In Singapore, soccer ranks up there in the towering 40-storey blocks of our over-priced, cloud-kissing public housing (together with shopping and food) as one of our national pastimes. Our national team of yester-years had cultivated the soccer passion in our hearts with their heroics in the Malaysian League days, before handing over the baton to the English Premier League (EPL) after the S-League was formed. The loud cheers that resound through the public housing estates come EPL season-time celebrating goals that are scored (and saved) have since become a permanent fixture in our community. To top things off, every 2 years our insatiable appetite for all things soccer (not to mention gambling on its outcome) gets whipped to a higher high, as club action spills over to international ego-busting games.
So who said any one company could monopolize the viewing rights for the whole of Singapore, simply because it was willing to pay more than its one and only other competitor? The only winner here is the EPL – as the monopoly, it makes most sense for the winning operator to simply pass on the bidding premium to consumers in the process of solving its Marginal Revenue (MR) = (MC) Marginal Cost equation.
Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS), save us please! The Singapore market is too small to allow for an inefficient auction-style system to dominate. Step in to stop the farce of consumers having to switch providers once every 3 years, or paying double because they are still locked into a prior contract and are given the short end of the stick because their operator failed to win the bid this time round.
Learn from the IDA and its Next-Generation Broadband Network (NGBN) – undertake a structural separation between a single neutral body (NetCo) owning the rights to air overseas soccer matches in Singapore (a 33.33% JV between Singtel, Starhub and M1), and the service providers (OpCo) paying a fixed amount per user to the NetCo. Each equity member of the NetCo ponies up its proportionate share of the biding cost, with any unsubscribed share to be offered to the remaining 2 NetCo/OpCo equally. The per-user fixed amount each OpCo pays to the neutral NetCo should also be pegged to the inverse of their respective equity ratio in the NetCo, thereby encouraging SingTel, Starhub and M1 to take up their maximum allowable stake of 33.33% (and ensuring equality and neutrality).
Oh hang on, someone just reminded me that the outcome has already been decided. Singtel has won.
Bummer – guess I’ll wait by the sidelines for another 3 years to see if this gets sorted out. Until then, I’m boycotting SingTel as I did with Starhub.