Cable TV strikes live-soccer deal as big kick-off looms

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2001, 12:00am

Cable TV last night struck a deal with ESPN to secure live broadcasts of English Premier League matches, two weeks before the season kicks off.

The deal also covers all the top European teams with the return of the Uefa Champions' League, which has been off the screens in Hong Kong for two seasons.

Under a 'multi-year' agreement, Cable TV can start to provide ESPN and Star Sports programmes on August 17, two days before the season starts.

Chan So-kuen, senior external affairs manager of Cable TV, said that the network would be screening five live Premier League matches a week.

An ESPN spokesman said most would have both Chinese and English commentaries, but some might have English commentary only.

The agreement gives Cable TV non-exclusive rights to carry these top sports events.

'It means if in future any other pay TV wants to buy the rights, they can do so. But live broadcast will not be made available to free-to-all terrestrial television,' said Cable TV external affairs director Garman Chan.

He said the agreement ensured that Cable TV would screen Premier League football for several years, but declined to say exactly how many years.

TVB will still carry its weekly highlights show of action from the Premier League.

Mr Chan said they were glad to put behind them anxiety at the prospect of losing the matches. 'Sports, news and movies are our backbone. We are glad to reach an agreement.'

But he said it was not clear if they also had the rights to show English FA Cup games.

In February, ESPN won the rights to carry Premier League exclusively in Hong Kong for three seasons.

Football fans and bar managers welcomed the news last night.

Policeman Chick Kin-yeung, 23, said: 'It's really great news. I'm particularly glad about the return of the Champions' League because the matches of that competition are usually of the highest quality.'

A manager of the King Arms bar, in Kowloon Tong, said: 'It's excellent news. I thought we were going to miss the Premier League this season. It will certainly boost business. On a big night like Liverpool against Manchester United, 80 to 90 per cent of customers will have come to watch the match.'