Thailand’s military rulers achieved a key victory in their efforts to rally Thais to their cause this week after securing a deal to broadcast all 64 World Cup matches on free-to-air television networks, blocking the rights-holder’s pay-TV distribution plan.
The move enables millions of people who might otherwise have missed many matches to view the tournament in its entirety.
The pact between the state TV regulator and media company RS PCL, which owns the rights to show the matches in Thailand, was finalised a few hours before the competition was scheduled to kick off in Brazil.
Many Thais were worried how they would watch matches without resorting to expensive cable connections or set-top box subscriptions.
It follows a series of similar populist manoeuvres aimed at winning public support, such as offering free movie tickets.
But the deal also represents a significant loss in revenue for RS and raises questions about the way the junta appears to be pressuring private firms to achieve its political goals three weeks after seizing power in a coup d’état.