Cable TV has scored exclusive rights to broadcast the 2002 soccer World Cup finals live. The deal, which could leave thousands of fans out in the cold, beat off rivals ATV and TVB. Hong Kong Cable Television, owned by Wharf (Holdings), outbid the competition for rights to screen all 64 matches of the tournament, co-hosted for the first time by Japan and South Korea. Company chairman and managing director Stephen Ng Tin-hoi described the exclusive deal as one of the most significant acquisitions since the company launched in 1993. 'This is a major programming initiative to maintain our leading position in the Hong Kong television market,' he said. Mr Ng declined to reveal how much the company, which has 420,000 subscribers, had committed to paying for the rights, but said: 'Money wasn't the only issue. We needed to satisfy the organisers of the World Cup that we could do a good job in helping to promote it in Hong Kong.' Mr Ng said: 'The rest of the local channels will only be allowed to broadcast clips of the games for their news programmes.' Last night, a spokeswoman for ATV said it remained hopeful of an 'unexpected' twist before the finals. 'Anything could happen. There are still three years to go,' she said. 'There may be changes no one knows.' But she said the deal was bad news for fans. 'Fewer fans will be able to enjoy it. This will not be welcomed by the public,' the spokeswoman said. No one from TVB was available for comment. Previous World Cup tournaments have been broadcast by TVB and ATV.