Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Singtel set to tackle Starhub for EPL licence

As the Reds of Manchester United toppled Chelsea off the summit of the EPL in recent weeks, another red seeks to do the same, here in Singapore. With its bid to air the highly popular EPL matches as well as its application for a commercial cable-TV license, Singtel is set to challenge Starhub for dominance of the local cable-TV market.

The soccer matches it plans to broadcast will be those held between August 2007 and May 2010, Singtel said in a statement. It also plans to use its existing infrastructure for the new service, the company said.

"Our intention is to offer pay-TV services to deliver high definition content over Singtel's telecommunications network," the phone company said. “We are also working with other content partners to provide entertainment services."

The license, if granted, would break Starhub's monopoly as the sole commercial cable-TV operator in the island-state of 4.4 million people. The two companies are already competing in areas such as fixed-line and wireless phone services, as well as offering Internet connections to consumers.

But Starhub is unperturbed. "We have always said that we welcome competition when the competition brings fresh content and a variety of new channels to the market," Jeannie Ong, Starhub's spokeswoman, told Bloomberg. "We are certain that our competitor is aware that entering the pay-TV business will be a difficult venture, and is likely to be loss-making for a long time."

It seems that the battle of cable-TV providers has just begun. And like the EPL, it is a mouthwatering prospect, with the possibility of new channels and lower prices for all. But will Singtel still be able to win the masses over to its cable service even if it doesn't get the EPL rights? What can Starhub do to protect its patch of grass? What can Singtel offer that Starhub doesn't already have?

Stay tuned.

And tell us what you think.

- Zaky Jailani