Friday, April 24, 2009

It's gonna cost you

Recently the press picked up on the impending English Premier League rights bidding war that’s about to kick-off around the region. It was timely given that I just got a hold of some figures from ESPN STAR Sports which tells me (a) EPL is still mind-numbingly popular, and (b) it’s not going to come cheap for both the broadcaster and in the end, the football fan as well.

ESS says the current season of the Premier League live matches and ancillary programming reached more male viewers 15+ than the combined reach of news, education and entertainment programmes between 15 August 2008 to 25 February 2009.

According to AGB NMR, over the same period, more than 63% of all cable viewers aged 15+ in Malaysia have already watched the BPL (Barclays Premier League) 2008/2009 matches and its ancillary programming.

The BPL match between Manchester United and Liverpool on March 14 hit a Top 3 spot^ over the March 1 - 15 period, achieving an average rating of 6.6% among male viewers 15+ on cable, with the highest audience share (among regional cable broadcasters) of 17.3% during television viewing primetime, only second to a local-language channel.

But it’s not just the matches that ESS is able to tap on. It produces close to 1,500 hours of original football content a year including Nokia Football Crazy, Football Focus, Goals, Football Forecast, First Edition and Football Extra.

And because ESS also has the rights for the UEFA Champions League FA Cup, the company’s senior director of marketing and corporate communications, Paras Sharma is confident they will retain the EPL rights for next three seasons (from July 2010 onwards).

Still, ESS has lost out before, back in 2007 in Singapore (although they still handle the ad sales for that market).

StarHub paid a reported $250 million for the Singapore rights which were also seen as a strategic attempt to ensure rival SingTel wouldn’t be able to add the Premier League to its IPTV mio-TV platform.

Closer to home, Malaysia's state-owned Telekom Malaysia recently went on the record to say it may challenge Astro and bid for the exclusive rights which will open for bidding in the second quarter of this year. TM is hoping to secure attractive content for its IPTV platform which launches at the end of 2009.

So while Singapore is sold as a standalone market with other markets a part of a cluster - who knows what will happen this time.

Whatever happens, you can bet it’s going to involve a lot of money and it’s going to cost the football fan.

“You can make corrections if the business isn’t going up but clearly it is,” Sharma said.


*During period 15 Aug 2008-25 Feb 2009 in Malaysia. Refers to CNN, MTV Asia and Discovery. Source: AGB NMR
^Source: AGB NMR, Top 100 Broadcasts on Cable TV channels in Malaysia for March

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