Lessons learned from the world’s biggest streaming service are fuelling Optus’ continued drive for sports rights in Australia, the telco has revealed.
Optus, which signed a three-year deal with Cricket Australia in 2015 to live stream matches and produce exclusive content, shocked football fans when it won the exclusive English Premier League rights in November.
The wins kept coming, with the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Confederations Cup both added to the telco’s portfolio. Optus will also show matches of the upcoming International Champions Cup, which involves Melbourne Victory and a host of football’s biggest clubs.
Optus views sports rights as a key growth area and the organisation’s head of TV, mobile video and content, Paul Rybicki, told The New Daily further opportunities – including the rights for the A-League – are being explored.
“We’re looking at other content,” he said.
“We’ve been on a content journey for a while now. Over the last few years in particular, video consumption over the internet is growing.”
Mr Rybicki said Netflix had changed the video content consumption dynamic completely.
“We see what OTT [over-the-top content, a term used for delivery of media over the internet] is doing in the US and we think that trend will happen here as well,” he said.
“So our investment as a network has been to optimise for video and therefore buying content that is exclusive and that people want to consume over the internet.
“The Premier League was one of those things that we felt would be the right content to move people [to Optus] and to engage.
“[In terms of the A-League], we would look at all opportunities and [see] whether they are right for our fans and for our customers.”
One of the many reasons behind the success of Netflix and other streaming services is their on-demand model, and it’s something that Optus can replicate – as opposed to previous rights holder Foxtel – with the English Premier League.
The telco is promising to make matches, highlights shows and other programs on-demand so fans can watch when they want, as opposed to Foxtel’s model, where fans had to record programs.
“The minute after a game finishes, it becomes available on demand,” Mr Rybicki said.
“It is still up there until the next round too, which will be up to a couple of weeks when there’s an international break.
“And if you haven’t yet managed to find what the score is, it doesn’t show you – so there’s a sort of spoiler alert [you can click] so you can watch the game without knowing what the score is.”
The fact Optus made the Premier League exclusive to its customers only, and is largely delivering it over the internet, certainly ruffled feathers among sports fans.
But Mr Rybicki said the confusion was natural given Optus was changing the landscape of the way sports is delivered in Australia.
And he is confident that Optus has a good enough product to drive change in the way Aussie fans consume their sport.
“Sky [Sports] had a monopoly over [English football rights in the UK] and BT Sport came in and offered something similar to what we are looking to do,” he said.
“It is almost exactly the same. If you look at the US market, again, a lot of those sports already are well and truly being delivered over the internet.
Mr Rybicki described Optus’ broadcasting method as “a bit of a change in psyche. It is a bit of a change in mindset”.
“It’s about connecting your smart TV to the internet and how many homes have that today?” he said.
“Some households are still connecting their PC laptop with an HDMI to their TV, but actually you don’t need to that any more.
“There are other ways to watch TV via the internet. We are certainly hoping that this content will drive some of that change.”
The new Premier League season begins on Saturday August 13.