Optus offers free subscription to sport service after World Cup streaming fail

Carla Harmon
June 23, 2018

"Optus and SBS have agreed that SBS can televise all FIFA World Cup games for the next 48 hours, giving all Australians the chance to enjoy the tournament", SBS said.

Optus Sport has conceded and will allow SBS to simulcast all the remaining group stage game of the FIFA World Cup, after being dogged by streaming issues through the course of the tournament's initial stages.

Michael Ebeid AM, CEO and Managing Director, SBS said, "The FIFA World Cup is the absolute pinnacle of football, a sport that Australians are deeply passionate about".

In a huge win for free-to-air viewers, SBS this afternoon announced it had secured an arrangement to continue simulcasting games as it has over the past 48 hours.

Many Optus Sport subscribers said they were unable to watch live games amid connection issues, dropouts and other faults during the World Cup opening days.

The company's streaming problems had left many fans venting online, and even led to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stepping in, taking to Twitter to say he had personally contacted the chief executive.

"Since Monday, we have continued to improve the product, and Optus has delivered the last six matches without any issue", chief executive Allen Lew told reporters.

"It's a timely reminder for us and we already have the work streams up and running to make sure that we've got adequate network capacity which is one issue ... and the second issue which is the video delivery and what we call the content delivery network capability and capacity that can handle these sorts of volumes". This has provided us with the confidence that our efforts have worked.

"We have listened to the feedback from Australian soccer fans", Lew said.

Optus Sport will also be made free for all Aussies until August 31. "So we have very clear experience with streaming".

With concerns rising over this unprecedented era of sports coverage, Spark have vowed to get things right during next year's Rugby World Cup broadcast, saying they are confident in their ability to deliver the streaming service. The backlash forced Optus to hand over its transmissions to rival conventional national public broadcaster SBS for free-to-air re-transmission.

While the consumer watchdog the ACCC was believed to be investigating what happened, the offer by Optus to refund its customers will go some way to mitigating the backlash the telco has experienced this week, but will cost it dearly.

Lew said the company will focus in the short-term on restoring trust with customers it disappointed.

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