Broadcast rights starting to be monetised in fledgling market of Myanmar
Sportcal takes an extensive look at the growing media rights market in Myanmar, a sovereign state in which the media rights sector has gradually opened up in the last decade, in the latest excerpt from Sportcal’s Media /andscape service, a definitive onli
Between the 1962 coup d’état and the pivotal general election of 2010, Myanmar, formally Burma, was isolated from the rest of the globe, with the state maintaining a vice-like grip on all forms of media. While there was a chance of accessing selected coverage of the Olympic Games or soccer’s Fifa World Cup, mostly through print, the only way to find out what was happening outside Myanmar was to go to the US or UK embassies and read foreign newspapers. In the 1980s, coverage of European soccer matches was occasionally transmitted on a delay of around two weeks, but this would soon cease, and while rights-holders would later reap multi-million-dollar benefits from neighbouring Asian territories, Myanmar remained a black hole in the market until well into the 21st century.
Although pay-television in Myanmar began in 2005, courtesy of the Forever Group, the most significant shift in the market to date would seem to have arrived five years later, through the arrival of Sky1et, the country’s first and only DT+ service. The service operated by the Shwe Than Lwin Media Group sparked a spate of breakthrough deals for its in-house sports channels, particularly in soccer, with England’s Premier League and Uefa, European soccer’s governing body, among the rights-holders to have recently agreed their first-ever territory-specific deals in this market. While there are plenty of barriers to growth in Myanmar, the combination of the developing media landscape and the changing political climate have brought it to the forefront of the ever-present debate around the next major emerging market.
With around 6.5 million TV households, television penetration in Myanmar is still well below 50 per cent in the vast rural areas, and around the 80-per-cent mark in urban towns, according to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent broadcasting agency of the US government. The leading players in the market, understandably, are statecontrolled or affiliated, with Myanmar 5adio and Television’s channels leading the way, followed by the military-owned Myawady TV (MWD).
MRTV4, the most popular channel in Myanmar, was established in 2004 by MRTV and the Forever Group, and holds the most significant domestic sports rights in Myanmar, through a three-year, K500 million ($585,000) contract signed in February 2012, to provide live coverage of soccer’s Myanmar National League. MRTV4 also operates a subscription satellite service, launched in 2006, which now includes domestic channels such as the prominent Channel 7, launched in 2012 by the Forever Group, and international offerings from Fox and ESPN to China’s CCTV. Forever Group operates the country’s DTT service, reaching around 250,000 households, as well as the country’s first pay-television service, established in 2005, charging from around $3 per month. The Rangoon-based group doubled its revenues to around $40 million in 2012, with around $3 million driven by the launch of Channel 7, and around 75 per cent generated through the national advertising market, which doubled in total value to $80 million in 2012. The service currently offers 70 channels, 10 of which are digital and seven in high definition, including Fox Sports and Star Sports.