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SBS to broadcast all World Cup matches in Australia for 48 hours as Optus tries to fix streaming issues

SBS CEO Michael Ebeid says it’s too early to speculate as to whether SBS might show more World Cup matches. Courtesy: Herald Sun

SBS is set to show all World Cup matches for the next 48 hours as the besieged Optus Sport tries to fix the streaming issues that have plagued the nation’s football fans. 

The station tonight announced it would step in and show all matches following discussions with Optus – which has faced a fierce backlash from fans struggling to access live coverage through the telco’s streaming service.


“Following discussions with Optus Sport, we have agreed that SBS will air all 2018 FIFA World Cup games for the next 48 hours,” SBS managing director Michael Ebeid said.

“That’s an additional four games on free-to-air, giving even more Australians the chance to enjoy the tournament.

“The FIFA World Cup is a true multicultural celebration that unites Australia’s diverse communities and SBS is pleased to be bringing more of the tournament to Australian audiences.”

The move comes after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today entered the debate and SBS’s CEO said his company might intervene.

Mr Turnbull today reached out to Optus chief Allen Lew regarding the network’s streaming issues.

“I have spoken with the Optus CEO, Allen Lew. He assures me he is giving the World Cup streaming problems his personal attention and he believes it will be fixed this evening,” Mr Turnbull posted on Twitter.

But SBS could prove the real hero. Earlier today the broadcaster flagged action, saying it was prepared to get involved in fixing Optus’s ongoing issues — and that might mean showing more matches on its own channel.

Football fans were left fuming on Sunday night after Optus’s broadcast of the World Cup failed for a third successive night.

SBS, which has covered the Cup for the past 32 years, again holds the rights but sub-licenced a portion of matches to Optus.

But as fans vented their fury over disruptions to Optus’s streaming service, Mr Ebeid said the broadcaster might have to get involved.

“I think if Optus continues to have problems then we might have a conversation about how we can help them further about putting those games on our channels,” Mr Ebeid said on Monday.

“We’re obviously able and willing to do that.”

A diplomatic Mr Ebeid backed Optus to fix the issues, saying he believed “less than five per cent of viewers were affected”.

But he said the clock was ticking for the telco to fix the problems. Asked if Optus might need to have all issues sorted with the next 48 hours, he said:

“Maybe even less, maybe even 24 hours, I think they’ll need to take a good, hard look at where they’re at in terms of fixing the problem,” he said.

“But from the conversations I’ve had with Optus, they seem very confident that it (the issue) is down to a very small number of users.”

Aware that Optus’s problems might also affect SBS’s reputation, Mr Ebeid said the issue was “not ideal” but his station had been forced to slash its Cup coverage due to budget.

“At the end of the day, it does come down to finances,” Mr Ebeid told SEN.

“We’ve paid a lot more for the World Cup (this time) and at the same time our costs for the World Cup have gone up.

“Our revenues have been going down. We’ve had about $40 million in reductions in our government funding.

“So at the end of the day you have to cut your cloth to suit your own funding. One of the things we wanted to make sure was that we retained the World Cup for our viewers, and the deal that we did enabled us to have the best game of the day, every day of the World Cup which we get to choose … and one of the advantages of the Optus deal was it enabled us to get the English Premier League for 38 weeks a year every year for three years in between the World Cups.”

Optus Sport offered a grovelling apology after disruptions to streaming plagued the Costa Rica vs Serbia match on Sunday evening.

Chief executive Allen Lew had earlier promised the telco “will do better” after Saturday night and Sunday morning’s patchy coverage during which many customers reported connection outages.

“I apologise unreservedly to all Australians,” Mr Lew said in a statement on Twitter.

“We should have done better, we can do better and we will do better,” he said.

Optus Sport then issued another statement on Twitter:

“We are aware that some users are currently experiencing technical difficulties during the Costa Rica-Serbia game,” it wrote.

“Our tech teams are working urgently to fix this.”

In a follow up Tweet, the telco advised users to switch platforms.

“For those users currently experiencing technical difficulties on Optus Sport, please enter your details into the 2018 FIFA World Cup app to watch the Costa Rica-Serbia game while our tech teams work to fix the problem.”

But one user who tried to use their phone to watch the game was met with a “playback error” message. “Please reload the stream and try again.”

The user said they were fuming after contacting Optus and being told to try different ways of streaming.

“It’s wrong that we are forced to pay for a sub par service.

“We as a paying public deserve to be able to view these international events.

“It’s wrong that this is doing damage to the game of soccer.

“They have had plenty of time since they were awarded the rights to get this right.”

And despite Mr Lew vowing the problem had his “personal attention”, those tuning in to watch Sunday’s match were enraged.

“Surely this is the end for @OptusSport,” one user wrote.

“Let’s all revolt and unsubscribe from Optus until they give the rights back to SBS. End this atrocity #OptusSport,” wrote another.

“This is useless … can’t even watch through your App. Can’t we get another provider to show the greatest game on earth,” one twitter user wrote.

Optus Sport said their tech teams were “working urgently” to fix this.

“For those users currently experiencing technical difficulties on Optus Sport, please enter your details into the 2018 FIFA World Cup app to watch the Costa Rica-Serbia game while our tech teams work to fix the problem,” the telco wrote on Twitter.

In an extra kick in the guts for Optus, punters reported the SBS app was streaming the games without hiccup.

On Saturday, the under-fire telco had blamed other providers for the problems, claiming its network did not have any issues.

Some users attempting to watch the clash between Argentina and Iceland were met with buffering and delays of between 30 seconds and three minutes, prompting calls for Optus to provide compensation and be fined.

“We should be eligible for a refund if they can’t guarantee it won’t continue happening,” one user, who signed up to Optus Sports Premium for $14.99 per month to watch the World Cup, told the Herald Sun today.

“The stream just didn’t work on Optus Sport and their response was bulls***.

“And their customer support didn’t even read my message.”

As Argentina and Iceland fought out a 1-1 draw — with legendary Lionel Messi missing a penalty — former Socceroo Robbie Slater led the social media angst.

He called the streaming issues “a farce” and “an absolute disgrace” before signing off with “#F***buffering”.

The Fox Sports Australia personality wasn’t alone, with fans lamenting the “damage” caused to the world game, branding Optus “Floptus” and fearing this World Cup will be remembered for all the wrong reasons:

An Optus spokeswoman said yesterday: “We believe the vast majority of viewers were not impacted and had a good viewing experience,” a spokeswoman said.

“However, some customers who watched the match on the Optus Sport app, on certain devices through other telco networks, experienced buffering issues.”

Optus said it had taken action to within its control to alleviate issues.

“As a result of these actions incidences of buffering reduced significantly during the course of the night to low levels,” the spokeswoman said.

Optus also had dramas on the opening night of the tournament.