IPL fans see red over being left in the dark

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 April, 2008, 12:00am

Frustration as Hong Kong TV viewers miss out

Hong Kong fans were left in the dark as the Indian Premier League got under way in sensational fashion yesterday with a glitzy opening ceremony followed by New Zealand's hard-hitting batsman Brendon McCullum continuing the fireworks by powering his way to the highest individual score in a Twenty-20 match.

'Why are Singaporeans so lucky?' asked Sanjeev Kumar, who pointed out that StarHub in Singapore was airing all 59 matches live on its recently launched cricket channel. StarHub charges S$25.68 (HK$147) per month to subscribers in a packaged deal that includes other channels.

'Singapore cricket lovers can watch the Indian Premier League but in Hong Kong, we cannot watch this exciting tournament at all,' Kumar protested.

McCullum hammered an unbeaten 158 off 73 deliveries, including 13 sixes and 10 fours, to help the Saurav Ganguly-led Kolkota Knight Riders beat the Bangalore Royal Challengers by 140 runs.

The action has also been blacked out on other media in Hong Kong due to a boycott of the IPL by international news agencies, who are up in arms over restrictions placed on the distribution of photographs.

While StarHub has struck a deal with World Sports Group - which along with Sony Television paid US$918 million for the IPL TV rights for 10 years - apparently Hong Kong providers like Now TV and Cable TV have shown little interest in broadcasting the event.

'It is a real shame we are missing out on watching this fantastic spectacle in Hong Kong,' said fan Ravi Nagdev. 'There is huge interest in the IPL, not only in the local cricket community but also the expatriate community, both Indian and others.'

Seamus O'Brien, president of World Sports Group and an ex-Hong Kong Cricket Club batsman, in an earlier interview with the Sunday Morning Post, said his firm was in talks with Hong Kong television companies to show the IPL.

These plans have apparently not borne fruit. Anita Choi, spokeswoman for PCCW which runs Now TV, said: 'At Now TV we only provide the platform for programmes and it is up to ESPN/Star Sports to provide the content.

'But we have no plans to show the Indian Premier League.'

Officials from ESPN/Star TV and Cable were unavailable for comment.

'I suppose each country has to negotiate its TV rights. It is a pity that it is not being shown in Hong Kong,' said Clive Howard, chairman of the Hong Kong Cricket Association.

To make matters worse, media organisations like Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Getty Images carried out their threat to boycott the IPL over curbs placed on the distribution of photographs to cricket-specific websites.

Moves by sports organisers to curb media rights have largely failed in the past. Fifa tried imposing similar restrictions on photo coverage of the 2006 World Cup but backed down under a threat of a boycott. In September last year, organisers of the Rugby World Cup settled at the last minute after a long dispute over media rights.