Tim Noonan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2007, 12:00am

You don't have to be a biblical scholar to know that even the big guy took Sunday off.

Some of us heathens have to work though, including this one, and what I would like to work on today is indulgence of the hypothetical, in particular, how it applies to another far more high profile group who also work on Sunday, American football players.

Now, what if you were posted overseas to a place like Hong Kong and what if your passion, like so many in the US and a surprisingly large number internationally, was watching America's National Football League? How would you go about indulging that passion in a distant locale like this?

Fortunately, ESPN International has come to your aid in the past and broadcast a regular fare of NFL games. But what would happen if the folks who run ESPN and the ones who run the NFL could not agree on terms and ended their working relationship?

Well, again I am speculating here, but I think you would pretty darn angry, particularly if you paid money to subscribe to ESPN because you assumed that you would be able to watch the NFL on it.

Maybe you're thinking, what kind of low down jive is this? Yes, I am speculating that you're not happy and at this point speculation is all we have. Nothing but the rancid state of the air we breathe in Hong Kong is official right now.

At this stage, all we know for certain is that the NFL will not be broadcast on ESPN, the so-called 'Worldwide Leader in Sports'.

Last I checked, though, Hong Kong was still part of the world and ESPN Star Sports, at least as it is constituted in Hong Kong, is in a serious struggle for content these days.

Five years ago they had the English Premier League, the NFL, the Rugby World Cup and the US Open tennis. Today they have none of them.

They do have Major League Baseball, but one can only wonder for how much longer. They show roughly two NBA games a week and during this past play-off they were stuck with the decidedly inferior and far less entertaining Eastern Conference while Hong Kong's i-Cable broadcast the free-wheeling western fare.

They have added a full slate of American college football games, although they missed showing the 'biggest' upset of all time when Appalachian State beat Michigan last week, so they don't have an issue with football.

But they do have a number of other issues they need to address and primary among them is relevance.

But I am speculating that none of this matters to you right now. You probably want to know where the NFL will land on the television radar.

Relief is on the way, I think. YES television has just acquired the rights to broadcast the NFL in Asia and according to their press release they 'plan to maximise coverage of NFL across the region. Carriage and distribution partners on terrestrial, pay TV, broadband and mobile platforms are being finalised and will be announced shortly'.

I have to believe this is great news and I applaud the YES network for their efforts in bringing the NFL to us.

But the NFL has already started and we need to get busy here, which the guys from YES have assured me they will. In case you are not aware, YES owns Goal TV which is available on NOW TV if you subscribe to TVB Pay-Vision for US$138 per month.

You also get a bunch of other channels that show you things like Malaysian soap operas.

So if you owned the rights to the NFL and someone wanted to watch it, why should you have to share the revenue for this subscriber with channels that show soaps?

Hypothetically speaking, this must be going through the minds of the people at YES who have told me that they cannot confirm where the NFL will land until this coming week.

The opening game was on Goal TV on Friday morning so I got all excited and decided to subscribe to TVB Pay Vision for a year and received an invoice from NOW that stated: 'Please be reminded that if your subscription to any pay channel is terminated before expiry of your channel term plan, you will be liable for the charges.'

There is a pretty good chance the NFL will not be staying on Goal TV. In fact, I am speculating that the NFL will not even stay on NOW.

So perhaps you can speculate where all this is going.

Anybody know of a cable TV company in Hong Kong that is feverishly snapping up rights to a number of big events because it is no longer burdened by the huge bill for the English Premier League? Again, this is pure speculation but it looks like the NFL is going to migrate to i-Cable.

And when it gets there you can pretty much rest assured that it will be a premium channel with an additional monthly charge. It's called recouping your investment and from a business perspective, at least in a Hong Kong way, it makes sense for YES TV.

Right now, neither party can confirm, so speculate away folks. But the good news here is I now have the TVB Lifestyle channel and they will soon be broadcasting a show featuring our fabulously wealthy Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, discussing his favourite wines.

And who needs the NFL when you can find out what's in Henry Tang's wine cellar? Certainly not me, hypothetically speaking, of course.




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