Optus has conceded a massive own goal, and will share streaming duties for the FIFA World Cup in Australia to SBS for the next 48 hours, with games to be simulcast on both providers.
Optus CEO Allen Lew told journalists on Monday evening that Optus should have been able to anticipate demand to its streaming service a lot better.
“I think the World Cup has, for us, had unprecedented demand,” he said.
“We now understand the type of demand you can expect from a global, international competition, and that will be a learning point for us.”
The CEO said the company believes it has a solution in place, but to ensure a “fail-safe backup” SBS would be able to broadcast six games over the next two days.
The decision comes after the company faced a barrage of criticism for its World Cup coverage thus far, with Lew apologising to Australians over the weekend.
“We should have done better, we can do better, and we will do better,” Lew said via Twitter. “Australians can be assured that this has my personal attention, and the entire network’s team’s attention, and we will solve it.”
On Monday afternoon, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull weighed in.
“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,” Turnbull tweeted this afternoon.
Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland took the opportunity to lay the blame at the feet of Turnbull.
“Instead of listening and ensuring Australians could watch the 2018 World Cup on SBS, Malcolm Turnbull cut millions of dollars of funding from SBS in 2014 and again in 2015. His trademark ‘telling off’ for Optus today would be laughable if it wasn’t for the millions of Australian football fans left crying over a mess he has created,” she said.
“[SBS boss] Michael Ebeid said budget cuts had played a part in the sub-licensing deal with Optus.”
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the arrangement with SBS was a great outcome.
In an effort to compensate customers, the telco said affected Optus Sport users could head into an Optus store and pick up a Fetch mini set-top box for free for the coming 12 months.
At least one customer reported on Twitter that instead of a Fetch mini, Optus handed him an empty box.
The company told ZDNet it was confident its just-in-time delivery to metro stores would meet demand for Fetch minis.
The Virgin Mobile Australia brand will continue to operate over the next couple of years, but it will stop upgrading and selling new services on June 15, 2018.
Optus will be making 400 employees redundant while other jobs are indirectly affected in a bid for the telco to ‘build our digital organisation, remove duplication, and establish a more sustainable cost base’.
Optus now has 453,000 NBN customers and more than 10 million mobile subscribers, with CEO Allen Lew telling ZDNet that the telco is also examining the 3.6GHz spectrum band for possible 5G use.
Optus has opened up its sport broadcast offering to all Australians via an OTT service, also announcing that it has secured the English Premier League broadcast rights for another three seasons.
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