Thursday, September 13, 2007

Astro hopes to score big with English Premier League soccer

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Pay-TV operator PT Astro Direct Vision had some 80,000 subscribers signed up as of the end of the first semester, and hopes to more than double that figure by the year-end now that it has secured the rights to broadcast the hugely-popular English Premier League (EPL).

Astro Direct Vision, the local unit of Astro, a Malaysia-based pay-TV company, is now the sole holder of both the pay-TV and free-to-air TV rights to EPL matches.

While it also offers other channels, Astro is pinning its hopes on the EPL to help the company sign up at least 200,000 subscribers by the end of the year.

"The number of Astro subscribers has significantly increased since we purchased the EPL rights. We expect that we will be able to achieve our full-year target," Astro's corporate affairs vice president, Halim Mahfudz, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

The demand for Astro is so big that a would-be subscriber has to now wait for two weeks before the service can be installed.

Before Astro purchased the EPL rights for the 2007-2008 season, Indonesians could watch the matches free on terrestrial TV.

Now, EPL fans will have to pay around Rp 200,000 per month to subscribe to Astro -- in addition to a one-off Rp 200,000 installation fee -- if they want to watch their favorite teams.

For the first three months, however, Astro will waive the monthly subscription fee.

While the company is hoping to benefit hugely from the EPL, some hurdles have emerged.

On Tuesday, Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) chairman Sasa Djuarsa Sendjaja said the commission had sent a letter to Astro asking for the EPL coverage to be opened to the public.

It had also asked the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) to examine whether Astro's exclusive rights had breached the antimonopoly law.

"There are two aspects to this matter, business interests and the public interest. What we have done is designed to protect the public interest," said Sasa.

Responding to that, Halim said Astro was currently negotiating with ESPN Star Sport (ESS), which holds the rights to broadcast the matches in Asia, to share access with Indonesian soccer fans.

"ESS is now developing packages to be sold to local TV stations. It takes quite a while as they need the consent of various parties."

Besides the EPL, Astro also provides other forms of entertainment.

During Ramadhan, for instance, the channel will broadcast movies from different parts of the world, including movies from Iran and Uzbekistan.

"We want to give our audience other movie alternatives besides Hollywood movies so that they can learn about the cultures in other countries," said Alexander Siregar, senior programing executive of Astro Kirana, Astro's movie unit.(14/02)

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