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StarHub picks up rights to English soccer

Rights in Singapore were previously licensed to ESPN STAR Sports

SINGAPORE — Telecoms and pay-TV group StarHub has won the exclusive TV rights in Singapore to three years of English Premier League soccer, running from 2007 through 2009.

ESPN STAR Sports announced Friday night that it had extended its agreement to carry the English Premier League until 2010 in other territories in Asia including Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, North Korea, Brunei, The Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Taiwan and Macau.

Rights in Singapore were previously licensed to ESPN STAR Sports, which then distributed them on StarHub’s Digital Cable platform.

New deal sees Singapore rights transfer directly to the increasingly aggressive StarHub, with license expanded to cover broadband and mobile transmission in addition to conventional TV.

Value of the StarHub deal was not disclosed but analysts point to a significant price hike and estimate contract at $96 million. Previously ESPN STAR Sports is understood to have paid $64 million in the 2004-2006 seasons for rights covering the entire pan-Asia region.

Inflation is driven by operators that see top soccer as a driver for new services on mobile phone and broadband platforms. StarHub operates fixed line, broadband, mobile and digital cable TV services. Disappointed bidders are understood to include SingTel, Singapore’s local telecoms leader, which had sought to use EPL soccer as key selling point for its broadband TV (IPTV) services.

Earlier this month, NOW Broadband TV snapped up a three year deal in Hong Kong with a $200 million bid understood to have been three times the price paid by rival I-Cable.

StarHub has the rights to show 380 matches, but industry sources say it may need to seek a local broadcast partner to package matches with commentaries and pre- and post-match shows.

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