KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — State-owned television network RTM succeeded in nabbing the coveted rights to show the Thomas Cup final “live” from New Delhi, India tomorrow after private broadcaster Astro agreed to hand over the broadcasting rights.
Broadcasting director-general, Datuk Norhyati Ismail said the live telecast move was ordered by Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek in an eleventh hour discussion between the two networks.
“RTM on the directive of the Communication and Multimedia Minister, held negotiations with Astro to allow RTM broadcast the final ‘live’.
“I wish to thank Astro for the assistance to enable Malaysians watch the final ‘live’ over RTM,” Norhyati was quoted saying in a late-night statement by state news wire Bernama.
It is unknown if RTM has to pay the RM4 million price tag to secure the broadcasting rights.
Astro earlier told The Malay Mail Online, that the world’s largest independent distributor of sports programming was in charge of fixing the price for broadcasting rights.
The local satellite pay network, which had ponied up for the rights, was initially to air it in Malaysia.
In a major nod to Malaysia’s success in making the Thomas Cup final, Astro said it will broadcast the last leg of badminton’s biggest championship “live” and free to all Malaysians, on its Astro-on-the-go app.
The local pay network was earlier today asked by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to waive the RM4 million broadcasting rights payment state-owned broadcaster RTM would have to pony up to screen the tournament live from India, where Malaysia will face Japan in the finals to claim the crown.
“The Thomas Cup Finals will be available to all Malaysians on 25 May, 5.30pm for free on Arena Channel via Astro-on-the-go app,” an Astro spokesman told The Malay Mail Online when contacted.
The app allows consumers to watch their programme of choice on their smartphones or tablets. Sign-up for the service is free.
The representative, who asked not to be named, however pointed out that the cost of sporting events globally has been on the rise and Astro has had to swallow the hefty price tag set by foreign companies.
“Rights owners IMG sets the price, and like other broadcasters, Astro, appreciating the importance of badminton to Malaysians paid the pre-determined commercial rates for the broadcast rights.
“The rights offered to RTM are for Free to Air broadcast, and reflective of its cost,” the spokesman said.
IMG, with its headquarters in London, proclaims itself the world’s largest independent distributor of sports programming, and says it owns over 250,000 hours of sports footage in its archives.
Earlier today, Khairy took to Twitter proclaiming he had only found out that it will cost RTM RM4 million to obtain the broadcasting rights to the game, a day after tweeting that free-to-air network, RTM will air the tournament on its channel.
He added that while state-owned RTM had funds set for broadcasting rights, it had all been spent on football’s biggest tournament, the World Cup 2014, hosted by Brazil next month.
“Jadi saya merayu pada ASTRO, hadiahkan sahaja hak siaran supaya semua dapat menyaksikan final Piala Thomas!” he posted on his Twitter account, @Khairykj, and ending with the hashtag, #ThomasCup4All.
[Translation: “So I plead with Astro, just gift the broadcasting rights so that all can watch the Thomas Cup final!”
Malaysia, enjoying a new wind in its sails, beat badminton powerhouse Indonesia 3-0 to secure a spot in the Thomas Cup finals after a 12-year-long dry spell.
At the Siri Fort Stadium in New Delhi, India tomorrow, Malaysia will be facing off against Japan which similarly pulled an amazing upset against Asian giant, China.
Malaysia last reached the final in 2002 in Guangzhou, China but lost 2-3 to Indonesia .
In the quarter-finals, Malaysia’s badminton ace Datuk Lee Chong Wei trounced Tommy Sugiarto 21-19, 21-13 in the first singles. The first doubles pair Tan Boon Heong/Hoon Thien How chalked a stunning victory over world champions Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan 21-19, 8-21, 32-21.
Second singles Chong Wei Feng thrashed Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka 21-10, 21-17 to give the much needed win after more than a decade to put Malaysia in final.
China has been the reigning Thomas Cup champion for the last five editions.
Malaysia last won the Cup in 1992.