The winners and losers in the 2018 World Cup broadcast battle

Marc C-Scott Roar Guru

By Marc C-Scott, Marc C-Scott is a Roar Guru

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36 Have your say

    France might have won the 2018 World Cup title, but who were the real winners in the broadcast battle?

    Not everyone could make it to Russia to watch the games live, and that left people all over the world relying on the distribution and associated media rights within their region.

    In Australia, there was a lot of debate and discussion around the media rights for the World Cup and associated technical issues. The rights were held by Optus, a major telecommunications company, not a traditional television broadcaster.

    Due to Australia’s anti-siphoning scheme, the public broadcaster SBS was able to broadcast Australia’s games, and the finals.

    But Optus’ streaming service created major headaches for those attempting to view the other games. Many people only received errors and were unable to watch the games at all.

    Initially, Optus passed on all of its rights to SBS for a 48-hour period, allowing Australians free access on a free-to-air broadcaster. This was to allow Optus time to resolve the technical issues.

    Prior to the end of the 48-hour period Optus relinquished all rights, allowing SBS to broadcast all remaining matches for the tournament.

    The Optus issue is just one example of factors that impacted the media component of the World Cup. This was a global event that was expected to have almost half the world’s population watching, and there are several examples from abroad that will impact the future of sportscasting, particularly for global events.

    Would you like some World Cup with that?

    We consistently see examples of sporting matches being broadcast on screens in pubs, but the World Cup showed another example.

    In Sweden, fast-food outlet McDonald’s used the World Cup as an incentive to have customers visit its stores. The company negotiated to have all the matches shown in its 207 restaurants across Sweden.

    Red Bee Media provided the service for McDonald’s, whose digital lead for Sweden, Rickard Berthold, noted:

    “We needed someone who could deliver the World Cup to our restaurants on a tight deadline and without any glitches.”

    But McDonald’s didn’t stop there. In Hong Kong, they partnered with Google and media agency OMD Hong Kong to create “Hungry Moments”.

    The partnership saw real-time promotional messages pushed to fans when they were at their hungriest. This was deemed to be at the beginning, half-time, the end of a game, and at each goal.

    Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring for France

    (Photo by Michael Regan – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

    Piracy impacts sport too

    While we commonly discuss piracy of pre-recorded television programs and movies, improved technology and access is now making piracy an issue for live events.

    Before the opening of the World Cup, letters were sent by Sony to any would-be pirates detailing what rights it had to any World Cup material.

    “We will be monitoring your activities for any act of infringement of the statutory and contractual rights of our client.”

    This fear had come from reports that there had been a number of illegal streams for the UEFA Champions League season.

    FIFA issued a statement accusing one “pirate channel named BeoutQ” of illegally distributing the opening matches of the World Cup. It was allegedly stealing another World Cup Satellite feed.

    Still, piracy prevention firm Irdeto reportedly detected 5,088 unique pirate streams, 582 of which were for Brazil’s games. There were also 523 illegal streams detected for England’s group games, despite being available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer and the ITV websites.

    Records were still broken

    Despite broadcast and streaming troubles, and the fear of piracy and illegal viewing of the World Cup matches, the tournament still broke records for legal viewing.

    For example, England’s penalty shootout against Colombia saw 23.6 million viewers watching on ITV and 3.3 million via the ITV Hub. This meant 81 per cent of people watching TV in the UK at that time were watching the match.

    Iceland’s first ever World Cup game saw 99.6 per cent of people in that country watching TV, to see their home team take on Argentina.

    Within days the 2018 World Cup surpassed the streaming records set during the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Akamia, the company that assists with streaming and was part of the Rio Olympics streaming, said that three-quarters of first round matches in 2018 exceeded the peak bandwidth for the whole of the 2014 tournament.

    The future streaming of sport

    Optus has a lot of work to do in regaining its current and future costumers after the World Cup ‘Floptus’ crisis. It is particularly important as it continues to try to grow its Optus Sport brand.

    The company has just extended its exclusive rights to the English Premier League for another three seasons, but highly public technical issues during the World Cup will make many consumers reluctant to pay for the product.

    The Optus failure has also raised concerns in New Zealand associated with the Rugby World Cup next year. The rights were won with a joint TVNZ (TV) and Spark (Teleommunciatons) deal, and many people are wondering whether Spark will suffer similar issues.

    The ConversationIn Australia, Optus’ failure has been a win for free-to-air broadcast television’s argument to be included in the broadcast of major live events. But the World Cup has also shown that Australians are willing to pay to stream sport to devices other than a TV.

    The challenge for media rights holders of large live events is to make sure they are ready and able to deliver the service as promised.

    Marc C-Scott, Lecturer in Screen Media, Victoria University

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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    The Crowd Says (36)

    • July 21st 2018 @ 9:23am
      chris said | July 21st 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      “Despite broadcast and streaming troubles, and the fear of piracy and illegal viewing of the World Cup matches, the tournament still broke records for legal viewing”.
      Of course it did. Thats what happens when the worlds number 1 sport is on.
      Which makes Optus’ chief comments about “unprecedented demand impacting our service” such a joke.
      Didn’t see it coming? And he heads up one of our leading telcos.

    • July 21st 2018 @ 9:31am
      Kangas said | July 21st 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      The World Cup should always remain on free to air , as it’s the most important sports event in the world .

      • July 21st 2018 @ 10:08am
        jamesb said | July 21st 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        Football World Cup and Summer Olympics should always remain on FTA.

      • July 21st 2018 @ 10:38am
        Nemesis said | July 21st 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        How do you propose to keep the World Cup on FTA TV?

        Even if the full WC tournament were to be placed on the Anti-Siphon List it does not mean the tournament will be broadcast on FTA TV.

        So, as far as I can see, there is absolutely no way the World Cup can be forcibly given to FTA TV unless the AUS Government passes a law that says the broadcaster who pays for the rights must allow FTA TV to sponge off them for free.

        • July 23rd 2018 @ 2:04am
          Pseudonym said | July 23rd 2018 @ 2:04am | ! Report

          As far as I am aware every game of the WC tournament is on the anti-siphoning list. However, the anti-siphoning legislation doesn’t mandate that, once acquired, a FTA network can’t sell its rights to something that is listed nor does the legislation mandate that FTA networks must bid for events/matches on the list at all in the first instance. This is why SBS were able to sell their World Cup broadcasting rights to Optus and also why Nine were able to sell coverage for most of the London Olympics to Fox.

          • July 23rd 2018 @ 1:18pm
            Nemesis said | July 23rd 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

            According to the List I have, the only Football matches on the Anti-Siphon List are

            a) FIFA WC Finals Tournament matches involving Australia
            b) FIFA WC Finale
            c) Australia’s World Cup Qualifiers when played at home


            • July 24th 2018 @ 10:10pm
              Pseudonym said | July 24th 2018 @ 10:10pm | ! Report

              Thanks; must’ve changed. Seems a few items have been tweaked or removed since I last read the list.

    • Roar Rookie

      July 21st 2018 @ 9:44am
      Waz said | July 21st 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

      Access aside Optus’s coverage was excellent and shows what a motivated broadcaster can do for football. Fox Sports coverage of the A League in contrast is very stale as they concentrate on their flagship products of NRL and AFL.

      With Optus’s expanded investment in football coverage whoever ends up running the A League next should beat a path to Optus’s door …. if you want to know where football fans are lately, they’re with Optus and all the European Leagues. The little pocket that remains with FoxSports is there for the HAL, but we need to be part of the football crowd and that’s not at an AFL/NRL-centric Fox.

      • July 21st 2018 @ 3:33pm
        MQ said | July 21st 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

        It’s a pity Optus wasn’t interested when they had the chance.

        They’ll get another chance at it in five years time.

        • Roar Rookie

          July 21st 2018 @ 3:42pm
          Waz said | July 21st 2018 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

          Who says it was Optus that wasn’t interested? By several accounts they were at least interested.

          And whatever was going on the FFA might have been wise to be cautious anyway given the technical glitches, but given Optus have now extended their EPL deal, picked up other leagues, and have complemented the WC with The Nations Cup and Champions League … Optus can now be considered “the home of football in Australia”.

          Why wouldn’t they want the HAL, and why wouldn’t the HAL want to go there?

        • July 21st 2018 @ 4:07pm
          Nemesis said | July 21st 2018 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

          Optus wasn’t interested at the time because the CEO had not yet embarked on a strategy to transform Optus from a pure pipes & wires company to an entertainment provider.

          FIFA sold the TV rights to the 2018 & 2022 World Cup in late 2012. The late, great Les Murray negotiated the transaction for SBS.

          SBS to broadcast FIFA World Cups in 2018 and 2022

          Full story:

          • July 21st 2018 @ 4:49pm
            MQ said | July 21st 2018 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

            By the time the HAL broadcast rights came up, Optus already had the Premier League rights sewn up. For whatever reason, Optus did not show any interest in the HAL.

            They’ll get another chance in 5 years time.

            You might recall at the time that there were experts on this very board predicting that all the new media would show interest in the HAL: Optus, Facebook, Netflix, YouTube, Twitter, etc. – these same experts were predicting a $100 mill per annum TV deal.

            Those experts were left with egg on their face because it never happened.

            • Roar Rookie

              July 21st 2018 @ 5:20pm
              Waz said | July 21st 2018 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

              You sound just like Mr. Football.

              rinse n repeat 😂

            • July 21st 2018 @ 7:14pm
              Nemesis said | July 21st 2018 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

              “For whatever reason, Optus did not show any interest in the HAL.”

              Optus did show interest in ALeague. However, Optus has made it very clear they do not want to be a production company. They do not have the expertise for this.

              All the football & cricket content that Optus LiveStreams is produced by a specialist company that has the capability in this field. Optus merely takes the video from the cameras, converts into “0 & 1” and transmits it via the internet to your device.

              At this stage, the ALeague is not equipped to produce its own Live football broadcast.

              Once the ALeague moves to an independent structure, this will all change.

              In fact, there are very strong rumours right now that the existing deal with FoxSports will be torn up when the ALeague moves independent – most likely for the start of the expanded 2019/20 season and the way we watch ALeague will be quite unique.

              31 July the Report from to FIFA will be delivered regarding the New FFA Congress.

              After that, Watch this space.
              It’s football .. but not as you know it.

              • Roar Rookie

                July 22nd 2018 @ 10:00pm
                Stevo said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:00pm | ! Report

                “It’s football .. but not as you know it.” Sounds uncannily like some past refrain from the FFA.

            • July 23rd 2018 @ 7:06pm
              Bondy said | July 23rd 2018 @ 7:06pm | ! Report


              I can tell how you write as to who you are , do you remember me ? . I won’t change my username … .

    • July 21st 2018 @ 10:01am
      Onside said | July 21st 2018 @ 10:01am | ! Report

      I enjoyed the article Marc. The Iceland 99.6% TV viewing must be a contender for a Guinness Book of records.

    • July 21st 2018 @ 10:32am
      Nemesis said | July 21st 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      Lots of information in this article, but I’m not sure I understood what message the writer is trying to deliver?

      Bottom line is TV rights for an event, like the World Cup, are sold by the content owner. The content owner for the World Cup is FIFA. FIFA sold the rights to the bidder that paid the most for it. In Australia, the only broadcaster to bid was SBS.

      But, SBS made its bid based on funding that was cut by Tony Abbott when he was Prime Minister. As a result, SBS had a choice. They either had to cut funding to other areas (e.g. TdF, local productions), or they could do a deal with Optus to sell the FIFA content to Optus.

      SBS chose to sell to Optus, all the content it purchased from FIFA in exchange for 1 EPL match on Saturday night & the rights to all AUS WC finals matches plus one match each day.

      What happens in future? Well the TV rights to WC2022 are part of the current deal, so nothing will change.

      The truth is, the Optus production is far more professional than anything I’ve seen from FoxSports, or SBS.

      • July 21st 2018 @ 1:09pm
        Onside said | July 21st 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        Do you think with hindsight other FTA networks might now wished that they tabled a bid.

        • July 21st 2018 @ 1:55pm
          Nemesis said | July 21st 2018 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

          We really need someone with deep working knowledge of the TV advertising industry to provide input. It seems TV advertising is based on 3 broad parameters:

          1) Time of the day
          2) Tv Network
          3) Number of viewers in particular demographics

          It appears Prime Time viewing attracts a premium advertising dollar.

          And, the 3 age demographics that get surveyed via the OzTAM People Meters are ages:

          I’ve no idea which is the highest value demographic. Common sense tells me it should be ages 25-54, but who knows if common sense is applicable to the advertising industry?

          It appears Ch7 attracts the highest TV advertising rates.
          Eg. Prime Time on Ch7 a 30″ ad costs $12-38k; on Ch9 at same prime time it’s $7-25k. SBS Prime Time it seems ads are $2-5k.

          So, maybe, the lack of advertising time during football + the low value timeslots make it unattractive for commercial tv to bid for it.

          Having said that, there are numerous ways for TV to insert ads into the broadcast without interrupting the play. Squeezeback ads are already used, but they could be used so much more. Same with ticker-tape ads, banner ads, etc.

          • July 21st 2018 @ 4:24pm
            Onside said | July 21st 2018 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

            Funny; ‘but who knows if common sense is applicable to the advertising industry?”

    • July 21st 2018 @ 4:33pm
      Rolly said | July 21st 2018 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

      The tV ratings were phenomenal .huge audiences on both FTA and Pay tV .I have fetch tV because I subscribe to the EPL so the World Cup coverage was included in my package. I beilieve the issues with Optus were with streaming on portable devices . I enjoyed optus coverage great team of presenters and there were quite a few on air staff which was great I had no issues with the streaming thru the fetch box the on demand stuff was awesome. .looking forward to all the added football tournaments on optus sport as long as there are no streaming issues . not a fan of the presenters on SBS coverage if your going to take on such a massive coverage then sbs need to get a bigger team of on air presenters to rely on just two was silly and looks cheaply done .its the biggest sporting event in the world needs to be dône properly optus team was streaks ahead .

      • July 23rd 2018 @ 10:26am
        Lionheart said | July 23rd 2018 @ 10:26am | ! Report

        Totally agree Rolly. I got a Fetch Mini just before the WC and loved the Optus coverage ands shows. They don’t have anyone on their panels with an axe to grind, unlike SBS and Fox, which made viewing pre and post game shows enjoyable. I hope they get into the A League and even NPL.

      • Roar Guru

        July 23rd 2018 @ 1:46pm
        Griffo said | July 23rd 2018 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        From what I was reading it was the iOS app that was causing the most issues in terms of streaming. A lot of work went on in that 48 hour window that SBS had coverage reinstated at that time but the improvements appeared to my individually as marginal.

        Personally I had other games and occasionally panel discussions pushing through the live feed, when the live feed worked at all. My connection is okay but the initial moments were either not working or heavily compressed as the buffering concentrated on time, then quality.

        Later stages it seem to improve, but what combination of lower audience, available bandwidth, improvements in the backend, and the app itself I haven’t found as yet. The only exception were the extended match highligh packages: great concept but still difficult to access at times that should not have had anything to do with bandwidth.

        Still where possible I watched the SBS broadcast of the game. Either platform is fine if the initial game feed experience improves.

        The Optus app content itself looked good. It will be interesting how the Telstra app will fair although during the World Cup (the SBS app used this platform) the streaming video appeared even worse for clarity.

        • July 23rd 2018 @ 3:36pm
          Lionheart said | July 23rd 2018 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

          All mine was over the NBN landline (fibre to the node then copper down the street courtesy Telstra) no problems. Mind you, I have massive problems with the NBN otherwise, but it worked very well for football. I haven’t heard too many compliments from those who tuned in via a device and thus mobile coverage.
          I just checked Optus and they are advertising that they have France 2019 (womens WC) plus all the Euro internationals including friendlies and qualifiers foir Euros through to 2022, plus EPL for another 4 years. Add that to all the football on Foxtel through BeIn Sport and ESPN and the EPL club channels, and we’ve got it covered all over.

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