Rival cable companies will be forced to black out television channels carrying coverage of the World Cup football tournament, which starts next week, broadcast rights holder Logic has confirmed.
The cable company bought the exclusive rights to the tournament in Russia through DirectTV Latin America, and will broadcast every game live to its customers. Digicel has acquired regional broadband rights and its customers will be able to watch games on mobile devices by downloading the Sports Max World Cup app.
But anyone who gets their television packages through C3, Flow, Dish Network or any other provider will miss out on watching the tournament – one of the most viewed sporting events in the world – on their own TVs.
Though those cable companies carry multiple channels that will cover the World Cup, they will be legally required to block access to those channels during game time.
Darryl Hather, general manager of video operations for Logic, said, “DirecTV Latin America, who we purchased the rights from, has sent a letter to our competing cable companies outlining our rights and instructing them to blackout any feeds that have World Cup coverage. FOX and CTV are to be blacked out on Flow and C3.
“Anyone watching a feed in the Cayman Islands other than Logic’s is doing so illegally with pirated signals.”
He said Logic customers would have access to every game, no matter what package of channels they usually subscribe to. Matches will be broadcast in high definition on 500 and 501 and in standard definition on 502 and 503.
The opening game, semifinals and final will also be screened free-to-air, as required by world governing body FIFA. Those games will be screened over the air on channel 23 to anyone in the Cayman Islands with external antennae.
Critics of the arrangement have argued that an event of the magnitude of the World Cup should be available to all. In the U.K., for example, World Cup coverage is legally protected among a series of sporting events dubbed the “crown jewels” that must be broadcast free to all households.
Legislator Chris Saunders raised concerns about the issue in the Legislative Assembly earlier this year. Randy Merren, owner of C3 and Hurley’s Media, also criticized the exclusivity agreement, suggesting anyone who acquired rights for the tournament should be able to offer it to everyone in Cayman.
“This is the World Cup and the idea is that everybody should be able to see the beautiful game for free. You sell advertising around it and get your revenue that way,” he told the Cayman Compass in an interview earlier this year.
“They are trying to leverage the World Cup to drive subscribers to their cable system.”
Mr. Hather said this was part and parcel of a competitive television landscape. He said the company had seen a “pick up in interest in our TV services” in the run up to the tournament.
Asked if he had any comment for subscribers of other cable networks who may feel aggrieved at the arrangement, he said: “This is a great opportunity to try out the largest television service provider in Cayman. We have great rates and packages to suit all needs and can be there to install in 24-48 hours.
“Customers need to understand that this is no different than FLOW having exclusivity over English Premiership or Hurley’s/Cayman27 exercising their exclusivity rights during the Summer Olympics.”
Some of Flow’s Premier League coverage is available to other cable companies, however, and Cayman27 is available, through various means, to every household in the Cayman Islands.
Alee Fa’amoe, of OfReg’s telecommunications division, told the Compass earlier this year that it was unlikely to get involved in the debate over World Cup access.
“Generally speaking, the regulator does not insert itself into the commercial or contractual matters of our licensees,” he said.
The other option for sports fans is to watch at various bars around the island. But any venue that does screen matches will be required to use Logic’s feed and to follow FIFA regulations around public broadcasts.
Several bars, including Fidel Murphy’s and the Attic on West Bay Road, have extended their opening hours for the tournament in order to show early games from 7 a.m.
Caitlin Dunne, of Fidel Murphy’s, said the venue was expected to be full for the big games.
“It’s always nice to have a competition like the World Cup to keep football fans entertained during the Premier League break, and the Patriotic aspect of it brings in a lot of new clientele who want to enjoy a bit of atmosphere but wouldn’t usually be in a pub watching footy on the weekends,” she said.
Fidel’s will open for the early matches, serving food and coffee or tea, and will have specials on Cayman Islands Brewery draught beer for all games that fall within its liquor-licensed hours, she added.