FIFA threatens broadcast rights in Thailand after seeing rogue image in Laos

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FIFA threatened to end broadcasting of World Cup 2022 final matches in Thailand if video providers there fail to enforce FIFA’s standardized envryption practices for broadcast signals.

In turn, the Sports Authority of Thailand relayed FIFA’s warning to Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), which in turn, notified video distributors in that country

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The warning stemmed from the release of a photo of fans in Laos watching FIFA programming on a TV screen, even though FIFA does not license its programming for distribution in that country – and that if broadcasters in other countries (e.g. Thailand) enforced the encryption decree, the fans in Laos would not have been watching.

This prompted Thailand’s telecom company, True Corporation Plc to issue a statement that it and its three subsidiaries had an exclusive agreement with FIFA to distribute FIFA World Cup programming so that Thai viewers could watch on free TV.

“Under the contract with the SAT, True possesses the broadcasting rights of Fifa World Cup Final 2022 via cable, satellite, IPTV, Internet, mobile, OTT, and terrestrial transmissions,” said True’s statement. “However, under the NBTC’s must-have rule of 2012, only the broadcast via terrestrial transmission must be made available for free to the public.”

Thailand’s newspaper, The Nation, reported that True said the agreement gives TRUE the exclusive right to broadcast the event via channels and platforms other than terrestrial TV, to comply with the must-have rule as well as intellectual property laws.

Read original reporting

True says it has signed contract with SAT for exclusive online World Cup broadcasting rights, The Nation (Thailand), Nov. 21, 2022

Broadcasting rights in jeopardy. Bangkok Post, Nov. 24, 2022

Why it matters

It appears that FIFA had not thought through the implications that terrestrial transmission must be made available free to the public, making it impossible for True to enforce encryption and therefore, easy for parties in neighboring countries to receive and re-distribute FIFA’s programming.

Perhaps FIFA’s beef should be with the pirates in Laos, combined with an effort to inform Thai regulators of the difficulty in balancing exclusivity with free broadcast rights.  Similar situations exist in the United States, where over-the-air broadcast must be unencrypted, and in other countries.

Also, competing Thai broadcasters cried foul that the FIFA-True agreement was exclusive.

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