Fans around the country will now need to subscribe to the new television station TVWAN in order to watch their favourite players and track their weekly progress in the Queensland Cup only if they are willing to pay a regular premium to the broadcaster for that privilege.
This is unusual even for a small market like PNG. In Australia, the National Rugby League is broadcast on free-to-air television with major network Channel Nine offsetting the cost of bringing the game to the public by extracting and maximising advertising and sponsorship dollars from the popular product.
The Super League in England is run along a similar principle.
The cost of televising the games is not laid on the viewers but taken on by the broadcaster with the help of the corporate pound.
The announcement last week by the newly-created station, a subsidiary of Digicel PNG limited, is significant because it now means that potentially a large portion of the fan base could be literally left in the dark.
Not every fan with a television set can afford a Play Box much less the weekly, monthly and quarterly fees.
It seems the biggest cluster of potential consumers is in the major towns and cities.
Outside of them fans who want to watch Hunters matches might as well be living in the North Pole.
It is worth noting that Digicel has bought up the entire cable TV supplying industry in the country.
Over the past six months the mobile phone multi-national has taken a controlling stake in Hitron and Channel 8, the two major cable operators in the country.
How this has been allowed to happen is a question worth asking.
The service may be developed and/or improved for existing clients but the company has taken it one step further by looking at ways to increase its customer base. What better way to bring in the customers then televising Hunters Q-Cup matches.
As far as production costs are concerned one can appreciate the need for the supplier to pick up a fee to cover the time and effort in taping and relaying matches but the question is should the fans be required to foot the bill?
It would be seen as a great customer service if TVWAN producers and its executive management continued the trend of live and free telecasts.
That may be a long bow to draw considering the fact that this is a private enterprise but there is nothing stopping the advertising and third party deals to pay for the coverage.
Acquiring the rights to broadcast Hunters games in 2015 is a master stroke but rather than building on the goodwill created by Digicel and its brand, the public has been slapped with the reality of sports/entertainment television – it is a product and it will cost the consumer – in the end it is all about the money. And just how significant that cost is up to one supplier.
The packages that are offered require the customer to buy an initial hook-up fee with a decoder and then pay periodically to continue the subscription.
This type of arrangement normally serves the Pay TV and cable market which comprises customers who want to watch programmes that are not readily available on regular TV.
Should the Hunters Queensland Cup matches be considered games not readily available for general viewership? It is a shame rugby league viewership is headed this way. Watching rugby league used to cost nothing more than the price of a television set and a good antennae but that privilege seems to have been taken over by commercial interest.
Rugby league is the country’s leading sport in terms of following and general popularity in all four regions and it seems big business is looking at taking that popularity and milking it.
It is a dangerous game to play with the consumer who is just as fickle as he is loyal. If watching hurts them too much in the wallet there is a good chance their patronage will be discontinued.
If the PNG Rugby Football League and the Hunters management have alternative means of showing matches then now is the time to lay out that plan otherwise there will be many disappointed fans in 2015.. The National