At 11pm tomorrow Poland will kick off the European Championship 2012 in a match against Greece. And unless you already possess a GMM Z black box that will suck encrypted signal from space to feed into your tube, unless you've climbed onto your roof to re-install the old-fashioned "shrimp-whiskers" antenna, as it is called in local speak, or unless you live in a province whose local cable operator has already paid a subscription fee to GMM _ unless all of those, live football is a forbidden zone for you for entire duration of the month-long tournament. Information is free, but football, sometimes not.
The broadcast-rights rivalry between media giants is leaving football-addicted viewers blinking like halfwits. It used to be TrueVisions with their jealously-guarded English Premier League rights, and now it's GMM with the Euro 2012. We need boxes _ lots of boxes.
The current uproar concerns GMM's exclusive rights to the tournament, and you can only watch it on channels 3, 5, 9 and GMM Z Hits via the GMM Z set-top box available at 7-Eleven at 1,590 baht apiece. Other satellite platforms, such as IPM, PSI and TrueVisions, installed in over 10 million households, will be blocked (TrueVisions refused to share the deal with GMM). The only other way is to use your prehistoric antenna to pick up channels 3 and 9, at the risk of poor reception and total signal failure in case of storm.
While hardcore football nuts will go to any length to feast on the mouth-watering Spain vs Italy on Sunday, for instance, for the rest of us who're used to watching free football, this is not the kind of free-market competition where consumers are eventual winners.
We surveyed five people to see how they're going cope with the situation.
"This is a matter of principle. Football is not golf. It's the most popular sport on Earth and it should be free for everyone. The way it is happening now, it's like football being hostage to business. What if during the next World Cup, another company outbids everybody else and owns broadcast rights and forces us to buy another receiver? How many boxes do we need in the house?
"I'm a big football fan. I can afford to buy the box, but I won't give in to this.
It's not just about money. This shows that the people who own the rights do not love football at all."
"I already bought the GMM Z box. I think for the price of 1,590 baht, it's worth a whole month of football. And after the tournament ends, I still have the box to watch other things and there's no monthly fee, so that's an OK deal."
"I won't buy the set-top box and I don't know how I'm going to watch the tournament. I know this is business competition, mainly between TrueVisions and GMM, but this isn't good for the consumers. In the past, the government-owned broadcaster had the rights to live matches, and I think that worked just fine. Of course we had to contend with commercials during the game, which could be annoying, but we still got to see the game and we shouldn't complain about that. Right now, cable operators charge us high fees and there are plenty of covert ads in the programme, that's annoying too."
"It's crazy. I mean, do I really need to buy that antenna for the sole purpose of watching football? I understand that GMM has the rights to do it _ or precisely to retaliate considering how TrueVisions has monopolised the English Premier League for ages. It's business competition, but shouldn't business competition benefit consumers instead of giving them trouble?
"What worries me isn't just about the Euro 2012, but the impact on consumers should future business competition and monopoly of this kind continue unabated. It may just be a conspiracy to make sure all these corporates enjoy their piece of the cake."
"Whether or not it's a problem depends on how much you want to watch it. In terms of business, I think both sides _ TrueVisions and GMM _ lack a sense of responsibility towards their customers because they're unable to fulfill what is expected of them. TrueVisions is unable to acquire access to the Euro 2012, while I can't say GMM is capable of offering any other decent content aside of it.
However, I don't think paying a little extra for the Euro 2012 would hurt if you really want to watch it, considering the ticket price for actual football match costs much more."
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