The latest Premier League transfer fee … HK$398

Now TV wins broadcast rights, meaning bigger bill for soccer fans but lots of fancy manoeuvres

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 February, 2013, 4:16am

There will be a mixture of pleasure and pain for soccer fans as the broadcasting rights for the Barclays Premier League switches from Cable TV to Now TV next season - there will be new features but a bigger bill.

New subscribers will have to pay HK$398 a month and sign a two-year contract, Now TV announced yesterday after it signed an exclusive agreement with the English Premier League to broadcast the games for three seasons from 2013/14.

But those who subscribe before the end of this month will enjoy six months free - lengthening the total subscription period to 30 months and reducing the monthly fee to HK$206.

But the "discount" will not make much difference to die-hard soccer fans, who do not necessarily need the station until August when the new season kicks off.

In comparison, Hong Kong's largest pay-television operator Cable TV, which broadcasts the current Premier League season, charges about HK$300 a month for a package that includes football channels.

The higher price tag charged by Now TV will however be accompanied by new features.

One of them is a feature dubbed "time shift" - viewers who have missed the beginning of a match may choose to catch up on any match on a delayed-live basis.

Another function is a video-on-demand feature, which will allow the audience to retrieve and play back specific moments including goals, penalties, corners, shots at goal and red and yellow cards.

All 380 matches will be available on five channels.

For those with fibre broadband transmission, the matches will be shown in Super HD, which promises a crisper and clearer picture.

Over the past decade, football fans have been plagued by shifts of broadcasting rights between Now TV and Cable TV.

In 2006, Now TV beat Cable TV to the draw, paying HK$1.56 billion for the right to broadcast Premier League matches for three seasons. But Cable TV made a comeback in 2009, winning the rights with a bid believed to have been about HK$1.8 billion.

The latest turnabout was another blow to fans, who said HK$398 was quite costly. Among them was Andrew Shum, who said he paid Cable TV HK$339 a month in a two-year contract - and he'll want to keep it on as well as sign up to Now TV so he can watch UEFA Champions League matches, too.

"It is getting costlier and costlier … the monthly bill for TV will be even pricier than a mobile phone subscription," he said. "Just across the border, people in Guangdong can watch the Premier League free of charge."