World Cup free for all is Tsang's pledge for 2014
Vivienne Chow and Amy Nip
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has offered no road map to democracy that extends beyond his term, but he wants everyone in the city to be able to watch the World Cup for free in 2014.
At a Legislative Council meeting, Tsang said arrangements should be made to ensure everyone would be able to watch the final and the semi-finals of the next World Cup.
'We will consider how to make the next World Cup better so as to ensure every family and every household can watch the final and semi-finals,' he said. 'It can be achieved through licensing procedures or some other arrangements.'
While some had suggested the government should buy broadcasting rights to the tournament, Tsang believed the same objective could be achieved without using public money.
He made the comment after a public outcry that four matches - the opening game, semi-finals and final - were only available on the digital high-definition channels of TVB and ATV, not on analogue channels.
A group protested at the office of the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority last month, complaining about the government's failure to ensure the grass roots could watch World Cup matches for free on analogue channels.
A spokesman for TVB, which only showed four World Cup matches packaged by Cable TV's Channel One on its high-definition channel, said the station was ready to bid for 2014 World Cup TV rights, after evaluating this year's performance and the potential cost and revenue of showing the World Cup.
TVB said Monday morning's World Cup final, with the signal supplied by i-Cable, aired on the free-to-air broadcaster's HD Jade digital channel, attracting an average 5.6 rating points, equating to about 356,944 viewers, according to a TV ratings survey conducted by research company CSM. It peaked at six rating points, or 382,440 viewers. One rating point equals 63,740 viewers.
TVB said four years ago, when the final was shown on its analogue Jade channel, it racked up 18 rating points, or 1.1 million viewers. Each rating point equalled 64,260 viewers four years ago.
ATV, which also aired Cable TV's Channel One World Cup final package on one of its digital channels, recorded 0.8 rating points, or 50,992 viewers.
Cable TV's Channel One, which reaches more than a million households in the city, recorded an average 2.7 rating points, or 172,098 viewers.
An industry insider said i-Cable paid US$38 million for this year's World Cup TV rights. The insider said that if TVB was willing to match i-Cable's offer, or even pay a little less, soccer's ruling body, Fifa, would probably grant the rights to a free-to-air terrestrial broadcaster.
'But of course, if i-Cable is going to pay much more, Fifa will give that priority,' the insider said.
A spokesman for Cable TV declined to comment on how much the pay-TV broadcaster paid for the World Cup rights, or the rating results gathered by CSM, saying that no matter which channel people watched, they were still watching Cable TV's production.
However, the spokesman said that according to a survey conducted by research company Oracle Added Value, more than 1.5 million Hongkongers watched the Netherlands vs Brazil, as well as Germany vs Argentina, with 60 per cent watching at home, and 40 per cent watching the games somewhere else, for example at bars or karaoke lounges.
Cable TV did not comment on TVB's plan to bid for the 2014 World Cup, saying that everyone had the right to bid for the event.
Eyes on the ball
More than 1.5 million Hongkongers watched the World Cup final
The amount of money i-Cable is said to have paid for the TV broadcasting rights, in US dollars, was: $38m