Soccer World Cup: Australian Broadcaster Steps in After Telco's Live-Streaming Breaks Down

Soccer World Cup Germany Mexico
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Telco Optus has suffered outages to its live-streaming service during the first three nights of the competition.

A major row between Australian soccer fans and the country’s second largest telco, Optus, has erupted after outages to the Optus live-streaming platform meant customers were unable to watch World Cup matches live for three nights in a row. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull weighed in on the controversy Monday, telling CEO Allan Lew to fix the problem. Meanwhile, the World Cup’s exclusive Australian broadcaster SBS (Special Broadcasting Service), which had onsold the streaming rights to Optus, said it would broadcast all matches for the next 48 hours. 

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

Turnbull posted on Twitter that: “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.”

Speaking to local press, Ebeid said that “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. We’re obviously able and willing to do that.”

SBS has broadcast the World Cup for the last 32 years, but in 2016 announced a partnership with Optus under which SBS retained live free TV rights to 25 of the 64 World Cup matches, with Optus streaming the remainder. This move was aimed at offsetting the high cost of rights to SBS, a hybrid commercial-public broadcaster that has suffered several cuts to its government funding in recent years. 

Fans took to social media to vent their anger at Optus, creating the hashtag #Floptusfail, despite reports that just a small portion of users and viewers were affected. 

Optus Sport offered an apology after disruptions to streaming plagued the Costa Rica versus Serbia match Sunday local time.

Lew had earlier promised the telco “will do better” after customers reported outages and buffering during coverage of matches Saturday and Sunday. 

“I apologise unreservedly to all Australians,” Lew said in a statement on Twitter. “We should have done better, we can do better and we will do better.”

He added: "Australians can be assured that this has my personal attention, and the entire network's team's attention, and we will solve it."