our competitor. We hope our simplified contract-free rebate will ease the burden for our customers."

Its latest offer will not be tied down by a contract and applies to both existing and new TV subscribers.

It came right after consumers complained that its EPL packages were confusing.

Mr Ramakrishna Maruvada, head of South-east Asia and India telecoms research at Daiwa Capital Markets, said: "This is a real discount. It's cheap and offers value to customers, not like a bundle package.

"StarHub's promotion shows good marketing as the offer is real and attractive. But it would be impractical to extend the offer to all customers.

StarHub probably knows how many subscribers would actually bite as these people who watch EPL left their network back then."

On Tuesday, StarHub revealed that it has suffered a decline in pay-TV subscribers for 18 months and it is counting on the next three seasons of the EPL to help bring them back.

In just three months leading up to June, the telcolost 2,000 pay-TV customers, reducing its user base to 530,000 households.

However, not all die-hard EPL fans are moved by its offer, which ends on Sept 30.

Manager Christopher Yap, 42, said that he switched to watching EPL matches online after SingTel got the exclusive broadcast rights to them.

"I still subscribe to StarHub for its other shows, but I don't think I will pay to watch EPL as I have gotten used to watching the matches online."

Real estate consultant Peter Chua, 58, who subscribes to both telcos, said that he would "wait and see" before deciding.

"The two telcos are playing with the consumers' minds, which is not fair to us as we are loyal EPL supporters. Whatever is the price, we would have no choice but to pay. But I shall wait to see how SingTel will fight back," he said.

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