The great World Cup TV swindle

apaway Roar Guru

By apaway, apaway is a Roar Guru

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    Portugal and Spain produced a classic for the ages this past weekend.

    Cristiano Ronaldo finally got to score against the Spanish and loved it so much he did it three times, and the Iberian neighbours served up a ten-course banquet of the most sumptuous football any viewer could hope for.

    » See who to tip tonight in our World Cup expert tips column

    Luckily for most of Australia, the game was televised on SBS.

    About five hours earlier I, along with most of the football-loving public, got our first taste of the Optus Sport coverage of the World Cup with the match between Uruguay and Egypt via their much-vaunted app. If Spain-Portugal was a ten-course feast, Optus’s attempts to bring the game onto TV screens was the equivalent of out-of-date french onion dip and stale crackers.

    A quick visit to Optus’s Facebook page and website revealed that many people were experiencing what I was seeing, which was essentially nothing, punctuated by a spinning bagel, then some ghostly garbled images. So the telco’s claim of bringing us every second of the action of this World Cup probably needs a hefty qualifier along the lines of, “If our streaming service and your download speed are absolutely top notch and you’re the only person trying to watch the game”.

    How did it come to this? How is almost 60 per cent of the biggest sporting event in the world getting quarantined in Australia by a company who don’t even have a TV platform? Especially when there is this old, possibly archaic but still-existing government edict called the TV anti-siphoning laws?

    The general consensus goes along these lines: someone had exclusive rights to televise all the World Cup games either live in brilliant HD or something substantially less brilliant. Whether that was SBS or Optus doesn’t really stand up to the admittedly circumspect scrutiny of most casual observers.

    Cristiano Ronaldo

    (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

    Given SBS has faithfully brought Australian viewers every World Cup game since 1990 (with a very brief and unsuccessful interlude by Channel Nine in 2002), we’ll go with the multicultural network as the hosts. This is very much in line with those previously mentioned anti-siphoning laws, which were set up to ensure that our favourite major sporting events were not gobbled up by then-fledgling cable TV operators who were searching for the hook to entice Australians to pay for their services.

    Somewhere in the last two years our sports viewing comfort was shaken by the insertion of Optus into the football broadcasting market via their audacious yanking of the Australian broadcast rights of the English Premier League from previous home Foxtel. Foxtel is one of those previously mentioned cable TV operators, but given they’ve now been around for more than two decades, they have become a part of the TV landscape in this country – and by “TV landscape”, I mean the sort where you point a remote control at a TV screen and select a channel to watch a show on, whether you are paying a subscription for that privilege or not.

    Optus have no such platform, not anymore. Instead they were into live streaming, a concept I am only just getting my head around, being firmly of the generation that still points the remote at a screen and hits a button. Not that I had any need to worry, or so I thought – SBS would be looking after my World Cup needs, right?

    Well, only about 40 per cent of them, it turns out. For the rest I needed to either be an Optus customer and gain access to a Fetch TV box or download an app for a not unreasonable cost and then watch games through a few different technological link-ups that my non-technological brain was doing its best to grasp.

    Before I go further, I should say that not even Optus were entirely sure what my options as a non-customer were.

    At one point I was told I could indeed purchase a Fetch box for a cost far less reasonable than the app (but I had to buy it for 12 months, not just one). At another, I was told that I could not do that unless I was also a mobile customer. Optus customer service was seeming to do a good job imitating their eventual streaming service – a lot of nothing punctuated by a few seconds of clarity.

    But how did 60 per cent of the World Cup slip away from SBS? It would seem that SBS traded their mad month of football for a Premier League game each week. So my admittedly dodgy maths says they got 10 per cent of the EPL but lost 60 per cent of the World Cup.

    Does this mean Australia is the only country that has to rely on a streaming service for their full diet of the tournament? I have no idea, but I’d be really surprised if the situation viewers are facing up to here was repeated in other countries without a bloody coup led by football fans who were sick of seeing a spinning doughnut on their World Cup screen.

    For that was the experience during the Egypt-Uruguay game, the first one of the tournament that was brought to us exclusively by Optus. The many frustrated posts on the Optus site of viewers having their feed drop out, their stream buffered, their screen frozen, was symptomatic of a general football populace who were close to putting a boot through their expensive HD screens.

    Apparently, those with the Fetch box had no such issues, but I’m unsure what percentage of Optus’s total subscriber population this represents.

    I watched my first ever World Cup match in 1974 on a black and white TV. It was Australia versus East Germany in the very early hours of a tired nine-year-old kid’s day. The stream didn’t buffer, the screen didn’t freeze. How can it be that 44 years later thousands of people didn’t get the chance to do that?

    Optus only have a few hours to sort out the issue and there appears to be little urgency to do so. A lot of apps might be getting returned today.

    Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • Roar Guru

      June 18th 2018 @ 8:04am
      Griffo said | June 18th 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      If it works it will be very, very good.

      But it’s not and it’s shocking.

      I expect Optus will release some very nice financial figures and ROI in a media release but that will be at the detriment of any actual usage by some of those customers.

      Some reports are that the iOS version of the app is a little problematic. Hoping for that update to sort it and show it was software not infrastructure (network) or hardware (servers) which are so early 2000’s as an excuse.

      Costa Rica vs Serbia last night was – and this was just my experience but similar were posted – totally unwatchable first half, and intermittent during the second half but not much better during long periods early on before relatively okay just before the end of game.

      Some have said the SBS app which allows your Optus login is better. I could see the Germany Mexico game early on but was poor quality due to lack of bandwidth (possibly my end but who knows without looking at online figures).

      Many are calling for SBS to be giving the task of showing all the games now for the rest of the tournament.

      I can’t see that happening giving their agreement but unless Optus can sort something out by yesterday, I’d agree they should allow simulcast with SBS until sorted.

      Hoping Telstra is up to snuff for the A-League although I expect there are a lot more people watching football than normally would.

      • Roar Guru

        June 18th 2018 @ 10:45am
        AdelaideDocker said | June 18th 2018 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        It seems that just about everybody has trouble with Costa Rica v Serbia! I eventually switched to my phone (the SBS app) and it worked beautifully.

        Got Germany v Mexico to work on my laptop for a while before I went to bed, so the trend seems to be Optus screws up the early game then works fine for the later games.

        • June 18th 2018 @ 11:16am
          Damo said | June 18th 2018 @ 11:16am | ! Report

          Probably because people give up and don’t bother with the later games, reducing load.

          • June 18th 2018 @ 11:35am
            Brian said | June 18th 2018 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            Gave up on Serbia v Costa Rica early came back around the 40th minute and had no problems thereafter. For Germany then switched to the TV, probably like many others which reduced the load.

            Certainly won’t be keeping Optus for the EPL

            • June 18th 2018 @ 2:52pm
              Jim said | June 18th 2018 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

              Its a shame that they keep having such issues – all in all, their EPL content is vastly better than what was ever provided under Foxtel.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 18th 2018 @ 8:22am
      Stevo said | June 18th 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      I also decided to experiment with the Optus app on my iPad and so far a so-so experience. I would not recommend it. Foxtel on a dedicated platform far superior.

      As for 1974 you should have mentioned that it wasn’t HD quality and often you were watching a noisy picture but that didn’t matter 🙂

    • June 18th 2018 @ 9:41am
      Lionheart said | June 18th 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      Try a Fetch mini box. Works great and at no cost I found, as a customer already (on a fairly small plan).

      • June 18th 2018 @ 12:37pm
        Dillan said | June 18th 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

        Did you get the Yes TV by Fetch via Optus..? Usually there is a monthly charge for that..?

        • June 18th 2018 @ 1:58pm
          shirtpants said | June 18th 2018 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

          I got fetch tv included free of charge. It worked for about two weeks until the adapters became faulty. They replaced it but the new ones also didn’t work after quite some time troubleshooting on the phone both times. Its new home is in a cupboard as per the last 12 months +

          I don’t want to stay with optus once my current plans are up

        • June 18th 2018 @ 4:13pm
          Lionheart said | June 18th 2018 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

          I got the Fetch mini. It’s at no cost because I’m an existing Optus customer, albeit with a minimal plan. So I’m paying the $15 pm and can stream through a device also, but haven’t. The Fetch box is working great – no problems at all (fingers crossed I guess given shirtpants experience).

    • June 18th 2018 @ 9:48am
      AR said | June 18th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      Funny isn’t it.

      SBS went from the beloved traditional home of soccer, to a dodgy pariah who was selling the game short.

      Gallop and the FFA are largely responsible for this – publicly berating then-partner SBS (which just had its budget slashed by the Libs) for not showing the ALeague on its main channel despite the appalling ratings.

      Enter ‘new player’ Optus – heralding a modern digital provider to take the game forward – EPL, the World Cup…Australia…

      How we yearn for SBS now.

      My favourite thing about the World Cup is watching random matches between countries at 2am. We’ve enjoyed that quadrennial treat for decades. What a crying shame this is.

      • June 18th 2018 @ 11:34am
        Matt said | June 18th 2018 @ 11:34am | ! Report

        How is it the FFA’s fault that Fox Sports didn’t pay for the rights to the EPL? They instead invested their money into the rights of the A-League which had the knock on effect of the SBS then buying rights to the EPL off Optus and having to relinquish the World Cup rights.

      • June 18th 2018 @ 12:58pm
        Nemesis said | June 18th 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

        Utter nonsense. Just pure garbage to draw any connection between FFA and Optus Sports buying World Cup broadcast rights from SBS in exchange for one EPL match per week.

        You might get away with utter garbage discussing other sports, but football fans know the truth.

        First. FFA has nothing – zero, nada, zilch – to do with World Cup broadcast rights. The rights are sold directly by FIFA to broadcasters.

        Second, this decision was purely driven by SBS management who decided to go with EPL content rather than World Cup content.

        • June 18th 2018 @ 1:52pm
          Matt said | June 18th 2018 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

          Sorry Nemesis, if I didn’t word it correctly. I’m a bit sleep deprived from watching the tennis and not as articulate in getting my point across. You are correct FFA have nothing to do with the World Cup rights.

    • Roar Guru

      June 18th 2018 @ 10:12am
      JamesH said | June 18th 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

      Honestly, I would care so much more if the matches were on at watchable times. From this point forward it’s all between roughly 10pm and 6am, which is just about the worst timing you could get for someone with two young children.

      The SBS match of the day at 7am is a godsend. I stayed offline and watched the Portugal vs Spain replay on Saturday morning and loved every minute of it.

      Optus has 4 years to get its act together (or relinquish the rights back to SBS).

      • Roar Guru

        June 18th 2018 @ 10:43am
        AdelaideDocker said | June 18th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        I don’t mind the 10pm ones, but heading into the early hours of the morning is irritating. I did stay up to watch Peru and Denmark up until the wee hours of Sunday morning, but that was a massive stretch.

        • Roar Guru

          June 18th 2018 @ 10:56am
          JamesH said | June 18th 2018 @ 10:56am | ! Report

          If I was childless then I would absolutely watch some of those games too! Unfortunately when you’re certain to be woken up somewhere in the vicinity of 6am it’s just not feasible 🙁

          • Roar Guru

            June 18th 2018 @ 11:02am
            AdelaideDocker said | June 18th 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

            Ha! You should’ve seen me being woken up for work a 8:30am yesterday, when I wasn’t asleep before 4:30am. I wasn’t too happy!

      • June 18th 2018 @ 11:36am
        Brian said | June 18th 2018 @ 11:36am | ! Report

        10pm perfect when you have kids. Much better then 7pm

        • Roar Guru

          June 18th 2018 @ 2:22pm
          JamesH said | June 18th 2018 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

          Nah they’re young enough that they go to bed at 7pm. At 7pm it’s my wife that makes it difficult to watch games…

      • June 18th 2018 @ 12:23pm
        Bilbo said | June 18th 2018 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

        Yeah it will get hard from next week as from then on games are only on at midnight or 4am (AEST) for the rest of the tournament. Enjoy the 10pm games this week.

      • June 18th 2018 @ 4:18pm
        Lionheart said | June 18th 2018 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

        with Optus, I’ll just get up when I wake, sometime after 6, and watch the matches on demand. It works for me, although I do watch the first match live and will be up for all Socceroo matches.

    • June 18th 2018 @ 10:34am
      malibu77 said | June 18th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

      I’m in the USA at present and every game is live on either FOX or Fox sports 1. And the national team didn’t even qualify!

      • June 18th 2018 @ 12:20pm
        lesterlike said | June 18th 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

        Having to watch Football on Fox is a punishment I wouldn’t wish on any non-seppo. If you thought Commercial FTA sport coverage was utterly ignorant here, it’s got nothing on Fox and their team of hot-take merchants.

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