Optus has today announced it will allow SBS to broadcast live all remaining games of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The decision comes after a massive backlash from customers due to poor experiences delivered by the telcos' streaming platform.
Optus had held the exclusive rights to half of the round of 16 games and to two of the quarterfinals.
Optus CEO Allen Lew said customers have been at the forefront of Optus’ decision to simulcast.
“Optus is here to push the boundaries of innovation in Australia and deliver choice to customers. We had technical issues with the Optus Sport service over the first weekend of the tournament but we are confident that these issues have now been addressed. All of us at Optus will use what we have learned from this experience to place ourselves ahead in the delivery of content to customers via streaming to their mobile devices,” Mr Lew said.
“Our customers and viewers have been the priority in our decision making and that’s why we have provided several ways to watch the matches, offered refunds and introduced a range of measures to address the technical issues experienced by some Optus Sport viewers."
Optus signed a sub-licensing deal with SBS in 2016 that allowed the telco to screen all 64 matches including 39 exclusive games. The deal was for a reported $8 Million and also provided SBS the benefit of broadcasting Saturday night English Premier League matches.
Optus had hoped the deal would attract a significant increase in new mobile customers and bolster its new Optus Sports video platform, however when the service suffered significant outages it soon turned into a PR disaster for the company. Mr Lew today admitting that,
"..when entering new broadcast territory, opportunities were as big as the risks."
“Optus will continue to innovate and not waiver from our strategy of being a provider of premium content and the home of elite football in Australia.”
Mr Lew said despite the FIFA World Cup simulcast arrangement, Australians have continued to tune into Optus Sport and subscriber numbers have continued to rise.
“Viewers want flexibility in how they consume content – they want to be able to do it anywhere, and at any time and Optus says yes to delivering this flexibility and choice."
The gaining of additional World Cup rights for SBS will be a ratings bonanza for the network, which will also be broadcasting the hugely popular Tour De France cycling event nightly from July 7. When asked if SBS had paid Optus any money, or entered into an advertising revenue share deal to gain back the the additional World Cup rights, a spokesperson for the network declined to comment telling DeciderTV,
"Information of that nature is commercial in confidence."
In addition to the live coverage, SBS will continue to broadcast daily highlights in FIFA World Cup Today live from Red Square at 5.30pm each match day with expert analysis from Craig Foster and Lucy Zelić and commentary from Martin Tyler, as well as replays of the SBS Match of the Day each morning at 6.30am.
The Group Stage concludes this evening (Thursday) with many Round of 16 fixtures already locked in.
Night one of the knockout stage will showcase a dominant France facing the troubled Argentinian side and unbeaten Uruguay taking on Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Michael Ebeid AM, CEO and Managing Director, SBS said:
“We’re pleased to be able to simulcast more of the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches with Optus. With 8 million Australians tuning into SBS’s coverage to date, we know how passionate the country is about the world game and are confident fans will continue to engage with the matches as we head towards the end of the competition in Russia.”
Matches broadcast on SBS will also be live streamed via the official FIFA World Cup app, on The World Game website and through SBS On Demand.
All Australians remain eligible to access Optus Sport for free until 31 August 2018.