Fuse Fridays – Please stop playing games with my right to watch the EPL

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In this week’s Fuse Fridays, Ben Lusk tells us of his dismay with the tussling between Foxtel and Optus and their attempts to appease the English Premier League audience.

As an Englishman who has been brought up on a heavy diet of premier league football, the very thought of not being able to watch my beloved game next season sickens me. I have always viewed my ability to watch the ‘Best league in the World’ as a fairly basic human right and not something for broadcasters to meddle with.

To give some background Optus recently took the rights away from Foxtel with a bid worth $63 million annually for the next three years. This was a massive coup for the Telco to take the rights from under the noses of the seemingly dominant Foxtel.

 

1-0. Optus. An important early goal.

Fans around the country waited with baited breath to see how Optus planned to monetise their exclusive rights. Last week, to much dismay, they revealed their aggressive plans to force you to switch to Optus or else. You have to be on a 24 month mobile or broadband plan and then be OK about streaming to a device. If you’re old fashioned like me and enjoy watching football on a TV then you also have the option to watch via Fetch TV. So basically if you’re halfway through a 24 month contract with either your broadband or mobile plan then, as I understand it, you will not be able to watch the EPL.

 

1-1. An embarrassing own-goal to let Foxtel back into the tie.

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In my opinion Foxtel could and should have done a lot more to maintain their rights to the Premier League. Foxtel CEO Peter Tonagh has played the scapegoat and last week wrote an open letter to EPL fans in an attempt to appease their (my) anger by claiming that they competed strongly to keep these rights. https://www.foxtel.com.au/got/whats-on/foxtel-insider/foxtel/epl-letter.html

I suspect when crunching the numbers Foxtel couldn’t get past the low broadcast numbers that the EPL actually brings in and are happy to rely on the strength of their other sporting properties to keep their subscriber base. Given the rise of SVOD and coupled with fans sheer determination to watch games at any cost I feel that the value of these rights have been undervalued longer-term. Optus are counting on fans determination to watch the EPL at all costs but there comes a limit when somebody feels coerced into something they wouldn’t normally do. I suspect that illegal streaming of games at poor quality will become the norm next season for many fans bitter at both Optus and Foxtel for allowing this situation to unfold.

 

2-2. Both sides struggling to come to terms with the pace of the game in changing conditions. Errors lead to weak goals.

Despite my earlier anger at the thought of not being able to watch the EPL, we have actually been spoilt by the coverage of the game in this country. In England for example there is a blanket ban in place from broadcasting any game starting at 3pm, of which more than 50% of games do. In Australia however we have had the ability to watch any game of the season, ironically meaning that a Liverpool fan in Australia would actually get to see a lot more of their team play in the EPL on TV compared to a Liverpool fan living in Liverpool.

So how do we make this right for the EPL fan like myself? Well my solution would be for Optus to allow Foxtel to broadcast the early kick-off on Saturday and Sunday each week. Granted this doesn’t give Foxtel subscribers the ability to watch anywhere near the amount of games as before, but like I said we have been spoilt and the average numbers of viewers per game across the season is low. This would however go a long way to appeasing EPL fans who just want to watch a game of football or two on the weekend. Plus the early kick-offs are dictated by Sky in England so are already guaranteed to feature the top teams playing against an even spread of the rest of the league.

 

3-2. Optus. They have managed to convert their share of possession into a late lead.

This seemingly generous move by Optus would then allow Foxtel to at least satisfy their current EPL loving subscribers, who have at the same time managed to strengthen their wider footballing offering through the purchase of 3 new beIN sport channels showing other European leagues.

 

3-3. Optus concede a soft late equaliser.

A draw really is the best result for everybody. Optus attract new subscribers who come willingly to their platform, Foxtel are seen to be working for their EPL fan base, both manage to keep the illegal streamers at bay and most importantly the EPL fan goes home happy for another season.

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