SBS is screening World Cup games for 48 hours after the Optus streaming fail

Dominic Lorrimer/Getty Images
  • PM Malcolm Turnbull called Optus CEO Allen Lew yesterday over problems with live streams of the World Cup.
  • Optus has apologised for the glitches and says it should have things fixed now, but is letting SBS screen games for the next two days as a back-up plan.
  • The telco appears to have been caught out by the popularity of its service.

Free-to-air TV broadcaster SBS will simulcast all World Cup games for the next two days as a band-aid solution to the problems with the Optus streaming app.

Optus CEO Allen Lew announced the decision on Monday night after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull intervened on the issue and contacted the telco boss about the problems with the streaming service.

“We know Australian football fans are amongst the world’s most passionate, and vocal, and we clearly understand Australia’s passion for this major event, and the frustration that goes along with not being able to watch the event,” Lew said.

“In light of this Optus has announced that it will simulcast the next two nights of 2018 FIFA World Cup matches with SBS.”

The move was welcomed by communications minister Mitch Fifield, who called the decision “sensible”.

SBS managing director Michael Ebeid said that the initial deal was for 48 hours, but the broadcaster was prepared to continue with broadcasts if the problems with the app and website are not fixed.

“We’ll see how it goes over the next two nights and then we’ll together — as partners and broadcasters — we’ll reassess, and if we need to continue we’ll make that decision at the time,” he said.

Lew said “most Optus Sport viewers have had a positive viewing experience”, but also conceded it was “unacceptable” that the app crashed for some.

“I offer an unreserved apology to those customers that have been let down. We have a dedicated team which has been working around the clock to address technical issues where they have occurred,” he said.

“We are confident that we have a solution in place and will be using this time to undertake robust testing of all systems.”

The company also made Fetch Mini boxes available for free to customers “where appropriate”, but that led to further complaints when customers went to Optus retail stores to pick one up and found they’d run out.

Calls for refunds have been resisted so far by the telco.

While SBS had been the host broadcaster for previous World Cups, Optus won the exclusive rights then faced a barrage of complaints as the tournament got underway and subscribers to Optus Sport were met with a series of crashes, connection problems and other issues during the initial games for people trying to watch on a smartphone or tablet.

Optus Sport is charging subscribers $15 for the service and it seems the telco was caught on the hop by just how popular it was.

Optus vice president of regulation and public affairs Andrew Sheridan said “the simultaneous volume was much greater than we had anticipated”.

As a result, with no SBS broadcast for the first time – it has some games – in place, plenty of Australian fans missed seeing Friday’s Egypt v Uruguay match, and the problems continued throughout the weekend, including Sunday night’s Costa Rica v Serbia match.

SBS has the rights to screen all Australian matches, plus some group clashes as well as the finals on free-to-air TV.

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