Football fans (fans of the one true football code we should say), it's time to rejoice: Australia is getting its first ever 24-hour soccer channel. But there's a hefty catch -- you'll need to be an Optus customer to get the goods.
After nabbing the rights for the English Premier League in November last year, Optus today confirmed how it would actually deliver the games it spent such a pretty penny on, including an EPL app, website and subscription TV channel for Fetch TV. As part of the announcement, the telco also confirmed it has partnered with SBS to air the 2018 FIFA World Cup on its platforms as part of a "sub-licence" from the free-to-air broadcaster.
With a global TV audience of 4.7 billion, the EPL bills itself the "world's most watched league." But despite its popularity, the league's almost 1.7 million Australian viewers have long had to pay to watch. With no free-to-air coverage, Australians have hitherto needed a Foxtel subscription to get in on the action. But while the rights have changed hands to Optus, the barrier to entry remains, with the telco saying "EPL will be available exclusively to Optus customers."
These customers will be well served, with a 24/7 EPL channel airing all games live, as well as pre- and post-match programs, news and analysis. If you're in the Optus fold already or if you're the kind to switch allegiances in order to get your fix, you'll have a couple of options:
- Optus TV with Fetch
Optus will broadcast the 2016/17 season through the dedicated EPL channel on its Optus TV with Fetch set-top box.
- Mini set-top box
A kind of Fetch-lite, Optus is launching this new piece of hardware offering the EPL channel as part of a suite of 35 "premium entertainment" channels, with the ability to pause and rewind TV.
- Optus EPL App
The 24/7 channel will be available for mobile and tablet, giving Optus mobile and fixed broadband customers unmetered streaming.
- Optus EPL website
A subscriber-only site featuring all live games as well as additional "exclusive content."
- Optus satellite
This will give pubs and clubs access to the EPL channel, and will deliver games to "customers who either can't access Optus' broadband services, or can't get High Definition content via their broadband service."
It's not all grim news for non-Optus customers. As part of its sub-licence deal with SBS, the free-to-air channel will live broadcast one match per round for the next three seasons. But with 10 games per round, that still means a lot of action won't make it to the TV.
SBS will pay back the favour in 2018 by sub-licensing the FIFA World Cup to Optus, meaning Optus will offer all 64 matches of the 2018 Men's World Cup live. The deal also includes airing of other matches including the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.
Of course the big question will come down to cost, and on that front we still don't have any info. Optus says it will announce pricing mid-year. The telco is advising that fans interested in accessing EPL can "register their interest" online to get "news, offers [and] pricing," but you'll still need to be a customer to get anything to watch.
The barrier to entry is likely to be lower than subscribing to basic Foxtel with the addition of a Sports package for the EPL, but it's hard to know how enticing Optus' offer is until we have pricing. Regardless, EPL still comes with a price tag in Australia, so while NRL fans may get their fix for free on TV every week, Australian soccer fans still need to pay a premium to watch the world game.