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Optus edges out Foxtel, scores exclusive EPL rights

Optus will be the place for football from next year as the telco gets exclusive broadcast and digital rights to the English Premier League, advancing its bid to become a fully-fledged "multimedia company" and striking a blow at Foxtel.

Optus will get exclusive broadcast and digital rights to all EPL games for three years.
Daniel Bearham/Corbis

Football fans will no longer have to subscribe to Foxtel to get their English Premier League fix, with Optus announcing Monday that it has snagged the exclusive broadcast and digital rights for the three years, starting in August 2016.

The deal will see Optus offering live broadcast coverage as well as broadband and mobile access for all 380 EPL games across each of the 3 seasons.

Optus has stayed tight-lipped on its plans for delivering the games, including whether access will be exclusive to Optus customers or if there will be a subscription video on demand offering available to all Australians. A spokesperson only commented that, "Our goal is to make this content available to as many fans as possible."

The move is a blow to Foxtel, which has previously held rights to air Barclays Premier League games as part of its subscription TV Sports Pack add-on. But Optus is already hailing the deal as a major step forward in its bid to expand beyond the realms of a traditional telco and Internet service provider into a fully fledged "multimedia company."

The lines between telecommunications companies as service and content providers are becoming increasingly blurred as ISPs and telcos look to shore up licensing and distribution deals for over-the-top content delivery.

Optus, like iiNet, is already offering its broadband customers unmetered Netflix streaming, while Telstra has made a major play at the multimedia space with the launch of Telstra TV -- a rebranded Roku box that pulls the major streaming services into one ecosystem for delivery via Telstra broadband.

As consumers increasingly switch off from traditional linear television and turn to mobile and broadband connections for over-the-top content, Optus plans to take advantage of the trend. Discussing today's announcement, the company's chief said the deal was a "great win."

"This is another significant step in our strategy to become a mobile-led multimedia company," said Optus CEO Allen Lew.

"We are dedicated to delivering the best domestic and international entertainment for our customers. With 930 million followers worldwide, the Premier League is one of the most sought after sports properties for content providers."

It's not the first time an Australian ISP has offered access to EPL games. Back in 2009, iiNet renewed a contract to offer live and on-demand coverage of EPL games through Fox Sports, giving customers unmetered access through its quota-free Freezone portal. iiNet users later lost access, with the ISP confirming in 2010 that it was "unable to secure the rights" to the 2010/11 season.

For its part, Foxtel said it was "aware that Optus have been awarded the rights to broadcast the English Premier League in Australia," but that Foxtel was still a destination for major international sports as well as other Football competitions including the A-League, FA Cup and UEFA Women's Champions League.

"Foxtel and in particular Fox Sports remains the only place you can get a truly comprehensive sports offering," said a spokesperson. "Fox Sports bid for the rights, we are confident that our football offering remains compelling for football fans.

"This merely points to the fact that the media is becoming increasingly competitive."