SBS to broadcast World Cup for two days amid Optus outrage
Optus have agreed to let SBS broadcast all World Cup games during the next 48 hours as they urgently seek to resolve the streaming saga, which has already prompted the intervention of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
SBS onsold broadcast rights for most World Cup games to Optus Sport, with Fairfax Media reporting that deal was worth approximately $8 million.
It threatens to cost the telco much more in reputation damage, with technical issues causing poor-quality footage -- or none at all -- having plagued its broadcast of the opening weekend.
Many fans, including those who signed up for a $15 package specifically to watch World Cup games, are furious because they have been unable to access the Optus broadcast.
Optus chief executive Allen Lew apologised "unreservedly to all Australians" on Sunday, but there were further issues that night.
SBS said on Monday night it will air all World Cup games for the next 48 hours following talks with Optus.
"I have spoken with the Optus CEO, Allen Lew," Turnbull wrote on Twitter. "He assures me he is giving the World Cup streaming problems his personal attention and he believes it will be fixed this evening."
The scandal, 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."
Optus offered some disgruntled customers a free set-top box on Monday. However, this created more angst as some users reported difficulties collecting these units from local stores.
Industry sources told AAP it is likely the provider underestimated demand for the service.
Demand is likely to grow as the tournament unfolds; Optus has exclusive rights to broadcast some quarterfinals and round-of-16 games.
Aside from issues during live matches, some users have complained about difficulties in accessing highlight packages and replays on demand.
An Optus spokesperson apologised to customers affected, but insisted "the majority of customers are having a good broadcast experience."
Ebeid supported that claim, suggesting fewer than 5 percent of Optus' World Cup viewers are encountering problems.
The World Cup is on the nation's anti-siphoning list, but only the final and matches involving Australia.
Ebeid cited 2014 budget cuts as part of the reason his network, Australia's World Cup broadcaster for the past 32 years, signed the Optus deal.
"It enabled us to retain the World Cup, where we may not have been able to afford to do it on our own," Ebeid told radio station SEN.
"SBS is very limited in things like its advertising revenue."