HA NOI — Thousands of Kplus (also known as K+) subscribers have been left in shock after a cable TV company's new pricing plan was announced earlier this month.
According to the plan, subscribers will now only be able to watch their favourite football coverage, including the English Premier League, Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A, for a monthly fee of VND250,000 (US$13).
Kplus recently won a bidding war against Sai Gon Cable Television (SCTV), Viet Nam Cable Television (VCTV) and Viet Nam Multi-Media Corporation (VTC) with a $10 million contract for a three-year exclusive right to broadcast the world-famous leagues.
Broadcasting insiders have since questioned the pointlessness of the bidding war since three out of four competitors are subsidiaries of Viet Nam Television (VTV). "Our industry and our entire society are wasting valuable money over this bid, especially when most of the bidders are from the same organisation," Vo Van Cam, director of Ba Ria – Vung Tau broadcasting company, said.
"Why did we have to fight tooth and nail over the issue while we have all ended up receiving a more expensive deal? The biggest beneficiary here is none other than the foreign broker," Le Van Khuong, deputy general director of VTC, said.
Four years ago, the broadcasting rights to the World Cup, were sold for less than $100,000.
Compared to the previous average of VND70,000/month, the new K+ subscription has caused shockwaves. Subscribers will now have to pay four times as much, excluding the expense of installing new equipment.
"I'm addicted to the Premier League, so are my neighbours. We pool the cable fee and get together during weekend evenings to watch the matches together. I'm not sure we can afford it anymore," 53-year-old Tran Thong in Ha Noi said.
This is the first case of its kind, and has left consumers angry. "If nothing changes in the next months, viewers will boycott K+", Nguyen Thi Mui in HCM City, 32, said. Boycotting campaigns are started on the social network Facebook, attracting the attention of thousands of TV football fans.
There currently is no legal framework to deal with the issue, but authorities have been compelled to act. Despite VTV being the majority shareowner, the bids have come from separate business entities.
"The Ministry of Industry and Trade's Department of Competition Administration has been alerted to the matter and is looking into the case," Luu Vu Hai, Head of Electronic Information and Broadcasting Department, said.
"A discussion will be held in the very near future involving the interested parties, and we'll soon have a decision on the issue," Hai said.
K+ is a brand of Viet Nam Satellite Television that provides high quality satellite broadcasting services. Using the most up-to-date technology, DTH (direct-to-home), the brand offers over 70 channels of all genres but aims to broadcast 100 by the end of the year. — VNS