EXCLUSIVE: Sports fans are fuming at Optus over its lack of full HD viewing options for the English Premier League while almost doubling subscription prices. The ACCC is now considering whether any action may be necessary against the telco if it doesn’t soon get its act together. Serkan Ozturk reports.
The excitement of the world’s wealthiest and most watched football competition is back, with the goals flowing and tackles flying across stadiums in the UK following the season’s kick-off of the English Premier League (EPL) last weekend.
Yet fans in faraway Australia have little to cheer for it seems, with many aghast and angered that Optus Sport – which holds the exclusive rights to the competition – is seemingly getting away with charging premium subscription fees for a premium product while offering superseded and outdated technology to view matches in a fuzzy blur.
Optus Sport is owned by the giant telco Optus, with the telecommunications company in turn operated by the Singapore Government owned Singtel.
In June, Optus Sport heralded planned changes to its subscription model, with prices for some customers almost doubling from just under $15 a month to almost $25 a month. Customers who previously received Optus Sport for free as part of their mobile phone or home internet deal with the telco would also now be charged a fee ($6.99 per month) for the first time.
Optus has recently claimed it has one million subscribers for its Optus Sport streaming service. The price increases would then feasibly result in plenty of freshly generated revenue.
The changes – which came into effect from August 1 – compared favourably, Optus claimed, with “other content streaming services that have emerged in the Australian landscape and is the first change to Optus Sport’s pricing since we first launched in 2016.”
Having recently lost the rights to the prestigious UEFA Champions League football to competitors Stan (owned by Nine), many subscribers though were upset with the price hike by Optus when it was announced mid-this year.
Optus soon went on a wall-to-wall PR campaign to promote itself as being the home of the world’s best football competitions, having gained the exclusive rights to the EPL for six years and then adding Spain’s La Liga competition, which was previously shown on BeIn Sports.
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To further sweeten the deal, Optus then claimed that at long last, after years of customer complaints, it would finally be showing “all” Premier League matches for the first time in full HD, rather than the much inferior 720p display it has been foisting upon viewers.
“We want you to know that we’re fully committed to providing value for money, so from August, all live and on-demand Premier League matches will be available to stream in 1080p HD on supported devices,” the telco promised two months ago, in early June.
“That means you can watch all the action from the world’s best league in exceptional detail.”
Except, it seems that caveat of “supported devices” means unless you’re watching on a small mobile phone screen, there is almost next-to-no reasonable way to view any of the matches in 1080p HD.
Come the weekend’s first round of the EPL, many Optus Sport subscribers were not happy.
“yo @OptusSport you reckon if you’re gonna jack the price of your product that you could get actual HD streams going?” one fan posted on Twitter. “Watching this in 720p still is a fucking joke.”
The social media team from Optus then responded: ‘Hi there, thanks for getting in touch. We’re rolling out Full HD to Optus Sport for Live Games & VOD. If you send us a DM we can provide you with the list of currently supported devices.”
Another customer complained that they had tried watching on three different devices but was still unable to view any of the matches in full HD.
“When’s the 1080p going to be available? I have a Amazon fire tv, pc web browser and Samsung tv and none have the option for 1080p,” the customer posted on Twitter.
Optus Sport subscribers not happy with lack of full HD viewing options (Image: Facebook / Supplied)
Optus claim that 1080 HD is currently only offered for the Apple iPhone and iPad with an operating system of iOS 10.0 and above; Android mobile tablets with the Android 7 operating system or above; and for MacOS which features Safari 12 or above as its web browser.
Many fans though remain confused at how a giant, modern multinational telecommunications company is getting away charging customers for superseded technology from more than two decades ago.
“Are you not ashamed to post anything on social media whilst 1080p broadcast streams are still not available for PC, Android, Google tv, Fire tv or NVidia Shield devices,” another irate customer wrote on Optus Sport’s Facebook page.
“Please fix this now … Release a media statement across all media platforms that this will be fixed before this weekend’s matches.”
720p display technology was first used almost 25 years ago, in 1998.
While 1080p HD has also been around for more than a decade, first making an appearance around 2008 before becoming successfully adapted for displays in mobile phones from 2012 onwards.
The seeming inability for Optus to have technology and processes in place so that customers of Optus Sport can view the EPL in 1080 HD becomes even more bewildering when all of its competitors offer viewers the easy ability to watch live football matches in 4K, let alone the minimum rate of full HD.
For example, the much poorer quality local Australian football competition – the A-League – can be watched in 1080 HD on Ten and Paramount, regardless of whether the viewer is watching on a smart tv, computer, tablet or mobile phone.
Stan meanwhile regularly offers live matches in 4K across all common devices that can carry the resolution, while all of its UEFA Champions League matches are shown in at least 1080p HD.
The upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar meanwhile will be free for all to watch on SBS, with all matches also to be shown in at least 1080i HD.
Sports fans in Australia have no other option to legally watch any EPL matches without a subscription to Optus Sport. And that will be the case for at least the next six years, until 2028.
As such, True Crime News Weekly contacted Optus this week to ask as to when it will start properly and widely displaying EPL matches in 1080p HD, as per its promises. We also reminded Optus that it was 2022, and not 2002.
“The ability of a device to support the Optus Sport 1080p HD format is based on a combination of age of hardware, operating system version and in some instances the bandwidth of the available internet home or mobile connection,” an Optus spokesperson claimed.
“Chrome casting is not currently supported as the underlying Chrome browser used for Optus Sport live streaming does not comply with the Premier League security requirements at this stage.”
However, despite Optus’s protestations the nation’s consumer watchdog – the ACCC – is now considering whether to further look in to the issues raised by customers.
“Thank you for raising this with the ACCC, we will consider this issue further,” a spokesperson told True Crime News Weekly.
“Generally speaking, businesses must not engage in conduct that is false, misleading or deceptive. Whether or not concerns arise will depend on the representations made by a business to consumers.”
Earlier this year, True Crime News Weekly exclusively reported how Optus had given a newly created executive role to allegedly corrupt former NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, despite the appointment seemingly going against the company’s own stated guidelines and code of ethics.