Australian telecommunications company Optus Sports had been the exclusive carrier for the vast majority of the World Cup in that country until recent technical issues of such scale have prompted free broadcast network SBS to simulcast the next 48 hours of matches.
An Optus VP acknowledged that an overload of concurrent users prompted problems for some viewers. The hashtag #OptusFail trended on Twitter as irate fans took to the social media platform to complain.
SBS originally won the World Cup rights to this year’s tournament but later swapped them in a trade for a share of Optus’ English Premier League rights. In the terms of that deal, Optus received exclusive live carriage of 39 matches, which would not include the final or any match involving Australia.
Optus CEO Allen Lew offered “an unreserved apology” to affected customers. The outage even drew attention from Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and members of the country’s Parliament.
A message from @Optus CEO Allen Lew.#OptusSport #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/cXN1qZ0htb
— Optus (@Optus) June 18, 2018
As pervasive and powerful as OTT streaming is, these types of issues persist often enough that many fans don’t trust the services. At least one market study indicated that 72 percent of sports fans expect glitches with buffering and lag while streaming. Among the notable issues from the past year: DAZN had early issues after launching in Canada and Showtime’s pay-per-view feed of the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight suffered significant outages and choppiness.
Another key point raised by the problem in Australia is that of the cost of sports rights. Federal Labor MP Stephen Jones cited a cut to SBS’s budget that had prompted the sub-licensing of World Cup rights. On Monday, SBS CEO Michael Ebeid confirmed that was a factor to the Sydney Morning Herald. The list of carriers who can afford to pay for huge deals is small, and the end result isn’t always favorable to the consumer.