With less than a week to go before the FIFA World Cup 2018 kicks off in Russia and Vietnam being the only country in the world without broadcasting rights for the event, football fans in the Southeast Asian country are looking for new ways to watch the tournament.
As of Thursday, many stalls at the Nhat Tao electronics market in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 10 were offering ‘smart TV devices,’ which they claim are capable of streaming the 2018 World Cup matches from overseas broadcasters.
Most of the devices are Internet TV boxes, running the Android operating system and produced domestically.
According to T., a stall owner at the market, each device costs only VND650,000-1,500,000 (US$29-66) and is capable of relaying the World Cup games from neighboring countries’ broadcasters.
“All you need is Internet connection, then you just need to launch the pre-installed apps and you can watch dozens of the world's most popular TV channels from Europe, America, Hong Kong, and Thailand,” T. said.
“There are no further service fees. My shop will even cover installation costs and offer a six-month warranty.”
Another store at Nhat Thao suggested a different device costing VND2.5 million ($110) its owner claimed is capable of broadcasting telecast programs from the Thaicom5 satellite of Thailand.
“VTV is still struggling to secure broadcasting rights for the World Cup, but with this device, you can watch the games without worrying about copyrights,” the store’s owner advertised.
Many Internet users are hunting for ways to get around paying to watch the tournament without purchasing an expensive box, including the use of software programs such as Sopcast and Acestream that allow users to stream international television programs for free.
|A screen shot of a channel broadcast on a TV box|
However, many experts warned that using certain devices could have its risks.
According to Vu, an electronics expert, despite being advertised as having World Cup copyrights, all the Android devices do is provide foreign television applications, which are not in Vietnamese and often carry ads.
“These broadcasts are ‘pirated’ so the real copyright holders could potentially intervene and suspend live broadcast matches during the tournament,” Vu said.
In addition, unlike cable TV and digital TV, Android TV boxes require an Internet connection, so the signals might be jerky, interrupted, or even disconnected if the Internet is unstable.
Xuan Thanh, a local in Hanoi who recently bought a ‘pirated’ Internet TV box, now gets angry every time he uses the device.
“The device runs very slowly and is unstable when I watch some HD quality channels,” Thanh said,
“Almost hundreds of channels are not available on its online TV app IPTV.”