PCCW, the largest fixed-line operator in Hong Kong, will team up with global sports broadcaster ESPN STAR Sports in an effort to wrest one of i-Cable Communications' prize offerings - English Premier League football coverage - from the city's largest pay-TV network. The current contract expires this year.
Adding English football, one of the most popular among i-Cable's 92 channels, could give a significant boost to PCCW's NOW broadband TV, the second-largest pay service in the city.
Analysts estimate broadcast rights for the English Premier League in Hong Kong could fetch around HK$1 billion to HK$1.2 billion for three years.
i-Cable paid at least HK$700 million for a three-year contract two years ago, industry sources said.
"If [PCCW] got the rights, we preliminarily estimate the revenue upside could potentially be an extra HK$500 million to HK$700 million per year," Macquarie Securities said in a research note.
In addition to the English Premier League rights, PCCW has also shown interest in bidding for other football broadcast rights, including the Spanish Primera Liga, the German Bundesliga and the Italian Serie A, all of which are currently carried by i-Cable.
"Football is the most attractive content in Hong Kong, and [we] want to deliver all popular content to our subscribers," PCCW executive director Alex Arena said at a media briefing.
Since its launch in 2003, PCCW has signed up more than 500,000 subscribers.
NOW TV has a long-term relationship with ESPN STAR Sports giving it the exclusive right to carry a variety of world sports.
NOW TV said Thursday it signed a three-year contract with ESPN STAR giving it the right to carry live matches of the UEFA Champions League during the 2006-2009 seasons.
"Starting in September, we [will] deliver all 125 games either live or delayed, compared with around 80 matches in the current season," said Dominic Leung, PCCW's head of television and content.