Mixed Blessings for World Cup Viewers
There are mixed blessings for fans watching the soccer World Cup on television here in Sweden. All 64 games are being carried by either public broadcaster SVT or commercial rival TV4. But there are a few problems…
Originally SVT tried to stop sports bars from carrying the games for their customers, unless they paid a few of around 2000 dollars. But lawyers at the Ministry of Culture ruled that the public broadcaster had no right to do so, since both the bars and presumeably their customers had paid for television licences. So SVT signed an agreement handing over the rights to TV4, which went to court. On Wednesday the Stockholm District Court ruled that TV4 cannot ban sports bars from showing the matches, but opened the door for demands for compensation.
TV4 seems to want each sports bar to pay 20 or 40 dollars per match, depending on location. But a lawyer for the O’Leary’s sports bar says the court’s ruling only says there is “probably cause” for compensation, rather than coming right out and approving it.
It is still uncertain why SVT and TV4 want to stop sports bars from showing the games, since they lose nothing, and gain viewers (especially for TV4’s commercials).
One positive note for viewers is that Sweden’s largest cable operator, Comhem, has forbidden its staff from doing any installations or maintenance work after 2:00 PM during the World Cup. Only emergency repairs will be permitted, in order to avoid any interruption of service.
On the other hand, Sweden’s third largest cable operator, Tele2, is closing its network in Säljan, north of Stockholm, on the day the World Cup quarter finals begin. The cable company, part of the Kinnevik media empire, blames planned highway construction, but the TT news agency cites an anonymous source at the Swedish Road Administration, who rejects the argument. According to the source, Tele2 has installed a cable without permission.
Tele2 has offered what it calls “a very advantageous price” for a package for its Viasat satellite TV service to the affected cable viewers. But the response has reportedly been less than overwhelming:
“I would have to pay four times as much as I pay today,” comments cable subscriber Arne Sjölinder.
In February SVT announced that (together with TV4) it would be carrying all World Cup games in a special high definition channel. And many HD sets have been sold here with marketing connected to the World Cup. Unfortunately, while the channel is happening, few Swedes will be able to see it.
No Swedish cable operators are ready for HD, and broadcasts on the digital terrestrial network are limited to just four regions: Stockholm, Uppsala, Västerås, and the island of Gotland. On satellite, Viasat is not carrying the HD channel, but it is being relayed by its much larger rival Canal Digital.
However, even if a viewer has purchased an HD-ready TV set, and has the right satellite operator or terrestrial location, they probably still won’t be able to see the games in HD….as very few of the necessary HD decoders are available. A few satellite boxes have been sold here, but the decoders for the terrestrial network are reportedly on a truck somewhere on their way from France.