Optus’ issues with streaming the FIFA World Cup have been documented in every tech and mainstream publication in the last few days. Today we saw Optus offer some compensation to those affected in the form of a Fetch Mini set-top box. Tonight, Optus CEO, Allen Lew fronted the media to answer questions related to the ongoing streaming issues. During the call, he announced that for the next 48 hours, Optus would temporarily share broadcast rights with the SBS to allow free-to-air broadcast of FIFA World Cup matches until Wednesday evening.

If you’ve tried to stream the FIFA World Cup 2018 using the Optus Sport app yesterday, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the error message noting a playback error. Others have had issues with poor stream quality or the stream cutting out during the game. Countless Twitter users have taken to social media to lambast Optus for the poor quality experience the Optus Sport app was offering, with common criticisms including:

  • The app failed to stream at all (showing the message above)
  • Streaming worked intermittently, failing after a few seconds to every few minutes

Even our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has sat up and taken notice of the FIFA World Cup broadcast fiasco:

Earlier today, SBS CEO Michael Ebeid said SBS may need to reach out to Optus and offer a helping hand if the telco’s World Cup streaming continues to have issues. Ebeid said:

I think if Optus continues to have problems, then we might have a conversation about how we can help them further in terms of putting some of those games on our channels.

We are able and willing to do that.

Ebeid went onto tell listeners the conversation may need to happen in the next 24 hours if Optus aren’t confident they have fixed the issues.

Australia’s Football Federation has also weighed in (albeit without saying much), indicating:

Like all football fans in Australia, FFA has been very disappointed by the technical problems which have so affected the FIFA World Cup coverage by Optus.

Optus’ broadcasting agreement is with FIFA not FFA, but FFA is receiving regular updates from both Optus and SBS to see whether a solution can be found.

This evening, both Optus and SBS have confirmed that, as an interim measure, Optus will share its broadcast rights with the national broadcaster (for at least the next 48 hours), allowing SBS to broadcast games while Optus addresses Optus Sport’s streaming issues.

In the press call this evening, Mr Lew has confirmed that the simulcast will be Monday night into Tuesday morning, and Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, by which time they believe the technical issues will be resolved. Mr Lew laid blame for many of the issues with the variety of customer devices, mobile networks and even their home WiFi, without acknowledging any problems in the Optus platform.

Mr Lew stated that Optus has addressed the issue, but ducked the question as to whether he would offer any assurances that the problems were, finally, resolved. Instead, he indicated that it was likely that most customers would no longer face issues come Wednesday night, but said “the streaming [experience] could not be guaranteed”.

When asked how Optus was taken by surprise by the level of demand for the streaming service, Mr Lew acknowledged that this had been the case and offered his apologies for it, but he refused to blame the unanticipated level of demand for the problem. Mr Lew indicated he would make a public announcement about refunds for paid customers at some point after Wednesday noon, but pointed to the earlier offer of free Fetch TV Mini boxes to customers as a better solution overall – he’d rather customers be able to watch the FIFA World Cup than not. Optus is confident that it will be able to get enough Fetch TV Mini boxes into Optus stores to meet anticipated customer demand.

Mr Lew refused to be drawn on any guarantees about how Optus would deal with demand as the interest in the cup intensifies, particularly if Australia makes it out of the group stages and into the Round of 16, but he indicated that Optus would make all attempts to do the best it could. Will this episode damage the Optus brand in Australia? Mr Lew acknowledged that clearly, there has been some damage, and that with new technologies like streaming in-demand sporting fixtures, there’s always some risk.

Despite having held English Premier League rights for a while, Optus claims that the World Cup brought unprecedented demand from football fans and new viewers alike; Mr Lew was unable to discuss particular figures given a level of confidentiality between Optus and FIFA, but stated that demand well exceeded its own (generous) forecasts.

Most importantly, I think, both Optus and its CEO Allan Lew have acknowledged an overriding public interest in fans being able to watch the FIFA World Cup – regardless of how that takes place – and that this has influenced the decision to have SBS broadcast the next few days’ matches.

SBS has released a schedule of games to be broadcast over the next 48 hours:

  • Monday 18 June from 10pm* Sweden v Korea Republic LIVE kick-off 1am
  • Tuesday 19 June from 12.30am* Belgium v Panama LIVE kick-off 1am
  • Tuesday 19 June from 3.30am* Tunisia v England LIVE kick-off 4am
  • Tuesday 19 June from 9.30pm* Colombia v Japan LIVE kick-off 10pm
  • Wednesday 20 June from 12.30am* Poland v Senegal LIVE kick-off 1am
  • Wednesday 20 June from 3.30am* Russia v Egypt LIVE kick-off 4am
  • Wednesday 20 June from 9.30pm* Portugal v Morocco LIVE kick-off 10pm

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has made it abundantly clear what he thinks of this situation, and I can’t say I disagree with him at all:




Written by Chris Rowland and Scott Plowman