VTV blamed for allowing Premier League TV rights to stay foreign

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The sale of the rights to air English Premier League TV in Vietnam to a French company has upset local networks who were banding together in an attempt to buy those rights and distribute them locally.

Sources told Thanh Nien the deal had been finalized and would be announced by the seller, US-based International Management Group (IMG), soon.

The group of local networks were planning to come together at the behest of the Ministry of Information and Communications, which had instructed them to work together for the common good, rather than compete, when it came to the rights for the English Premier League.

The "negotiation board," as it has come to be known, has since formed and designated local network VTV to represent it in negotiations with IMG, but the problem is that IMG has already sold what they were after.

After VTV and a group of other Vietnamese stations made an agreement with each other to not respond to IMG's first offer early this month, which the board found too high, the rights were sold to Canal.

Canal then handed the rights to VSTV, owner of the K+ network, which will now exclusively broadcast the English Premier League in Vietnam.

The funny thing is that VTV owns a 51% stake in K+, with the other 49% belonging to Canal.

Speaking to Thanh Nien on Wednesday, Deputy General Director of VTV Nguyen Thanh Luong said his company planned to speak with Canal in two days "to know what the real situation is like."

"We at VTV still do not forget our responsibility, as assigned by the Ministry of Information and Communications, to represent the Vietnamese TV stations as the main negotiator."

He said VTV and IMG would meet next week to discuss buying the rights to other programming.

Other domestic TV stations were shocked by the news that the rights had been sold to a foreign party outside the negotiation board.

Vu Quang Huy, Deputy Director of VTC, said that as a major stakeholder in VSTV and K+, VTV could have and should have rejected Canal's arrangement with K+.

The Vietnam Pay TV Association (VPTV), of which VTV is a member, has tried to calm nerves.

"VTV is not to blame for one of its companies [K+] getting the EPL TV rights," said VPTV General Secretary Le Dinh Cuong. "IMG came to Vietnam to offer the [EPL] TV rights [a couple of months ago], but no Vietnamese TV stations wanted to buy and they said it was too expensive."

He said IMG then had to sell it to Canal.

IMG's offer in Vietnam this year was 37.5 million dollars to broadcast EPL seasons 2013-2016.

But the rights for the 2010-2013 seasons cost about half that at USD 19 million. K+ had put up half the money for that deal.

This year, VPTV declared it would only considering buying if the price were under 15 percent higher than last year.

How it went down

IMG sold Canal the right to broadcast EPL TV in Vietnam for the 2013-16 seasons Tuesday night, a source told Thanh Nein.

In late November, 2012, IMG bought EPL TV rights in Vietnam for US$30 million and came to Vietnam in January to offer it for $37.5 million.

No Vietnamese TV stations made an offer to buy it at the time, saying it was too expensive. IMG wrote to Vietnamese TV stations to ask for a response by February 6.

As part of the union agreement with other TV stations, VTV representatives did not respond, saying  IMG gave it too little time to think in order to force Vietnamese TV stations to pay a high price.

Leftovers

Canal has only bought the exclusive rights to EPL TV's most important package -- Sunday matches -- while the rights for other matches are not exclusive and other Vietnamese channels can still buy them.

"We will still hold a meeting between VTV and other TV stations next week to see if any TV station wants to buy the right over the matches on the other days," said Cuong.

K+ officials have not said anything about the purchase, but sources said K+ would provide the signals to other channels as well so that subscribers of other TV stations will be able to watch EPL matches without buying K+ signal-receiving equipment.

The price for the EPL TV rights in Vietnam is stilt low compared to other countries. It is $325 million in Thailand-Laos-Cambodia; $240 million in Malaysia; $180 million in Singapore, $95 million in India, $95 million in Indonesia and $45 million in Myanmar.

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