Now TV’s World Cup money grab is fleecing Hong Kong football fans

Charging subscribers extra to watch all the games from this summer’s tournament in Russia is shameful

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 May, 2018, 10:19am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 May, 2018, 10:19am

When you’re a subscription-based television provider and you’re trying on a shameless sales pitch to get a pre-existing customer to shell out more cash for a premium World Cup package when they called you because of technical difficulties, you’re doing something wrong.

Step forward Now TV, who had the gall to try and grift a few more bucks out of my friend this week when we were at his flat and called the customer service hotline for over an hour because his Now TV box had frozen.

Sorry for the inconvenience sir, but while you’re here, can we sell you some more stuff despite our poor service?

A promotional advert on the company’s website also has a big logo of a referee brandishing a red card, warning you not to miss out, as if you would be punishing yourself by not giving over some more money.

It seems like a uniquely Hong Kong experience that customers are charged extra for these World Cup games despite some already paying HK$238 a month for sports packages with Now TV.

That’s the price I pay for my sports subscription, and I also had to sign up for a two-year agreement, with charges incurred if I cancel before the end of the deal.

Now TV is offering an early bird package for all 64 World Cup games which will cost HK$280, but users must also subscribe to other Now TV plans worth over HK$100 a month for a certain period to enjoy complete World Cup coverage.

Alternatively, if you sign up as a new customer to Netvigator’s internet services you can get a free Now TV World Cup pass, “valued at HK$880”.

Fans will at least be able to watch 19 ‘free’ games on Viu TV, including the opening game and the final – but that still requires a Now TV subscription.

Sadly, such policies are to be expected from pay-TV companies – it’s just a crying shame Hongkongers are being fleeced to watch the world’s biggest celebration of football.

TVB showed 19 games on free-to-air television in Hong Kong for the 2014 World Cup, but no kind of similar deal has been reached yet for this summer’s tournament in Russia.

Just think of the chance that is being missed to inspire the next generation of Hong Kong football fans, and perhaps even professional players.

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Most football fans can recall the joy of experiencing their first World Cup – for me, it was USA 1994 aged seven, where I collected every sticker for my Panini album. England weren’t even there, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment, and despite how awful my country usually are at these things, the magic never dies when I dig out my old white shirt every four years.

Yes, the games in Russia will be broadcast at awkward times – 8pm, 11pm, and 2am – but that usually doesn’t stop people staying up, not to mention all the modern technological wonders now available to record live television programmes and watch later.

And why complain about Now TV, you may say, when they are only covering their costs after having to pay Fifa for the broadcasting rights, which don’t come cheap.

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Well, every single match will be on free-to-air television in the United Kingdom, and the BBC and ITV will reap the rewards with mammoth ratings – the latter will also make millions in advertising.

The BBC is a government-funded broadcaster but it has made sure to keep paying the rights fees for the World Cup and the European Championships, because it knows the value of the impact these tournaments have on interest in sport among young children in the UK. It’s the same case with the Olympics and the Winter Olympics – the latter of which, unsurprisingly, was nowhere to be seen on free-to-air television in Hong Kong earlier this year.

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If only there could be a similar system to the UK in Hong Kong – but it seems to be just another depressing factor in how there is no sporting culture, nor a fully-backed desire to create one, in this city.

Once again, Hong Kong sports supporters are being shafted. Oh well, maybe we can all just go to the pub and watch it there.