Optus is just weeks away from releasing its 24/7 online English Premier League (EPL) channel as the telco begins to transform into a content company.
After snatching the rights for three years from incumbent Fox Sports last year in a surprise $189 million bid, Optus has been working on its smartphone and tablet app, which is set to go live on July 4, a month out from the start of the new season.
Optus gave Business Insider a sneak preview at some of the features on the 24/7 channel and it’s an impressive offering that may even turn some of the telco’s Australian customers into fans of the beautiful game.
The app will broadcast all 380 games live, backing it up with an on-demand feature straight after the match. They’ve also designed it so that if you are a latecomer to the game, it hides the score.
The app launches in a fortnight with a back catalogue of games and preview shows before it kicks off with live matches from the International Champions Cup on July 22.
The EPL season starts on August 13.
Existing fan numbers in Australia suggest Optus knows it’s onto a good thing. One game last season attracted 135,000 viewers, while around 500,000 watched a game during the season, in spite of the limits imposed by pay TV, which reaches just a third of households.
Optus is currently offering the first season of the EPL for free to customers who sign up before July 31. From August 1, anyone who signs up to plans under $85 a month threshold will pay a $15 monthly subscription fee.
Optus’ head of TV and mobile content Paul Rybicki says the 24-hour channel will deliver plenty for fans, including previews, a twice-daily news football news show, post-match analysis, highlights and panel chat shows. The shows are anchored by the BBC Manish Bhasin, joined by the likes of Arsenal champion Ian Wright, and Ireland’s Andy Townsend.
There’s even a split screen option if you want to see two games at once, although on a smartphone, that may be a challenge. But the resolution is good enough that even if you hooked up your phone to a TV, it would look pretty good.
And, crucially, watching the EPL doesn’t chew up any additional bandwidth under the deal.
Rybicki believes the time difference isn’t an issue for hardcore fans since “they get up in the middle of the night to watch the game live anyway”.
The move into a 24-hour digital channel is the start of a major push by Optus to build brand loyalty among its existing base, as well as attracting new customers.
Rybicki won’t be drawn on numbers or goals for the telco as a result of the move into content, but asserts the expense of acquiring the rights will pay off in the long run.
Users are also able to register up to four devices on a single subscription.
If you’re not an Optus customer, you can hook into the EPL via Apple TV for $30 a month, or there’s the Yes TV mini set-top box.
Here’s a taste of what to expect from the upcoming EPL app.