Optus extends English Premier League rights out to 2022

Optus has opened up its sport broadcast offering to all Australians via an OTT service, also announcing that it has secured the English Premier League broadcast rights for another three seasons.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Optus CEO Allen Lew

(Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

Optus has announced its acquisition of English Premier League (EPL) broadcast rights in Australia, retaining the competition for another three years out to the 2021-22 season.

In a move to open up access to all Australians, Optus has also revealed that it will be allowing all viewers, including non-Optus customers, to access the content for AU$14.99 per month via Google Play and the Apple App Store.

"We're elated to extend our Premier League broadcast rights for another three seasons. This shows our long-term commitment to provide exclusive premium content and our transition to be a multimedia entertainment provider," Optus CEO Allen Lew told media on Tuesday morning in Sydney.

Lew was not able to tell ZDNet how much Optus paid for the acquisition, or whether there was strong competition in bidding for the rights.

"[The acquisition] feeds exactly into what our strategy is -- if you think about it, at the end of the day, where we want to take Optus is to be able to offer a premium mobile network to our customers, premium content, and all at an affordable price or a competitive price," Lew told ZDNet in an interview.

"So I think extending the Premier League for the next three seasons until 2022 allows us to continue engender in our customers' minds that we are not just about building networks.

"Elite soccer is a gap that's in the market in terms of available content to Australians, and we've certainly put a very clear marker in that space," Lew added, with former Socceroos player Mark Schwarzer pointing towards Optus' 24-hour access as a broadcast rights differentiator.

Ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2018, which kicks off in June, Optus has also announced an over-the-top (OTT) offering, which will also be made available to non-customers for AU$14.99 per month across mobile, web browser, Chromecast, and Apple TV.

"For the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, Optus Sport will be the only place where Australians can watch all 64 games in high definition, live and on-demand," Lew said.

"We won't stop with just Premier League and the World Cup; we will continue to source other high-class top-notch football content to ensure that Optus Sport will be the home of elite soccer. So keep your ears to the ground because we hope to be able to make an imminent announcement of more exclusive soccer content coming to Optus Sport in 2019."

According to Lew, he is not worried that offering Optus Sport to non-customers will prevent Australians from signing up for broadband or mobile services, as it is all about building relationships. Australians don't like content sitting behind a paywall, Lew said, and it's all about getting more people to "experience a relationship with Optus", which may lead to more transactions.

Optus' self-described transformation into a multimedia company began with its original acquisition of the exclusive Australian broadcast rights for the EPL back in November 2015.

In July last year, Lew told ZDNet that Optus has the Premier League subscriber numbers it was expecting, but wants to ramp this up during the 2017-18 football season by implementing more "interactive" and multimedia-focused elements to the experience.

"The first season has gone well for us. For us, it was mainly proving to ourselves that we could do it, and that we set out the proper process and systems to bring a live match all the way to Australia and have a reliable network," he said.

"It's been a learning experience for us; our investments in terms of deepening the depth of our network, creating greater capacity, enhancing the speed, that's certainly given us the confidence to be able to do even better in season two than we did in season one."

At the same time, Optus announced an entertainment partnership with National Geographic, in what Lew told ZDNet would be the telecommunications company's next move to become a "mobile-led multimedia service provider".

Lew on Tuesday told ZDNet of Optus' plans to continue making its own media content to sit around its EPL and World Cup offerings, as well as maintaining its relationship with Nat Geo to build more custom content there.

"I think whether it's Nat Geo factual content or EPL, we are starting to make our own content. I mean right now, it's a supplement in football's case. The live content that we do -- and you'll see a lot happening at the World Cup -- and you look at the success of that and see what we're going to do in the next four seasons that we have of Premier League, how we can supplement what's coming from the live games," Lew told ZDNet.

"We're not going to create movies or create TV series in the short term, but certainly we believe that we have the skills to create content that goes around the live games certainly in Premier League. And in terms of factual content in Nat Geo, we are still committed to work with this wonderful global organisation ... to create something that will engage Australians.

"As we speak, we are in discussions with them about what creative content we can do together that leverages their history and their brand name and knowledge of the market that eventually will add value to what we have."

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