SingTel – BT

SingTel scores a sizzler, with mio TV base up 23%


A passion for football and a good bargain appear to have cooled the controversy over hardware compatibility and content exclusivity, with Singapore Telecommunications registering sizzling growth in its pay TV subscribers.

Singapore’s largest telco added 29,000 new mio TV customers for the three months ended Dec 31, the same quarter it outbid rival StarHub to score the exclusive right to broadcast the 2010 to 2013 seasons of the Barclays Premier League (BPL).The 23 per cent increase is the biggest quarterly gain it has recorded since the inception of the Internet- based television service in 2008 and early proof that the pricey league could indeed be the game-changer for the firm’s fledgling pay television business.

The recent customer boom lifted SingTel’s pay TV base to a sizeable 155,000 at the end of December, and the numbers are expected to swell further in the coming months. StarHub, however, still has a sizeable lead with a cable TV customer tally of 539,000.

Still, year-on-year, total mio TV subscribers have grown by 163 per cent.

‘The minute the (current BPL) season ends, we expect our (mio TV) installation rate to increase yet again,’ said SingTel Singapore CEO Allen Lew, without providing projections.

All this has taken place despite the stormy exchanges in online forums and newspapers since SingTel’s BPL coup last October.

It sparked a heated debate over the thorny issue of content exclusivity and the hassle of requiring separate set-tops for programmes from different pay TV operators.

StarHub added fuel to the fire with its failed offer to carry SingTel’s sports programming on its cable television platform, while government agencies said that they were looking into the longer-term possibility of having a unifying set-top.

To further stoke the fire, some customers who recently signed up for SingTel’s mio TV packages complained of lengthy waiting times and technical glitches, which the company had attributed to the manpower strain from the surge in installation requests.

‘We have increased the number of installers that we have at our disposal to cope with the demand. And we are preparing them to cope with an even bigger influx (of customers) that we expect to come in the June to July timeframe,’ Mr Lew said.

To draw subscribers to its camp, the company is currently dangling an early-bird promotion which includes access to all 380 matches in the upcoming BPL season, as well as UEFA Champions League and Europa League ties, for $23 a month. Customers can pay $2 more for additional channels from ESPN Star Sports.

StarHub customers currently pay $25 a month for its sports group on top of a basic subscription, which starts from around $25.

In addition, SingTel customers can be assured that the installation crew will only fix up the mio TV hardware when they are at home to oversee the process, Mr Lew said.

‘After every single installation, our manager will call the homeowner. It’s not just a random sample check, it’s a 100 per cent check,’ he told BT at the sidelines of the firm’s third-quarter results briefing.

SingTel yesterday posted a third consecutive quarter of bottomline improvement with a 24 per cent jump in Q3 net profit to $991 million.

Underlying earnings per share for the three months ended Dec 31 climbed 18.3 per cent to 6.22 cents, while operating revenue rose 20.2 per cent to $4.45 billion.

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