THE Barclays' Premier League (BPL) boasts world-class talent, legendary teams and has mass appeal worldwide, especially in Asia where growing wealth and affinity to the league offers more riches to the top teams in England.
But the reason why it's the richest league in the world actually rides on that appeal the league has with sports enthusiasts globally and the rights to bring them the games. The cost of televising matches to the screens of fans is borne by the companies that broadcast the BPL.
That keeps reaching for the skies and it's no different for the upcoming seasons.
Sky and British Telecom reportedly paid £3.018bil to broadcast the games for the 2013/14 season until the 2015/16 season. The new deal works out to be about a £1bil a season and was a reported £1.25bil more than the cost of the previous deal.
And it's that kind of mind boggling amount of money broadcasters are paying that makes the BPL the richest football league in the world.
The fight for the rights has now began in Asia. Singapore's Business Times reported that estimates had put SingTel's bid for the BPL rights at S$400mil. That's close to RM1bil and it was reported by this newspaper that in Malaysia, Astro had paid a rumoured RM800mil for the rights in its current deal.
SingTel uses the BPL as a main attraction to draw in customers. In Singapore, StarHub offers a lot of channels similar to what Astro does but it does not have rights to the BPL. SingTel does and for some viewers, it's essential they subscribe to both services if they want a composite of what Astro is offering to its subscribers.
Just like in Singapore, expect the price to rise for whoever secures the rights in Malaysia but the stakes this time around are different than previously.
When it won the BPL rights the last time, Astro had to really only contend with Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) with its Hypp.TV which is offered through its Unifi broadband service.
Back then, Unifi was at its infancy and TM's content offering was seen by some as a by-product to its core broadband service. Hypp.TV has since grown as TM is putting more content on that service to make it more appealing for subscribers.
The seriousness of TM in growing the broadcasting side of its business will be reflected in the type of bid it might make for the BPL rights. The rising numbers of subscribers to its Unifi service will mean a growing amount of revenue that will be tagged to its fixed-line business. That means TM will have extra financial muscle for a serious bid as to make its pitch for the rights to the BPL.
Winning the BPL rights will be a marketing pull for TM as it will mean drawing in more customers to its Unifi service, just like what Singtel has done in Singapore.
For Astro, its bid can be seen as a defensive strategy. About half of its subscribers currently subscribe to its sports package and it's imperative that the company, which is slotted for a listing on Friday, makes a sizeable bid for the rights to retain a large chunk of its subscriber base.
Whatever the circumstances, expect the amount of money paid for the rights to the world's most watch football league to rise in Malaysia.
There will be a huge incentive for both Astro and TM to bag the rights to the BPL. And it will be interesting to see how that translates to the cost for subscribers of either winning bidder.
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