By Jintana Panyaarvudh
Life will never be the same for Thailand's football fans as there are more stakeholders, platforms, and contents in the broadcasting landscape.
Predictably, the debut of the English Premier League (EPL) broadcast by the new rights owner, CTH, received more brickbats than bouquets. Not to mention the difficulty in applying for a subscription. Some have to wait for a month or two to get a dealer or CTH itself to install a set-top box.
Currently, fans in Thailand are able to watch the entire EPL’s 380 matches via CTH’s set-top-box (17 live matches will be televised through Modernine TV) and the AIS Mobile Barclays Premier League app.
Surprisingly, the number of subscribers for the AIS app is far more than the rights owner, CTH. AIS revealed after the first match of the season that more than 200,000 people have registered for the app while CTH, according to its executive two weeks ago, installed only 20,000 set-top boxes out of the 700,000 who have applied for the network.
Do footie fans change their watching behaviour? Yes if the options are limited. Smart phone users, whose numbers are growing, are opting to watch the game via their mobile devices than television screens. Perhaps it has something to do with the cost, which is cheaper. Or simply they just cannot wait in the queue for an infinite amount of time to get CTH install the receiver at their homes.
CTH’s marketing strategy and its communication are abysmally poor. Its official website has no interactive function for customers to seek more information or ask questions.
A flood of complaints poured into a Facebook page named “Doo Ball Sod CTH-Premier League” (watch live CTH-Premier League) after the first match. Although there was no statement that it was the official page of CTH, the page admin was slammed because of lack of responses to the complaints.
Most of the complaints were about the poor signal quality and sound including the lethargic attitude of the company in installing the boxes. Some fans cried foul after missing out on John Dykes, who left ESPNStar to join the Barclays Premier League Television (PLTV) as a football presenter.
“Big results spark big reactions. Arsenal’s surprise 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa [on the first match] would have had the pitch side reporter begging for many questions. Sadly, bigger questions were being begged by CTH viewers as absolutely no post-match reaction was offered. We were even teased with Manchester United players warming up, followed by David Moyes appearing to give his first pre-match interview, yet CTH scored a massive own goal by denying all its viewers of this occasion and switching back to the three Thai presenters in the studio for no apparent reason,” wrote Leicester City and EPL fan Clive Nagington, showing his utter disappointment.
Normally exclusive rights mean full contents that include PLTV, interviews of managers before and after the matches. CTH does have game analysis and highlights by Thai presenters but it should not be forgotten that there are a sizeable number of foreign football fans living in Thailand and they need game analysis, previews, and match interviews in English.
I tried to reach CTH but there was no response. However, my source at CTH says that the PLTV will start in the next two weeks.
AIS app subscribers, on the other hand, are thrilled to watch their beloved team. But CTH seems to disappoint the fans and surprisingly oblivious of the value of the Bt9 billion assets they secured. Or is the behaviour typical of the new kids on the block as many said?