Even The PM Is Upset About Optus World Cup Streaming Dramas
"Thank you Optus Sport. You have ruined my 2018 World Cup experience"
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has waded into the the debate over Optus' streaming coverage of the FIFA World Cup, with thousands of Australians left frustrated by interrupted service.
Optus streams dropped in and out during the opening matches last weekend. Football fans nationwide reported their streams freezing, failing to buffer, or being totally inaccessible at all.
SBS is to broadcast all World Cup games for the next 48 hours, as Optus works to fix their coverage. Optus CEO Allen Lew told a media conference call on Monday there were a "range of issues" that led to the streaming issues, and that the company believed they had fixed the issues. However, Lew said it was "only appropriate we offer customers a failsafe backup" in case of further issues.
Optus CEO Allan Lew apologised "unreservedly" to fans on Sunday night, saying the telco had been working hard to fix the issues.
But that didn't save him a phone call from the top, with Turnbull weighing in an personally contacting Lew for answers.
"I had a call with Allen Lew with Optus to seek his assurance that the failures in the streaming service has been rectified," Turnbull told a press conference on Monday.
But that wasn't the last of it! During Question Time, the PM faced two separate questions from Labor on the streaming troubles.
The Labor opposition used the situation as an attack on government changes to SBS, framing the streaming issues as being forced by cuts to SBS budgets.
"[Lew] acknowledges they have had some real problems with streaming from the Optus platform. He believes he can fix it and it will be fixed tonight and obviously Australian soccer fans will be expecting Optus to deliver in that regard. Thank you for asking a question. But go the Socceroos," Turnbull said in response to a question from Labor's Stephen Jones.
In contrast to previous World Cup tournaments, where public broadcaster SBS had the rights to show every game, 2018 coverage has been split between SBS and the Optus Sports app, which costs $14.99 per month.
The Optus Facebook pages has been flooded with angry comments.
"The same problem is happening again. Come on, how can you allow this to be the product? You are ruining the World Cup," wrote one user.
Another said: "Thank you Optus Sport. You have ruined my 2018 World Cup experience."
In a statement to The Guardian, Optus blamed its initial trouble with broadcasting the most popular sporting event on Earth on "an extremely high number of viewers logging into our platforms just before kick-off causing some systems to overload."
SBS managing director Michael Ebeid blamed the 2018 deal, sharing coverage between the broadcaster and Optus, had come directly due to cuts to the channel's funding.
“At the same time as our costs for the World Cup are going up our revenues have been going down," he told radio network SEN.
“Had we not had to look at our budgets we probably would have retained it like we were planning to when we bought it."
Labor leader Bill Shorten asked the PM whether he would apologise to football fans, considering Ebeid's earlier comments that the streaming arrangement was linked to SBS budget cuts.
Paul Fletcher, Former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, defended the government, saying SBS received $280 million a year in public funding.
"How SBS decides to use this funding is a matter for the board and management of SBS," he said, pointing out that SBS had secured rights to show English Premier League football as part of its deal with Optus.
"In other words, board and management of SBS made a commercial decision. On this side of the house, we believe they are best placed to make those decisions."