Phuket: CTH wins bid to broadcast EPL games in Thailand
FOOTBALL: Winning broadcast rights for English Premier League (EPL) football will be a shortcut for Cable Thai Holding (CTH), the newly established cable TV operator, to become the ruling pay-TV broadcaster and overtake market leader TrueVisions.
Friday 16 November 2012, 09:57AM
Mr Wichai (left) shakes hands with Vachara Vacharaphol, an executive of ‘Thai Rath’ newspaper and fellow shareholder in CTH.
CTH yesterday called an urgent news conference to confirm it had won the EPL bid to broadcast matches not only in Thailand but also Cambodia and Laos for the next three seasons from 2013-14 to 2015-16.
Wichai Thongtang, a major shareholder of CTH, did not disclose the bidding price, saying only that the company is set to allocate at least 20 billion baht to prepare equipment, lay down a nationwide fibre-optic network for cable TV, broadband internet and other services, and pay licence fees.
The fibre-optic network will be completed next February.
"We'll have live broadcasts on the digital and interactive platform that nobody has had before," said Mr Wichai.
The source of funds will come from bank loans and the company's own cash flow.
CTH will open eight cable TV channels to broadcast all 380 EPL football matches.
The company will sell set-top boxes to subscribers but did not disclose its marketing plans.
For the subscription fee, CTH will try to maintain a price of 300-360 baht a month for as long as possible.
"We did not expect to win this bid," said Mr Wichai.
"We joined the bidding because we wanted to build our CTH name in the international level. I have no experience in sports business, but I'm confident we can run it very well, as we have many partners such as Thai Rath newspaper and the Siam Sport Syndicate."
CTH competed against TrueVisions, GMM Grammy, RS and Channel 7, which joined with Malaysian iTTV operator Cubic Associates Group on its bid.
With the EPL broadcast rights in hand, CTH expects cable TV subscriptions to reach 7 million households nationwide over the next three years, double the current 3.5 million.
Mr Wichai said the business of CTH will likely stay in the red by more than 100 million baht for another year.
"However, we expect to break even from the EPL investment over the next three years," he said.
At least three companies have already contacted CTH about becoming a broadcast partner.
"CTH will find partners in many platforms. At the moment, we still have a good relation with TrueVisions," said Mr Wichai.
Suphachai Chearavanont, the chief executive of TrueVisions' parent True Corporation, said the company had tried its best to retain the EPL rights by what it thought was the "highest bid price offered".
"The winning bid price was beyond our business capability," he said, adding that TrueVisions must now adjust its strategy to cope with the loss of EPL.
An industry analyst said the incredibly savvy bid by CTH was a symptom of the increasing arms race in foreign broadcasting rights for EPL.
The result could lead to a shake-up at the TrueVisions sporting channel, said the analyst, who asked not to be named.
"What is shocking is the sheer amount of money the bid jumped to _ a more than five-fold increase in the value of the EPL contract in the previous three-season cycle," said the analyst.
The loss of its long-standing bid for EPL could affect TrueVisions' revenue-generating premium subscriber base.
TrueVisions won the EPL broadcast rights in a direct bid for the first time in 2007 after receiving a sublicence for its pay-TV system from ESPN Star Sports.
An industry veteran highlighted several implications of the CTH move.
First is the cable TV operator may try to create a direct competitor to the country's largest pay-TV operator, building on the sudden increase in subscriber base and brand recognition.
Another certainty is that bidders see EPL as a big bag of money.
"TrueVisions' loss could lead to a plunge in ratings and a surge in subscriber churn rate," said the source.