Six Nations

Six Nations Championship 2014

Hong Kong rugby fans left fuming after being denied chance to watch Six Nations live

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 February, 2014, 5:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 October, 2014, 4:32pm

France's dramatic victory over England in the Six Nations rugby tournament at the weekend thrilled sports fans around the world, but most locals were unable to watch the action on TV.

Their fun was kicked into touch when they learnt that Setanta Sports, which has broadcast the competition every year since 2010, had not renewed a four-year agreement with Six Nations Rugby upon expiry this year.

Six Nations Rugby, through its media rights agency MP & Silva, had sold most of the broadcast rights to Al Jazeera-owned sports broadcaster beIN Sports.

Previously, Setanta's coverage had been shown on PCCW's Now TV network, but the decision meant only subscribers to TVB's lesser-known Network Vision were able to watch a last-gasp try by Gael Fickou give France a 26-24 victory.

BeIN Sports entered a two-channel partnership with TVB's Network Vision last October.

Setanta confirmed the rights had been "sold to another broadcaster for certain territories". The deal extends to 2017.

"While we work hard to secure the rights to the world's best rugby, we are not successful in securing rights every time," said the company

But local fans gave the decision a red card.

"This tournament is all but impossible to watch in Hong Kong because of a series of short-sighted, greedy, incompetent decisions," said fan Roy Allen. "Would it be too much to ask for sports administrators to consider their fan base when selling TV rights? What's the point of more money if no one can watch the games?"

The Facebook page of Setanta Sports Asia was flooded by comments expressing disappointment at its failure to air one of the sport's biggest events.

Many of the city's sports pubs were also up in arms. Delaney's was "disappointed" about not being able to air the Six Nations on its Now TV subscription. However, the chain did broadcast the event - after taking out a TVB Network Vision subscription. One Wan Chai pub manager operating with a tighter budget said he had to revert to - illegally - live streaming the games over the weekend.

"Streaming is fine but there is always the risk of lagging and bad connection," he said.

A customer services representative for Now TV said it had "never advertised" that it would air this year's tournament. He said it had given written notice to pubs and restaurants months in advance.

Now TV, the market leader in the pay-TV sector, had a subscriber base of 1.2 million as of 2013. TVB's Vision Network had a subscriber base of 200,000.

An earlier version of this article stated Setanta Sports had sold the Six Nations broadcasting rights to beIN Sports. In fact, it was Six Nations Rugby Ltd, though its rights agency MP & Silva, that sold the broadcasting rights to beIN Sports after its contract with Setanta had ended.