Optus say they have made their English Premier League coverage exclusive to their customers because they ‘want to give consumers another reason to consider us’.
The telco outbid Fox Sports for the rights in November. Details of their plans to broadcast the most popular sports league in the world were finally revealed on Wednesday.
Unless they are Optus customers, Australians will not be able to watch the Premier League – apart from one match screened on SBS each round.
Broadband plans eligible for EPL viewing cost at least $85 per month. Optus customers with ineligible plans must pay an extra $15 per month to watch league matches.
“We want to give consumers another reason to consider us,” an Optus spokesperson told The New Daily.
Optus broadband is not available across all of Australia. The company’s spokesperson said customers in areas without Optus broadband coverage had other options.
“English Premier League can be streamed over any mobile or fixed broadband network,” the spokesperson said.
“Customers can choose one of our mobile plans and then add a ‘Yes TV’ Fetch Mini device to screen the EPL on their TV.
“We [also] have a satellite option for customers in areas where there is no Optus broadband network.”
Optus has not given potential consumers the chance to buy a Premier League package only, be it through their TV or online.
The cheapest Optus package eligible for a Premier League upgrade is a $40 postpaid mobile plan. With the upgrade, fans would be charged $55 per month.
Optus said that they were “confident” football fans would make the switch if they were not already with the company.
Football fans fumed on Twitter on Wednesday. Arsenal Australia president Tony Kendall said he expected many fans to look to internet streaming for matches.
“Our members are disappointed … more people are talking about streaming,” he told The New Daily.
“This [Foxtel losing the rights] will negatively impact a lot of our members and fans. But as Arsenal fans, we’ll share information on how to watch [online].
“Whether it’s right, I don’t know … but there’s different ways to skin a cat.”
Founder of The L Files, Australia’s number one Liverpool website, Wayne Psaila, agreed.
“People kind of feel like they are being held to ransom,” he said.
“Optus coverage isn’t great everywhere and people are worried about quality. The prices are surprising, too. They’re a lot higher than we thought.
“The backlash has been huge … I think they will do a re-think. [If not], streaming is going to happen a heck of a lot more.”
Consumer group CHOICE said the high pricing meant consumers would use virtual private networks (VPN) to access Premier League coverage from other nations.
“The current EPL season is available in New Zealand for $91, streaming every match on any device in full HD,” CHOICE spokesman Matt Levey said.
“Telcos need to realise that the days of locking Australians out of the international market for content are over.”
How it will actually work
Optus will run one channel entirely dedicated to the English Premier League.
It will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with an additional nine sub-channels allowing them to show all 380 matches of the Premier League season live.
News programs and analysis will also be screened on the channel.
The channel can be viewed on a Fetch set-top box, or a Fetch Mini device, both available through Optus.
Customers can also watch the Premier League channel on smartphones and tablets, and all streaming over the mobile and fixed broadband network will be data free – on eligible plans.
Premier League might still be on Foxtel
The pay-TV network are still hopeful of screening some Premier League matches – but delayed, not live.
According to a report in the Australian Financial Review, Foxtel is investigating the possibility of acquiring licences for many of the major club’s own television channels, including Manchester United’s MUTV and Liverpool’s LFC TV.
If Foxtel were successful, they would be able screen matches on delay in addition to other club-specific programs.