Optus have a very patchy history when it comes to showing international football on Australian screens, but one thing that can’t be denied is their determination to be Australia’s primary broadcaster of elite soccer competitions.
Optus have just announced their acquisition of the broadcasting rights to the UEFA Champion’s League, the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup for the next three years. Fans will be happy to have these popular competitions included in their subscription, but will also be watching with nervous anticipation to see whether this time Optus can handle the broadcast without errors.
What Optus Will Offer Fans
The UEFA Champions League is a very prestigious, highly-watched competition that sees the top club teams from around Europe compete to become the European champions. The Europa League is the next level down, showing clubs that might not have won their leagues but are still excelling. Optus Sport will show every match live, including the play-offs and continuing until the finals in 2019.
In addition, for the next few years Optus Sport will offer fans:
- Premier League 2018/19 -2021/22
- FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019 and other FIFA events
- UEFA Nations League 2018 and 2020
- UEFA Euro 2020
- UEFA Super Cup 2018-2020
- UEFA Champions League 2018/19- 2020/21
- UEFA Nations League Final 2019 and 2021
- UEFA Europa League 2018/19- 2020/21
- European Qualifiers for Euro 2020
- European Qualifiers for 2022 FIFA World Cup
- Selected international friendlies played in Europe by UEFA teams 2018-2022
History of Optus Football
In 2015, Optus made a surprise bid for rights to broadcast the English Premier League. This acquisition was met with many negative reactions from fans, particularly those who weren’t already Optus customers. The rights had previously been held by Foxtel and offered as part of their Sports package. It was pricey for customers who otherwise wouldn’t have opted for cable/satellite TV, but at least customers then had access to other sporting and entertainment content not available on free-to-air TV.
Optus offered the EPL broadcast as a part of their Optus Sports channels on Optus Fetch, which was only available as an add-on to a post-paid contract with Optus. This left fans having to enter in to a long-term contract in order to be able to access EPL content. In addition, the games were streamed and therefore reliant on having a good internet connection.
Many fans were not happy, and they were left even less happy when the broadcast of the first few games was botched. Although Optus did seem to correct the errors, there were further problems when Optus decided to get involve with the FIFA World Cup.
Optus and the FIFA World Cup Debacle
The FIFA World Cup has traditionally been broadcast in Australia on SBS, a free-to-air channel that usually provides high quality commentary and pre- and post-game shows. In return for the rights to show a number of EPL games through the year, SBS shared the broadcasting rights for the World Cup, allowing Optus to broadcast every game live, while SBS would only show a limited number on free-to-air TV.
Broadcasting the FIFA World Cup is a high-stakes risk when compared to the English Premier League, as fans from all over the world wait four years to support their country and watch the intense competition over a single block of a few weeks. Before the World Cup started, Optus offered fans the choice to sign up for their world cup broadcast on a device for $15 a month and without needing an Optus contract.
The problems began on only the second game, which was being exclusively broadcast by Optus – the game began buffering and dropping out, which meant that fans missed parts of the match. Optus promised to correct the situation, and it seemed to work for a number of games until once again, fans were subject to buffering and the service dropping out on some devices during at least three important matches.
Optus responded by allowing SBS to broadcast all matches on free-to-air TV. Many fans watching the games noticed that the SBS games were being broadcast a significant number of seconds ahead, meaning people watching on the SBS channels would be ahead of Optus customers while watching game play. As well as sharing coverage with SBS, Optus offered apologies and refunds on Optus Sport subscriptions.
What Optus Have To Get Right
Football is one of the most-watched sports in the world, and many fans are fiercely passionate about supporting their team. Optus have acquired these rights in order to gain a reputation for quality sports broadcasting, and to attract long-term customers for Optus. However, it remains to be seen whether fans will forgive Optus for the botched broadcasts. Optus Sport remains free to customers until the 31st of August as part of Optus’s attempt to appease angry fans.
In the past, the Champions League and Europa league have only been available via an expensive channel that needed to be added on to an existing paid TV service. In this case, fans might actually be grateful for the ability to watch the games without having to pay for the BeIN Sports channel on top of another subscription.
The company has to do this one right in order to win the respect of football fans and to create a positive image for Optus. It should go some way towards achieving their goal if they do it well. If they do things poorly, such as charging customers more or messing up their broadcasts, it’s hard to see how they would ever bounce back to be seen as quality broadcasters.