SINGAPORE - Football fans will be able to watch the English Premier League on both SingTel and StarHub pay-TV platforms for the first time over the next three seasons.
On Friday, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim rejected SingTel's appeal against a Media Development Authority (MDA) direction made last month to cross-carry "live" EPL matches for the next three seasons.
But the a-la-carte EPL content, with nine channels, will cost $59.90 per month for both SingTel mio TV and StarHub's pay TV customers.
SingTel is obliged to provide the content to both sets of subscribers under the cross-carriage regulations.
The price is significantly higher than SingTel's old $34.90-per-month sports bundle, which came with EPL channels, Champions League and other sports content.
Customers who are still on mio TV contracts will get to enjoy the old price plan until their contracts expire.
While he feels that more clarity is needed under the cross-carriage guidelines as pointed out by Dr Yaacob in the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) statement, SingTel Country Chief Officer-Singapore Allen Lew accepted the decision.
The telco will be banking on their new gold packs, which will give subscribers around 80 channels with EPL content for $5 to $10 more than the standalone subscription, to keep their customers happy.
Lew said: "We still believe that the agreement that we have is non-exclusive, but obviously the Minister and MDA have interpreted it a different way so we respect what has been decided.
"We've always said that we've heavily subsidised and discounted EPL and, if you take a bundle with 80 channels, we have the flexibility to sell it to you at a very affordable bundle.
"When you go to a fast-food restaurant, if you buy one item like chicken or a burger, it's at one price but if you buy with a drink and fries etc, it's only marginally more.
"That's the type of concept we are moving towards. When people watch TV, they want to watch a bundle of different genres."
SingTel had acquired the rights for its mio TV platform on a non-exclusive basis from the Football Association Premier League until the 2015/2016 season.
However, a series of clauses in the contract left StarHub crying foul, prompting the MDA to investigate and rule that the rights must be shared over both carriers.
Jeannie Ong, StarHub's senior vice-president of corporate communications and investor relations, said: "StarHub is heartened by and fully supports the Minister's decision to uphold MDA's cross-carriage direction. We also support MDA's decision to ensure that the EPL channels will be available, on a standalone basis, to StarHub customers.
"To ensure that cross carriage works successfully to give customers real choice, it is important for MDA to ensure that the pricing for the EPL packages is non-discriminatory. No customer should be disadvantaged whether he chooses to view the football matches on StarHub's platform or otherwise.
"We remain committed to complying with MDA's direction. We look forward to sharing more details of StarHub's competitive content packages, alongside the EPL to be cross-carried, once we have the EPL pricing details from the local broadcast rights holder."