Consumer rights

Viewers will have to pay extra to watch the FIFA World Cup

The latest update on the World Cup is that Nepalese football fans will have to shell out extra money to watch the games on TV.

Like the rest of humanity, Nepalese will be watching, talking and thinking about football for an entire month as the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar on November 20. But in this edition of the quadrennial tournament, Nepalese fans will not be able to watch on television for a small fee like in the past.

The FIFA World Cup is one of the few sporting events broadcast live around the world.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a recent statement that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is set to be the most-watched in the tournament’s history, with the president of world football’s governing body predicting five billion viewers .

The last World Cup was watched by 4 billion people, Infantino said, speaking at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in May.

Media Hub, which won exclusive broadcast rights in Nepal, said the advertisements usually cover the cost of the broadcast. But this year, viewers might have to pay extra.

Consumer rights campaigners say the extra charge is an “unfair commercial practice”.

The cost can be 500 rupees per TV on top of the regular subscription fee consumers pay to their cable provider, insiders say.

“We have secured the broadcast rights for FIFA through Viacom18 Media Private Limited, an Indian media and entertainment company,” Som Dhital, Executive Director of Media Hub, announced in Kathmandu recently.

The company has bid for the broadcast rights for around Rs 250 million for the month-long event. And another 150 million rupees will be needed for promotional activities and technical support.

“It’s a total investment of Rs 400 million, and it could reach around Rs 500 per set-top box,” said Siddhartha Dhital, Marketing Director of Media Hub.

“A paid channel will be created separately and viewers will have to pay to unlock it. We think the amount is affordable.

The Post could not independently verify whether internet service providers would also charge separately to stream live video of football matches.

“One of the reasons why we have to charge customers is the slowdown in the advertising market,” Dhital said.

Industry insiders say Media Hub initially thought the ad revenue would be enough to cover the costs, but the broadcast rights were so expensive that all the math went wrong.

“The option was to charge customers,” they said.

According to reports, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is the most expensive World Cup in history.

The costs associated with Qatar’s new stadiums are between $6.5 billion and $10 billion, a significant increase from the $4 billion offered in the initial bid.

Although it is the first practice of its kind in Nepal, charging an extra amount during major sporting events is an established norm in many countries, according to broadcasters.

“Obviously viewers are charged extra to watch major sporting events around the world,” said Sudhir Parajuli, chairman of the Federation of Cable Television Associations of Nepal. “The practice of pay channels also exists in India.”

But the rate has not yet been decided, according to Parajuli. “It can cost Rs 300 or Rs 500 or even Rs 800 per decoder,” he said.

Sudeep Acharya, chief executive of Dish Media Network, which operates direct-to-home satellite service Dish Home, assisted Parajuli.

“If a Nepalese company had not bought the media rights, it was doubtful whether the matches would be broadcast in Nepal,” Acharya said.

“Previously, Sony was selling the package,” Acharya said. “But none of the Indian broadcasters, who hold the media rights to broadcast the World Cup matches this time, had any channels with distribution rights in Nepal. The company that got the media rights for the Indian subcontinent did not get the broadcast rights in Nepal,” Acharya said.

According to him, Dish Home has not yet signed a contract to broadcast the games.

“It has not been decided how much the additional viewers will have to pay. On a positive note, this step could boost the marketing of Nepalese content in the coming days,” Acharya added.

Football fans say viewers should take priority over corporate profits.

“It is a mistake to charge viewers extra to watch the World Cup, which Nepalis have been doing for decades,” said Gopal Tiwari, a football enthusiast from Kathmandu.

“It could be beneficial for the broadcasters, but public concern should have been a priority. As long as the games can be watched, I don’t think it matters much whether they are viewed on national or international channels. .”

Siddhartha Dhital, Marketing Director of Media Hub, agrees with Tiwari’s sentiments. But he argues that the move will help promote Nepalese channels.

“We faced various advertising issues during the last edition of the World Cup in 2018 when we had non-exclusive broadcast rights,” Dhital said. “We also felt that Nepalese channels were being ignored due to the availability of foreign channels.”

Moreover, Dhital believes that this decision will attract the attention of foreign advertisers to invest in Nepalese channels.

Som Dhital, who is also the chairman of the Nepal Advertising Association, said they had two options when making the deal: buy the more expensive exclusive rights or the cheaper non-exclusive rights.

“But, we took a bold step to acquire exclusive rights due to the bitter experiences we had with Sony and some Multiple System Operators (MSOs) and cable operators in Nepal,” he said.

The slowdown in the advertising market after the Covid-19 pandemic has forced broadcasters to charge viewers money, insiders say.

Football enthusiast Ramesh Pandey, who works at Nepal Life Capital, said it would have been ideal for viewers if the national channel had bought the broadcasting rights and broadcast the matches for free across the country.

“However, a private company acquired the rights and it’s a business,” he said.

Consumer rights campaigners say the additional payment will only increase the burden on consumers who are in economic shock due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a sharp rise in fuel prices and the increase of the cost of living.

“It’s a cartel,” said Madhav Timalsina, president of the Consumer Rights Investigation Forum.

“From a consumer’s point of view, it is an unfair commercial practice to force viewers to pay an additional amount when they have already paid a subscription to their cable operator. Relevant authorities should monitor these practices to protect consumers.”

It is not sure if ISPs charge separately to broadcast live videos from the event.

“We are also in talks with Nepal Telecom and Ncell Axiata to provide state-of-the-art multimedia service for streaming matches on their apps,” said Dhital, Marketing Director of Media Hub.

“Discussions with Media Hub are at the preliminary stage,” said Ranjeet Lohia, Nepal Telecom’s deputy spokesperson. “The modality of dissemination has not yet been decided.”

For the first time in history, a country in the Middle East is hosting the FIFA World Cup. The tournament in Qatar will continue until December 18. A total of 64 matches will be played during the championship.