Optus has scored a big win over Foxtel by securing the Australian broadcast rights to the hugely-popular English Premier League, with one expert saying it is a “major blow” to Rupert Murdoch’s pay-TV empire.
In a deal announced on Monday, Optus will pay a reported $63 million a year over three years to broadcast the EPL in Australia, starting August 2016.
Foxtel currently spends between $20-$25 million to screen the EPL. The Optus deal adds to Foxtel’s recent losses of the NRL and Big Bash cricket broadcast rights.
One sports media expert told The New Daily the news showed that Foxtel was “under threat”.
According to Optus, the deal “includes live broadcast coverage and digital rights for broadband and mobile for all 380 Premier League games, every season”.
Optus CEO Allen Lew said in a statement: “Today’s announcement is a great win for Optus and will ensure that Aussie football fans can watch all the action from the world’s most popular football league.”
However, not all Australian football fans were happy with the announcement.
Soon after the news broke, a Twitter account was created to mourn Foxtel’s sporting channel – FoxSports – losing the rights.
While some of Australia’s dedicated EPL fandom were angered, there might be more serious implications for the future of Foxtel itself in the wake of the deal.
Foxtel ‘most at risk’ in multi-platform age
As Foxtel battles competition for its entertainment offerings from streaming services like Netflix, Presto and Stan, it now is being raided for its premium sporting content.
“Sport is absolutely central to Foxtel,” University of Western Sydney’s sports media expert David Rowe told The New Daily.
“Rupert Murdoch famously called sport the ‘battering ram’ in terms of pay-TV’s offerings … It is a major blow.
“Foxtel has had the advantage of being a virtual monopoly for a long time in Australia.
“But there is no doubt that it would feel under threat.”
Mr Rowe said that while Foxtel is a long way from dying and that television is still the dominant way to watch sports, it is no surprise that other companies want to take it from them.
Foxtel will still broadcast every AFL and A-League game live, W-League and Socceroos (bar World Cup) games live and all Wallabies matches (bar the World Cup) live.
But the loss of the NRL, Big Bash and Matador Cup (domestic one-day) cricket – plus now the EPL – signals a shift in broadcasters’ attitude to delivering sports for consumers.
It is also significant that NFL, NBA, MLB and other big world football codes can be streamed on various platforms, meaning Foxtel is less necessary to the consumer for watching international sport.
“In the digital environment subscription television is most at risk,” Mr Rowe said.
“Sport is a very attractive option for mobile. Mobile viewing is the new growth area and telcos think they can get subscribers through offering better content from this point of view.
“It is not a surprise that companies want to take sport away from the traditional broadcasters.”
EPL fans’ ‘major concerns’ over Optus deal
No specific or official details about pricing and platform broadcasting have been announced by Optus.
But on Twitter throughout Monday, Optus’ official account said the EPL would be broadcast on all “traditional platforms”, including television and mobile devices.
@marshedmathers You’ll be able to access EPL on multiple platforms inc. TV & mobile. More info to come before the start of the season. Steph
— Optus (@Optus) November 2, 2015
It said pricing would be announced closer to the beginning of the 2016/17 EPL season in August next year.
Gizmodo reported it is expected people will be able to watch the EPL on television, through Optus-linked streaming service Fetch TV, which is similar to Apple TV.
Hours after the deal was announced, a Twitter account named @eplonoptus, was spawned for fans to share anger at the new rights deal.
Its creator, Spencer, told The New Daily, moving to streaming would be bad for loyal fans.
“The entire match day experience will be lost to a click and play on-demand service,” Spencer said.
“Saturdays spent on the couch watching a handful of hosts discussing the sport on a live panel will be a thing of the past.
“Football will sadly become a matter of clicking on an ‘app’ to watch a delayed game, in poor quality … if your connection is good.”
Foxtel’s current “Sports Combo”, which includes EPL coverage, costs $50 a month.
There is no comparable sport pricing package that can be viewed for Fetch TV at this stage.
However, to get an idea of its current costs, some figures have been included below.
Fetch TV packages cost $15 per month for just the subscription box, plus an optional $15 per month for an entertainment package.
Fetch TV currently offers beIN Sports as an add-on channel – a sporting network with a host of overseas football – for an extra $14.95 per month.