Optus World Cup woes continue

Published on the 20/06/2018 | Written by Pat Pilcher


Spark RWC 2019_Optus World Cup

Compensation confusion adds to customer unhappiness...

What should have been the most significant marketing opportunity for Optus in 2018 has turned into a nightmare as Optus find themselves flooded with complaints from subscribers around their streaming coverage of World Cup Soccer.

Optus had secured Australian World Cup rights after inking a deal with broadcaster SBS, outbidding Foxtel for English Premier League rights two years earlier.

Initially, only some World Cup games were available free-to-air via SBS, with SBS only broadcasting Australian games and finals and football fans having to pay an A$15 per month subscription fee to Optus Sports for the rest of the games. Now paying fans are fuming as reports of error messages and frozen video footage surface.

These streaming issues saw Optus CEO Allen Lew encamped at Optus’ production studio in Sydney until Sunday morning.

“A game of bureaucratic ping-pong is well underway as affected consumers seek the right body with which to lodge complaints.”

In statements to Australian media, Lew attributed the streaming issues to significant increases in viewership, claiming that unprecedented demand was behind the problems. It is likely that making World Cup coverage available to subscription viewers instead of limiting streaming access to Optus customers played a big part in Optus’ streaming woes.

What is equally baffling is that Optus has experienced similar issues in the past. English Premier League streaming subscribers complained of glitches when Optus first launched the service in 2016, yet it appears that the company has learned little from this.

The current World Cup streaming issues have attracted so much attention that Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, stepped into the fray after the situation got raised in the Australian parliament. Optus has since announced that SBS will air all World Cup games for the next two days with Turnbull saying the 48 hour SBS window exists because Lew is adamant Optus will have streaming issues resolved within the day.

Optus’ streaming issues have happened at a particularly awkward time for Australian broadcasting. As the debate raging around the privatisation of Australian state-funded broadcaster ABC has continued, SBS has claimed that budget cuts meant it was not able to afford all World Cup rights, leaving Optus picking up at least 39 of 64 matches. SBS’s disclosure and the Optus streaming issues have proved to be the equivalent of pouring petrol on an already raging political bonfire.

Further inflaming Optus’ woes, consumer rights advocates, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, have called for Optus to compensate affected customers. So far the embattled telco has not indicated if and when it will resume streaming World Cup matches once the emergency 48-hour deal with SBS concludes, nor has it been willing to discuss compensation.

The Australian Consumer Rights Network call comes after Australian Communications Minister Mitch Fifield was quoted by Australian press saying that Optus should deliver what it promised to customers.

Optus has yet to confirm what has caused their streaming problems or if it intends to compensate impacted customers, despite the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network suggesting subscribers should demand their money back.

Hordes of angry Optus customers have also taken to social media to vent their frustrations with Optus and call for compensation. Now it appears a game of bureaucratic ping-pong is well underway as affected consumers seek the right body with which to lodge complaints.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman said affected customers should complain to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which in turn says charges should get filled through the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has been frustratingly vague, with a spokesperson saying that while they can help with problems with phone or internet services, they would not be able to help with all complaints.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority proved similarly unhelpful, saying that complaints about content services were outside their scope, even though they are willing to investigate billing issues for content services provided charges appear on the complainant’s phone bill.

What has proved to be a nightmare for Optus is a boon for SBS. Their ratings rocketed 69 percent as sports fans switched to SBS en-masse.

Australian soccer fans tweet their frustration
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Optus responds:

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And the frustration continues…
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