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Optus denies name change to 'Yes'

Optus has said no to Yes, unequivocally saying that despite reports to the contrary, it is not rebranding.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Optus has denied reports that it is changing its brand name to Yes, saying it is retaining its Optus branding into the future.

Following reports on Tuesday morning by the Sydney Morning Herald that the Singtel-owned Australian telco is considering changing its name to match its current slogan "Yes", an Optus spokesperson told ZDNet that a name change is not on the cards, and that the SMH had been told this prior to publishing.

The SMH report pointed to Optus' increasing bids to become an entertainment company as a reason for the rebranding.

Optus chairman Paul O'Sullivan last week said Optus is repositioning as a "multimedia company" following its acquisition of the exclusive Australian broadcast rights to the English Premier League for the next three seasons beginning August 2016.

In what Optus CEO Allen Lew called "a great win", Optus in November snatched the most-watched football league worldwide away from pay TV provider Foxtel's Fox Sports, which is half owned by rival telco Telstra.

"This is another significant step in our strategy to become a mobile-led multimedia company," the chief executive said at the time.

"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."

The telco did not say how much the deal set it back, but was last week forced to deny a report published by The Australian that it is planning to axe 1,000 jobs to help fund the broadcast deal -- though it did concede that it would need to make changes to its organisational structure in the future.

Optus has not yet revealed how it plans to broadcast the Premier League, with the chairman last week refusing to be drawn on how it would be delivered to customers. Analyst firm Ovum has anticipated that Optus will bundle access in with its telco services, however.

"Lacking a broadcast network, Optus will mostly monetise EPL games by bundling them with Optus telecommunications services," Ovum said last year.

"However, it has been claimed that the costs of acquisition were around double the previous contract. Even if Optus strikes a deal with a traditional broadcaster to broadcast some games, most will be carried across the broadband network, and this kind of service will increasingly tax the Australian broadband infrastructure."

Optus in December then announced a 10-year deal that will see it become the "official telecommunications partner" for the Australian Olympic team instead of Telstra.

While it did not disclose the amount of the deal, Optus described it as "one of the Australian Olympic Committee's biggest ever national sponsorship deals", noting that it will cost sponsors AU$23 million to send the Olympic Team to Rio, Brazil, for the 2016 Olympic Games.

"Today marks the start of another important sporting partnership for Optus in our journey to become a mobile-led multimedia company," said Ben White, acting managing director of Marketing and Product at Optus.

Optus has also offered unmetered access to Netflix since its introduction in Australia, and now provides unmetered access to Stan, too.

Lew had told ZDNet earlier in 2015 that Optus developed a three-year strategy for media and entertainment.

"Entertainment was the low-hanging fruit," Lew said.

"Pay TV penetration is low -- 30 percent. We think there is opportunity for 70 percent of homes, particularly those who are not big sports fans, to come up with a much stronger media package that is about video on demand.

"That's what we've done with Fetch box and integrating Netflix into the Fetch box."

In regards to its telco business, the Optus chairman last week also demanded that a government enquiry investigate fixed-broadband competition and the instatement of a new independent referee to evaluate separating Telstra from its copper network, also calling for customers to be released from existing broadband contracts when migrating to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Optus in January announced a rise in net profit of AU$19 million, or 9.1 percent, to AU$227 million for the last quarter of the 2015 calendar year.

The telecommunications provider's operating revenue was AU$2.43 billion for the quarter ending December 31, up 6.3 percent year on year from the AU$2.29 billion recorded during the 2014 December quarter.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation were AU$685 million, up AU$33 million or 5.1 percent from the AU$652 million announced in December 2014, which the telco attributed to growth in mobile and NBN payments, as well as increased uptake of device repayment plans.

Free cash flow, on the other hand, plummeted by 52.1 percent year on year, from AU$306 million down to just AU$147 million.

At the same time, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman published statistics last month showing that despite its network investments, Optus has retained the highest complaints ratio for all Australian telcos. It received 5.9 complaints per 10,000 services in operation for the October to December quarter -- a year-on-year rise of 9.3 percent.

Updated at 10.36am AEDT: The article originally stated that the SMH reported Optus is changing its brand name, and has been corrected to reflect that the report said it is considering changing its brand name.

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