Cable TV wins rights to air soccer World Cup

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 June, 2007, 12:00am

Pay-TV operator Cable Television said it has won the exclusive rights to broadcast the next soccer World Cup tournament.

Securing such a deal may help the unit of i-Cable Communications win more subscribers after PCCW's NOW Broadband TV outbid it for the rights to air next season's English Premier League.

'It's a clear message to tell our customers that we are still keen on buying high-quality football programming,' said Stephen Ng Tin-hoi, i-Cable's chairman.

Mr Ng said losing English Premier League coverage had no negative impact on subscriptions. I-Cable has 820,000 customers and Mr Ng said the number continued to grow.

Cable TV has now won the World Cup broadcast rights three times consecutively. It did not disclose how much it paid for the rights.

Cable TV will carry all 64 final matches, which will be held in South Africa in 2010, as well as the qualifying matches in the lead-up period.

Apart from the English Premier League, PCCW also outbid Cable TV for the European Championship and won non-exclusive rights for Italy's football league for 2006-07.

'We showed interest [in getting Fifa 2010] initially, but determined it lacked potential value compared with other football programmes,' a PCCW spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, i-Cable said it hoped to accelerate handling of requests for the cancellation of its pay-TV subscriptions after it consolidated back-office units. 'We apologise for any inconvenience caused but I hope the service will be back to normal not later than July,' Mr Ng said.

Concerns have been raised recently about the difficulties subscribers face when they want to terminate their contracts.

'I know telecommunications companies are facing keen competition and their business tactics are really not very good for consumers,' said Democratic Party legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, who is also a soccer fan.

Mr Cheng said telecoms companies always tried to make it difficult for customers to terminate their contracts to retain business.

Many legislators had received numerous complaints about these companies, including Cable TV and NOW Broadband TV, he said.

'They say 'yes' to everything when they try to lure customers to subscribe to their services, but suddenly become very unfriendly and troublesome when their clients want to stop the subscription,' Mr Cheng said.

'I am a subscriber of Cable and have not changed to NOW, but I was thinking about it. If Cable can air the World Cup, then I still stick to it.'