UPDATE: The 48-hour window has passed and SBS will be broadcasting all World Cup group-stage matches live until June 29. We're yet to learn whether Optus will maintain exclusivity on later matches such as two of the four quarter-finals.
After soccer fans in Australia experienced severe technical issues while trying to stream World Cup 2018 games via the Optus Sport app, free-to-air TV station SBS has announced it will broadcast all games for the next 48 hours.
Fans using the Optus Sport service – which holds exclusive rights to streaming the majority of the Russian World Cup games – experienced frequent drop-outs, lagging and freezing video, alongside reduced resolution, and were adequately outraged as a result.
The debacle ended up drawing some high-level attention, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaking with the CEO of Optus directly, in order to try and address the issue.
Crossing the streams
“We know Australian football fans are amongst the world’s most passionate”, Optus said in a statement. “In light of this Optus has announced that it will simulcast the next two nights of 2018 FIFA World Cup matches with SBS.”
While SBS currently only has the rights to broadcast the semi-finals, final, and every Socceroos game, for the next 48 hours they will be showing every World Cup game, alongside Optus.
The managing director of SBS, Michael Ebeid, has said that, although the initial deal is only for these two nights, the TV network will reassess the issues with the Optus Sport service at the time to see if it needs to continue its broadcast in the telco's stead.
Fans that signed up to the Optus Sport service were paying $15 for the privilege – unless they were on an existing Optus plan that included the premium extra – and many have asked for refunds.
While Optus has issued an official apology and CEO Allen Lew has stated he’s giving the issue his “personal attention”, the company also claims that most users of the Optus Sport service have had a positive experience.
There are, however, no signs of any refunds at this stage.