For those who have been crying foul of not being able to watch your EPL on Starhub, there is some good news and bad news for you.
From 12 Mar 2010, it is by law that Singtel and Starhub will carry each other's channels on their platform. This is good news but the bad thing is that it applies to newly acquired or recontracted licenses of the channels. Thus, EPL will still be on Singtel mio TV. When the contract ends, whoever gets the bid, the other operator will also carry the channel, so whoever wins the bid in 2014 makes no difference.
Mr Lui of MDA said "Content costs now constitute a significant percentage of pay TV operators' revenue, compared to international benchmarks. For example, SCV's content costs to revenue ratio has risen from 40 per cent prior to 2007 to close to 70 per cent today. This is much higher than the average 40 per cent for Pay TV operators in most other countries, including US, UK and Hong Kong.
"Secondly, Singapore suffers from a high degree of content fragmentation compared to other countries. Out of 179 channels today, only seven channels are common to both SCV and SingTel. An international benchmarking exercise using a group of 16 popular channels showed that Singapore was the only country with exclusive arrangements for all 16 channels.
"MDA's (Media Development Authority) review has concluded that this situation is unlikely to self-correct in the near future, and steps need to be taken to address this market failure".
So under the new Media Market Conduct Code, there will be a Public Interest Obligation. This means Pay TV providers must cross-carry each other's exclusive content.
For example, if SingTel acquires a new channel exclusively, it must make this channel available to StarHub. StarHub must carry this programme at the same time SingTel is airing it - and vice versa. StarHub also cannot make any modifications to the content. This includes all the advertisements and branding SingTel may have embedded into the programme. SingTel will have to pay StarHub to carry its exclusive content.
Something odd is that, in the above quoted example, Singtel will have to pay Starhub to carry its exclusive content ?? Shouldn't it be the other way round. For example, Singtel has the EPL exclusive rights and why should they pay Starhub to carry EPL ? It would be a bad business decision to do that.
There is also no mentioning of what sort of channels will be relayed to the other operator, would it be LIVE channels like CNN, BBC, CTI or dose it also include self packaged channels like VV DRAMA on Starhub ? What about the video on demand titles ? Some of these are also exclusive contents.
In fact, this new ruling will fit in place when NBN launches later this year. A universal set top box for all operators would be the way to go. MobileOne, being the only telecom operator without PAY TV would definitely benefit from this arrangment as it would be able to become a PAY TV operator almost instantly without worrying of getting exclusive contents since there is no more exclusivity in Singapore. Singtel will also benefit as Starhub holds the bulk of exclusive contents while Singtel only holds the EPL and ESPN.