Is the new EPL broadcast deal really a good thing for fans?

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    In just over six months a new English Premier League campaign kicks off. So why hasn’t Optus announced its broadcast plans yet?

    Last November’s announcement that telecommunications provider Optus had secured the exclusive Australian broadcast rights to the EPL for the next three seasons was a huge surprise to many.

    With pay TV network Fox Sports the long-term home of English top-flight football on Australian screens, news that the current EPL season will be Fox’s last came as a shock.

    Fox currently broadcasts up to ten EPL games live and in high definition each week, with simultaneous kick-offs available on demand.

    That will no longer be the case next season, after Optus outbid both Fox and Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports in a deal reportedly worth upwards of $50 million.

    One well-placed source told me that while Fox suspected it might lose the EPL rights, the network expected to relinquish them to beIN Sports.

    When news broke that Fox would lose its 18-year-stranglehold on the EPL, some fans on social media predicted it would drive down costs for Australian consumers. I’m not so sure.

    What is certain is that Optus’ failure to deliver anything other than a cursory media release is not a good start.

    A fortnight after the announcement, the Australian Financial Review’s Paul Smith wrote a detailed analysis of what Optus must do to avoid alienating fans.

    Putting aside questions of what the actual broadcasts will look like, so far the telecommunications provider has failed to provide any insight whatsoever around almost all of Smith’s key points.

    Add to that the online rumours that some Optus staff were talking about running advertising during the ‘EPL finals’ and you get the sneaking suspicion they don’t necessarily know what they’re doing.

    Of course, Optus nabbing the EPL rights could still turn out to be a positive thing.

    It’s almost certain the matches will be screened via IPTV service Fetch TV, while Optus’ mobile phone and internet users will presumably enjoy complimentary access to EPL broadcasts.

    Meanwhile, Optus chief executive Allen Lew has insisted the company’s infrastructure will be upgraded to broadcast multiple games in high definition over high-speed internet connections.

    Given that Optus has already signed a streaming deal with Cricket Australia and Lew himself long ago cited his plan to aggressively bid for content, it’s unlikely the EPL rights will be the last major addition to the sporting stable.

    The problem for Optus is that it has just wrested control of a television product that is already expertly broadcast.

    Will Optus offer pre and post-game analyses from former Premier League winners like Mark Bosnich and Robbie Slater? Will highlights be readily available on TV and online?

    Watch beIN Sports’ live Serie A game on a Monday morning, for example, and you’ll find your analysis comes from British broadcaster Andy Kerr’s Sunday Night Live panel show.

    It’s serviceable-enough viewing, but it has nothing to do with Australia or the way we watch our football.

    Ironically, it was News Corp chairman Robert Thomson who labelled Australian EPL fans “insomniacs” in the wake of Fox losing the rights to a product screened in the early hours.

    As it stands, the A-League generally out-rates the EPL – although there should also be some serious questions asked about how the OzTAM ratings are produced.

    Ultimately, Fox’s loss could well be our communal gain, with Optus driving down pay TV prices and offering a superior broadcast experience.

    However, their silence so far is damning. If Optus genuinely expects EPL fans to switch telco providers, they’ve already left their run alarmingly late.

    More likely is that Optus nabbing the EPL rights will only add to fans’ costs, particularly if they choose to share it exclusively with Optus customers.

    And an expensively-acquired broadcast product could ironically be what drives us all back to illegal streams.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (156)

    • Roar Rookie

      February 2nd 2016 @ 6:44am
      Stevo said | February 2nd 2016 @ 6:44am | ! Report

      If Optus think I’m going to change phone provider just because they nabbed the EPL rights they better go away and do their homework again. If I have to make a choice I’ll stick to supporting the HAL on Fox. Support your local game I say and scr@w Optus.

      • Roar Guru

        February 2nd 2016 @ 8:10am
        Mister Football said | February 2nd 2016 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        I’m very much in the same boat. With the A-League still on Fox for at least another season, along with the plethora of other sports and sport news, for me, it becomes definitely a case of bye bye Premier League.

        • Roar Guru

          February 2nd 2016 @ 10:33pm
          Bob Brown said | February 2nd 2016 @ 10:33pm | ! Report

          “We’ll all be rooned” said Hanrahan, “before the year is out.”

          “The EPL is dead, Long live the EPL.”

    • Roar Guru

      February 2nd 2016 @ 7:48am
      Mister Football said | February 2nd 2016 @ 7:48am | ! Report

      An excellent and balanced view of the pros and cons of Optus having the Premier League rights.

      • February 4th 2016 @ 11:41am
        blah said | February 4th 2016 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        really? everything this tuckerman hack is saying is baseless. i wouldn’t be surprised if he works for fox.

        • Columnist

          February 4th 2016 @ 12:03pm
          Mike Tuckerman said | February 4th 2016 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

          Thanks for the contribution. I can categorically confirm that I don’t work for Fox Sports.

    • February 2nd 2016 @ 7:55am
      CG2430 said | February 2nd 2016 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      The thought of any major European league having a finals series makes my blood run cold.

    • February 2nd 2016 @ 8:02am
      AR said | February 2nd 2016 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      Good piece Mike. As Paul Smith wrote last year, the clock is ticking. Will be very interesting to see the delivery method with all the details.

    • February 2nd 2016 @ 8:33am
      Eden said | February 2nd 2016 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      I would think they are negotiating with fox and bein as we speak to on sell the broadcast rights so fox keeps the same mode as this year, but optus will offer streaming via fetch subscription as well.

    • February 2nd 2016 @ 8:43am
      Mals said | February 2nd 2016 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      I’ve been told by an insider at Optus that you have to be on a 24 month Optus mobile or internet plan to qualify for the free EPL coverage.

      Comment from The Roar’s iPhone app.

      • Columnist

        February 2nd 2016 @ 12:25pm
        Mike Tuckerman said | February 2nd 2016 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

        Interesting. There could be a lot of disappointed EPL fans next season.

        • February 2nd 2016 @ 1:44pm
          FIUL said | February 2nd 2016 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

          Mike, do you have any media contacts in Singapore?

          Singtel has had the EPL rights in Singapore since 2010 &, given Singtel owns Optus, I think it would be reasonable to assume Optus will provide a similar delivery model for EPL to what Singtel provides in Singapore.

          From what I recall, Tara Rushton was part of the Singtel team broadcasting EPL in Singapore before she was recruited by FoxSports.

          • Columnist

            February 2nd 2016 @ 1:57pm
            Mike Tuckerman said | February 2nd 2016 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

            I’m aware of Singtel and their Premier League broadcasts. We shall see if Optus offers a similar experience.

            • February 2nd 2016 @ 2:17pm
              FIUL said | February 2nd 2016 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

              Are you able to provide any information about Singtel’s delivery options for EPL in Singapore, from your research for this article?

              • Columnist

                February 2nd 2016 @ 2:31pm
                Mike Tuckerman said | February 2nd 2016 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

                No, as I don’t live in Singapore and regularly watch EPL matches there. The following might cast more light: http://www.zdnet.com/article/singtel-secures-premier-league-rights/

              • February 2nd 2016 @ 2:34pm
                FIUL said | February 2nd 2016 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

                Thanks, Mike.

                That is exactly the information I need. Bit too much to devour at work, so I’ve got a bit of reading tonight.

              • February 2nd 2016 @ 2:41pm
                Bondy said | February 2nd 2016 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

                Fuss

                T Rushton in Singapore did a similar formatted programme ” comments prior, during and after the match ” as to what A Peacock, M Bosnich & R Slater do on a Saturday evenings with the EPL ..

              • Roar Rookie

                February 2nd 2016 @ 3:21pm
                Horto Magiko said | February 2nd 2016 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

                Yep bondy.. The show was called “tiger goals on Sunday”…. Here’s a snippet of the riveting viewing..

                PS. Tara’s butt in tight bike shorts at 2:56mins.

                https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mGtQxYJoYnk

              • February 2nd 2016 @ 9:44pm
                Stumpy said | February 2nd 2016 @ 9:44pm | ! Report

                How do I get Patrick’s job? 🙂

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