Optus Relinquishes Full World Cup Streaming Rights to SBS

Matthew Leckie of Australia battles for the ball with Yoshimar Yotun of Peru during their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group C match. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Following a series of technical difficulties, Optus, an Australian-based telecommunications company, has relinquished its exclusive World Cup streaming rights for the remainder of the tournament. Optus had paid AUD$8 million ($5.9 million) for exclusive rights to stream the tournament in Australia, but will now share those with national public TV network SBS.

“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,” said Optus CEO, Allen Lew, in a statement.

Fans can watch the remainder of the tournament on SBS’s TV channels and SBS On Demand. In addition, Optus has extended free downloading of the Optus Sport app until Aug. 31, as well as offering a full refund for anyone who had already paid the AUD$15 ($11) subscription fee.

The company had previously decided to share the rights with SBS after initial problems over the first weekend of games. Earlier this week, Optus claimed the issues had been resolved, but in order not to risk further disruption for viewers, the company has decided to continue to share games with SBS.

“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,” said Optus CEO, Allen Lew in a statement about relinquishing exclusive rights for all remaining games.

SportTechie Takeaway

This World Cup was supposed to be a high for streaming, although Optus’ example shows there might still be growing pains. Projections ahead of the tournament expected streaming could rival linear broadcasting for the first time. At least one outlet has enjoyed success during the tournament. Telemundo Deportes destroyed a streaming record during Mexico’s historic win over Germany in the first round. That game ranked as the most-streamed event in the company’s history with 1.1 million unique views.