SBS will show all World Cup games on free-to-air TV for the next 48 hours while Optus works to solve its streaming woes after widespread backlash.
The telco has faced outages throughout the opening days of the tournament, forcing fans to miss out on watching some of the biggest games on the football calendar.
SBS, which on-sold most of the rights in a cost-saving measure after government cuts, will now broadcast at least the next seven games, beginning with tonight’s Sweden v South Korea match at 10pm AEST.
“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.
“That’s an additional four games on free-to-air, giving even more Australians the chance to enjoy the tournament.
“The FIFA World Cup is a true multicultural celebration that unites Australia’s diverse communities and SBS is pleased to be bringing more of the tournament to Australian audiences.”
Optus will continue to stream the World Cup but the SBS broadcasts will take the pressure off the telco’s overloaded systems.
Chief executive Allen Lew apologised on Monday night, less than 24 hours after he first addressed the situation.
“We clearly understand Australia’s passion for this major event and the frustration that goes along with not being able to watch the event,” the Optus boss said.
“The decision has been made with the interests of football fans across Australia in mind … I acknowledge that the experience has not been consistent for all viewers, which is unacceptable.
“I offer an unreserved apology to those customers that have been let down. We have a dedicated team which has been working around the clock to address technical issues where they have occurred.
“We are confident that we have a solution in place and will be using this time to undertake robust testing of all systems.”
The temporary measure arrived after talks between SBS, Optus and even Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
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.
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) June 18, 2018
SBS’s Ebeid said on Monday morning that the network would be open to assisting their broadcast partner.
He said they would be open to the idea of having a conversation with Optus “about how we can help them further, in terms of putting some of those games on our channels”.
The talks proved fruitful, but the damage to the telco’s reputation will last among disappointed football fans.
Some switched to Optus to obtain access to the English Premier League and others have paid $15 per month for the World Cup coverage.
“There’s no doubt this had adversely affected the Optus brand … everybody is very disappointed, to put it mildly,” Optus chief Lew told reporters on Monday night.
“We obviously did not (anticipate the demand) … We will take full responsibility.”
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The situation, which is being monitored with interest by many sporting bodies in Australia given streaming is widely considered the future of broadcasting live sport, has already attracted the interest of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
“We are seeking further information from Optus on what steps it is taking to comply with the Australian Consumer Law,” an ACCC spokesperson said.
“Under the Australian Consumer Law, services must be fit for the purpose and deliver on what was promised.
“Consumers impacted by the streaming problems are advised to contact the service provider directly.”
Fairfax Media reported on Sunday that Optus paid $8 million to SBS for the rights in a deal that also transferred one EPL game per week to the public broadcaster.
It is believed Optus is bidding for rights to the UEFA Champions League and European domestic leagues as the company seeks to bolster its football offering.