LeTV leaves Hong Kong fans confused over how to watch English Premier League games next season
Flashy launch from mainland media portal offers plenty of style but little substance
Mystery over just how Hong Kong fans will be able to catch English Premier League soccer action next season deepened yesterday, as the company that bought the rights denied claims from the current broadcaster that it had struck a deal to carry on showing matches.
As mainland internet giant LeTV officially confirmed it had won rights to show the world's most famous soccer league for three years from next season, Now TV claimed it would continue showing the games.
But Mok Chui-tin, LeTV's chief executive for Asia-Pacific, said: "We have not reached any agreement with any third party for a concrete plan."
Then, a day later, the two sides said they had agreed a deal - though no details were put forward
The confusion leaves soccer fans wondering how exactly they will watch their favourite teams next year, after a deal worth a reported US$400 million left rights to show the English league in the hands of an internet-only firm for the first time anywhere.
A flashy 2 1/2-hour media launch yesterday offered an appearance from ex-player Peter Schmeichel but no details of subscription plans. Mok said matches would be available to all internet users - but hinted those who bought LeTV's televisions and smartphones would watch first.
"The audience can watch the games on our TV, our mobile phones and in future, they will be available to all internet users via our smartphone apps," he said.
Meanwhile a group of shareholders in PCCW, Now TV's parent company, demanded that chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai deliver on the promise to show the games and reveal how much it was paying LeTV.
Mok said the company was still working on "flexible" subscription plans that could allow fans to pay to watch their favourite team's games or even on a per-game basis.
Asked about the choice of rights holder, Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore said: "We never look at our rights from a technology spectrum."
Neither Mok nor Scudamore would discuss the cost of the deal.
Yesterday's launch marked the start of LeTV's ambitious pitch for a share of Hong Kong's crowded television market. Mok said the company had already filmed a HK$20 million drama series for the city.
"We don't want to just do a Hong Kong version of LeTV," he said. "We want to make LeTV Hong Kong and meet the needs of Hong Kong audiences."
But the launch did not go without a hitch. Some 700 local and mainland journalists attended, and were each handed a soccer shirt to wear - though most Hong Kong reporters refused.
Meanwhile, Schmeichel was asked to show off his goalkeeping skills, but organisers only gave him a plastic ball to play with.