TV soccer the battleground as Thailand guarantees FTA World Cup
Free-to-air coverage of top soccer is becoming a political battleground in some Asian countries, with Prawit Wongsuwon, Thailand’s deputy prime minister the latest to intervene in the sports rights market by guaranteeing live broadcasts of matches of this summer’s Fifa World Cup for Thai soccer fans.
Rights for the tournament in Thailand, thought to be worth Bt1.3 billion ($40.7 million) have not yet been sold, with potential buyers thought to have been thwarted by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission’s rule that live major sporting events such as the World Cup and Olympics must be aired free to air.
In November, Sakon Wannapong, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, said that the TV Pool, the body of free-to-air broadcasters that have teamed up before to show major sports events, had been “assigned to negotiate” with the Infront agency about the acquisition of rights.
Earlier this week it emerged that coverage of English Premier League and Spanish LaLiga soccer matches could also be shown on free-to-air television in Malaysia in the future, if Pakatan Harapan, the country’s opposition coalition, is elected at a general election scheduled to be held before August this year.
The undertaking to broadcast top-level international sporting events on state broadcaster RTM was made by the opposition’s youth wing at a convention aimed at attracting young voters.
But Khairy Jamaluddin, the country’s youth and sports minister, responded saying that taxpayers would have to foot the bill for the rights if the events switched to free-to-air TV. He said: “If it is given to RTM, who will pay for it?”
Pay-television’s Astro holds rights in Malaysia to the English and Spanish leagues, while BeIN Sports also broadcasts LaLiga.