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United sign Hong Kong broadcast rights deal

Manchester United have announced a deal with Hong Kong telecommunication giant PCCW, as the club look to further expand their operations in Asia.

PCCW will, in the next three years, become the official broadcaster of United's television channel MUTV in Hong Kong with the exclusive broadcasting rights of MUTV, MUTV Online and MU Mobile contents.

Supporters in the area will be able to see Sir Alex Ferguson's pre-match press conferences, reserve team games and matchday build-up and post-game analysis through mobile phones and PCCW's EYE2 portable media centre.

It is the latest in a long line of sponsorship deals with Asian businesses, with United continuing to build on their fervent fan base in the region by creating territorial partnerships.

United have similar broadcast rights deals in place with Saudi Telecom in Saudi Arabia, Airtel in India and Sri Lanka, Viva in Bahrain, Telekom Malaysia and Tri Indonesia, while Singha Beer has just replaced American brand Budweiser as the club's official beer - sold at Old Trafford on matchdays.

The broadcast deals stop short of showing live games as all the Premier League clubs are involved in the central negotiation of television rights, though there has been speculation over the years that the bigger clubs have been searching for a way to go it alone in order to find more lucrative deals.

United's brand can command significant amounts of money in sponsorship - Aon's shirt deal is worth £80 million over four seasons - and with a reported 193 million fans in Asia, the club have expanded their operations in the continent massively over the past few years.

Every country presents different challenges but as commercial director Richard Arnold admits, if United's strategy can work in Hong Kong, the template can be used in far more populous - and wealthy - parts of the world, which opens up untold possibilities.

"We continue to support the collective bargaining because it makes the Premier League incredibly competitive,'' Arnold said. "But there are other rights that centre around the club and players, where our access is not paralleled anywhere else.

"It would be very surprising not to put into place something that allowed you to communicate with fans all over the world.''

His argument is the loyalty of a supporter in the Far East or United States, where the Red Devils toured last summer and are supposedly heading back to again next year, who has to watch his favourite team at all hours of the night, is as strong as the traditional fan from Stretford.

"It is very emotive when you start measure what constitutes a fan,'' Arnold said. "The people who never miss a game are easily measured. How do you compare that with someone in Hong Kong, who is staying up until 4am to watch Manchester United play.

"The point is, no matter where you are, now it is a lot easier to get a lot more of what you want. Already Javier Hernandez, Chris Smalling and Bebe are household names around the world, despite having such minimal exposure with the club.

"Using media to reach the people who either can't afford, or aren't able, to travel to the stadium, can be connected to the club.''

In the Far East and the United States that is clearly through high-tech media. In parts of Africa, United have found radio is still the best method of communication.

"We have to adopt something sensible in each market,'' Arnold said. "Is this the road paved with gold? Put it this way, a football club has three sources of income; ticketing, sponsorship and media.

"Media has become the lion's share of that cake through collective bargaining. But the element left over could also be very significant.''

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