SingTel, StarHub, soccer, TV and more

Ordered to share the English Premier League soccer telecasts with arch-rival StarHub, SingTel is naturally unhappy with the referee, the Media Development Authority (MDA). And StarHub is predictably pleased. But has the EPL been such a game-changer in the battle between the two networks?

Data from SingTel, StarHub presentation slides showing financial results for October-December 2012
Data from SingTel, StarHub presentation slides showing financial results for October-December 2012

True, SingTel’s mio TV service has grown from 155,000 subscribers in 2009 to 398,000 subscribers by the end of last year after it reportedly paid S$400 million (about $323 million) in 2010 to screen the EPL matches for three years. StarHub lost 9,000 pay TV customers between December 2011 and December last year, as the Straits Times points out.

But, in soccer terms, StarHub is still dominating the game though SingTel is surging forward trying to draw level. Yes, StarHub has fallen back, losing some subscribers, but SingTel is yet to equalize.

Even after losing 9,000 subscribers, StarHub still had 536,000 pay TV subscribers, according to its 2012 annual report.

Back in 2009, when it was showing EPL matches, StarHub had 539,000 subscribers, according to its annual report for that year. So it has suffered no significant loss of subscribers since it stopped showing EPL matches.

Yes, StarHub’s pay TV revenue fell from S$405 million in 2009 to S$396 million in 2012, according to its annual report. But even its revenue is actually on the way up – up from S$376 million in 2011.

So no matter how many subscribers SingTel’s mio TV may have, StarHub’s pay TV service is doing fine.

It is impossible to compare the performance of the two year on year because StarHub’s financial year ends on December 31 and SingTel’s in March 31. SingTel 2012 annual report will be out only in May.

But let’s see how they performed in the quarter ended December 31, the last quarter reported by SingTel.

SingTel reported: “Revenue from mio TV grew 18 per cent to S$33 million.”

StarHub reported revenue fell from S$188 million in the previous quarter to S$176 million. Its pay TV revenue fell from S$99.2 million in the previous quarter to S$97.6 million in the fourth quarter. But that’s still a lot more than SingTel’s mio TV.

Considering that StarHub had 536,00 pay TV subscribers and mio TV 398,000 at the end of 2012, StarHub’s TV business looks a lot more profitable than SingTel’s.

But SingTel is bigger by far if you take into the account the two behemoths’ phone and internet operations.

SingTel’s operating revenue in the quarter ended December 2012 was nearly S$1.7 billion in Singapore alone – and it has businesses in other countries.

StarHub’s operating revenue for the same quarter was S$654 million.

StarHub reported 2.2 million mobile phone customers, earning more than S$300 million in revenue (more than S$246 million in post-paid and S$62 million in pre-paid services).

StarHub also reported 440,000 broadband subscribers and S$62.9 million in broadband revenue.

StarHub’s net profit after tax for the quarter was S$88 million.

SingTel reported S$507 million in mobile and S$409 million in data and internet revenue.

It had more than four million mobile phone customers and more than 340,000 customers on what it called “triple bundles”, using its phone, internet and TV services.

SingTel group’s operating revenue, including those of its subsidiaries and associates in other countries, was nearly S$4.6 billion for the quarter — and net profit S$827 million.

(Please note: SingTel’s figures are taken from the “investor presentation” slides on its website – StarHub’s from its presentation slides and annual report.)