Hong Kong

iCable rejects ATV, TVB counteroffer for World Cup rights

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 April, 2010, 12:00am

The spat among three broadcasters over coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup matches intensified yesterday as a conditional offer by ATV and TVB to pay iCable for the broadcasting rights was immediately rejected.

The two free-to-air TV stations asked iCable, holder of the TV rights, to supply the signals for four major matches 'without requiring [them] to carry iCable's commercials and promotional materials' as the pay TV operator had demanded.

In return, ATV and TVB offered not to carry any of their own commercials during the opening match, two semi-finals and the final match.

The counterproposal was immediately rejected by iCable, which operates pay TV network Cable TV.

It dismissed it as 'highly unfair' and criticised the two stations for 'a total lack of sincerity'.

ATV and TVB met yesterday to discuss a previous offer by iCable in which they would be allowed to relay the signals carried by Cable TV Channel 1 for a nominal fee of HK$10. The two stations would have to carry associated programming, commercials and promotional materials.

In a joint statement after the meeting, ATV and TVB said: 'For a nominal fee of HK$10 for the broadcasting right, iCable will occupy airtime of the two stations worth almost HK$100 million. The overall arrangement imposed by iCable is unreasonable and thus unacceptable.'

In response, iCable said its offer had been 'made following government mediation' and that it had 'taken full account of the public interest'. It said the arrangement proposed by its two rivals was 'highly unfair to us' and that 'it also reflects a total lack of sincerity on their part in response to our very reasonable final offer, and a free ride attitude'.

'As such, we are unable to further consider it,' iCable said.

Last night, a TVB spokesman declined to comment on iCable's immediate response.

'We shall wait until we receive a formal reply from them,' he said. 'There may be more rounds of discussion.

'They say they are unable to consider [our counterproposal]. They did not say they will not talk.'

A spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said yesterday it would keep a close watch on the issue but hinted it was not appropriate for the government to step in.

'As it is a commercial affair, it will have to be sorted out by the relevant broadcasting organisations on their own,' the bureau said.

The row over TV coverage brewed early this year after ATV and TVB refused to accept the cable company's contract terms requiring them to include its promotions and commercials while using its signals.

Cable TV was also Hong Kong's World Cup rights holder in 2002 and 2006. In those years, the station licensed footage of four key matches - the opening match, the semi-finals and the final - to TVB and ATV, which, however could use their own commentators and sell their own advertising during their coverage.