World Cup broadcast rights and wrongs

Fans frustrated at poor picture quality

Football fans are crying foul over World Cup coverage issues across the Caribbean. 

Cable company WestStar, which has exclusive rights in Cayman, is bearing the brunt of the criticism locally. 

But bosses say that without its broadcasts, Cayman would be facing a complete blackout of the competition as Jamaica-based International Media Company seeks to enforce its regional distribution rights. 

Fans say they have missed key moments of the tournament – which attracts billions of viewers worldwide – because the picture often freezes or skips forward, especially on the high definition channel. They are frustrated that channels like CBC and ESPN, which also broadcast the games, have been blocked, essentially forcing viewers to the coverage on channel 24. 

“It is the biggest sporting event in the world, and local television does not have the technology or experience to air it. Leave it to the professionals at ESPN,” said Josh Crunk, one of several frustrated fans who spoke to the Cayman Compass. 

WestStar acknowledged there had been glitches in the coverage but say they have no control over the broadcast feed – which comes from IMC – the parent company of Sportsmax and the rights holder for coverage in the Caribbean. IMC did not respond to requests for comment. 

ESPN and CBC have both written to Cayman’s Information and Communications Technology Authority as well as all cable providers on the island on behalf of IMC to say their rights agreements are only valid in the U.S. and Canada, respectively, and any broadcast of their coverage in Cayman would violate those contracts. 

A spokeswoman for WestStar said the company, which purchased exclusive rights from IMC to show the competition in Cayman, did not initially realize that those rights did not allow them to show ESPN or CBC’s feed, which were available to subscribers in the early part of the tournament. 

She said, “IMC demanded that other video feeds of the World Cup programming be blacked out in order to enforce their exclusive distribution rights as part of the contract.” 

She acknowledged there had been issues with the picture from IMC and said WestStar was pressing them to provide a better service ahead of the semi-finals and final this week. 

“WestStar’s technical teams continually monitor the games in an effort to provide the clearest possible video signal to its customers. Admittedly the quality of the HD feed has been, at times, less than what was promised. WestStar has no control over the source feed and how it is provided and has challenged IMC to deliver the product that WestStar customers have come to expect from Cayman’s primary provider of video programming.” 

Avid soccer fan Craig Robinson said the picture quality had been a source of frustration throughout the tournament, 

“I have missed significant portions of games due to the transmission cutting out, usually at key moments for some of the bigger games. There’s something wrong if the most broadcast spectacle on the planet cannot be successfully shown in Cayman.” 

Similar complaints have been reported across the region, with fans unhappy with the level of coverage. 

The WestStar spokeswoman, added, “Although the World Cup is over halfway through, WestStar will continue to challenge IMC to provide a better, more stable feed as well as work with FIFA to ensure that the Cayman Islands has direct access to FIFA events in the future.” 

She defended the level of advertising on the broadcasts, which go out on Island 24, saying they helped fund the coverage. 

“WestStar has been thrilled to sustain an air of excitement in the local business community around the World Cup. Bringing such an event to the community without asking WestStar customers to bear any additional financial cost is made possible only through the vision of local Cayman businesses and through its half-time show that brings local football experts, players and enthusiasts together on camera to discuss and share their insights of the events.” 

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