SingTel, StarHub – BT

SingTel officially rejects StarHub offer

IT looks like the ugly spat between SingTel and StarHub over whose hardware to use may have come to an end, with Singapore’s No 1 telco officially rejecting StarHub’s offer to host its pay-TV content after it received a formal proposal from the green camp last week.

‘The feature functionality of our platform is superior to theirs, and our users will get a much better experience when they view our channels,’ said SingTel’s chief executive Allen Lew yesterday.

‘At the end of the day, we are a pay-TV operator. For pay-TV operators, there is a very strong differentiation we can create from the quality of the content, the quality of the infrastructure and the features that we have. So three of these things working together help us build up value in our TV system.’

In addition, SingTel has already invested in its own pay-TV infrastructure, he said.

When contacted, StarHub confirmed that it was notified of SingTel’s decision yesterday.

‘We have heard from many customers who are concerned about linking multiple boxes to their TV sets, and are therefore disappointed with SingTel’s decision as our proposal was aligned with public interest and consumers’ wishes,’ said a StarHub spokesman.

‘While we support a universal set-top box solution that would be operator agnostic, like mobile number portability and unlocked SIM cards, it now appears that a single set-top box option for consumers will not happen through just commercial negotiation.’

The formal decline likely puts an end to the saga which began soon after SingTel outbid StarHub to score the sought-after broadcast rights for the next three seasons of the English Premier League (EPL).

Besides winning the coveted rights, SingTel also convinced ESPN Star Sports to migrate from cable to its mio TV platform.

What followed was a flood of complaints from viewers about having to deal with multiple set tops to view entertainment and sports content starting next year.

This culminated in an offer to SingTel from Star- Hub’s chief executive Terry Clontz to host SingTel’s content on its network, and to allow SingTel to carry its exclusive content like HBO on the mioTV platform.

Last week, SingTel said that StarHub’s older set-top boxes might need to be upgraded if viewers want to make the most of the upcoming NGNBN (Next-Generation National Broadband Network), a new fibre-optic network capability that will be rolled out nationwide from next year.

StarHub refuted the remark, saying it ‘completely disagrees with any claims about technological reasons’ for not accepting its proposal. It added that it was untrue that customers with older set-top boxes would have to get them upgraded next year.

Yesterday, SingTel and ESPN STAR Sports launched their 24/7 sports news channel, ESPNEWS, on the mio TV platform.

Touted as the ‘sports news channel specially dedicated to Asian sports fans’, ESPNEWS will deliver content from local, regional and international sporting events by providing a continuous update of news, latest team or player standings, rankings and statistics from the top professional leagues around the world, SingTel and ESPN STAR Sports said in a joint statement.

Currently launched with an English voice-over, the channel will also be available in Cantonese and Malay once the network is launched in Hong Kong and Malaysia, said ESPN STAR Sports managing director Manu Sawhney.

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