As I mentioned in Mondays post about City2Surf, I had a quiet weekend home alone and spent some of it watching the opening games of the English Premier League on TV. This year though, for the first time since moving to Australia back in 2007, I wasn’t watching it on Foxtel.
In Australia, Foxtel no longer hold the rights to broadcast the EPL, they were outbid by telecommunications giant Optus. So this year I’ll get my English football fix from a channel called Optus Sport…
It was only a year ago when I was boasting Australia was the place to be to watch the English Premier League. At that time, not only was it cheaper to watch the EPL in Australia, but we also got to see every single game here. We could watch live if we wanted to, or we could record it to watch it when we wanted, or simply watch one of the repeats of the game.
So how does it compare now?
EPL on UK TV
In the UK Sky Sports retained the rights, which they still share with BT Sport. So nothing has changed substantially in the UK, although the price has gone up slightly.
Last season, the minimum cost of subscribing to the sport channel on Sky was £45.50, which included the basic channels plus the sports pack.
As I’ve already mentioned though, BT Sport also have some rights, so you won’t get to see all the games and you only get to see a limited number of games live. That’s all explained in my original post Australia: The Place to Be to Watch the English Premier League.
EPL on Australian TV
When Optus won the bid, I think it’s fair to say that many Australian-based English football fans went into immediate panic. Optus are a telecoms company, so questions were being asked about whether they could pull this off.
- Could they really deliver live football on big-screen TVs?
- Would the EPL only be made available to Optus customers?
- Would users need to move over to Optus as their Internet Service Provider?
- How much would they charge for the EPL?
These questions, and more, have now been answered and I’ll try to cover some of it here. To fully answer everything would get quite complicated, so if you really need to know all the ins and outs I suggest you Google ‘Optus EPL packages‘.
What I will do here though is talk about the package I went for with Optus, compare it with my old package with Foxtel and then run through some winners and losers, as I see it, resulting from Foxtel losing out to Optus.
In some ways I was lucky; I heard that Optus had won the EPL rights back in November of last year, and early this year my wife needed to sign a new mobile phone contract as her iPhone had died on her or ‘gone to live in the iCloud’. So I suggested she sign a new contract with Optus instead of sticking with Vodafone.
The cost of the plans from each company were the same, the phones were the same, and the coverage very similar. So Mrs Bob signed up for a two-year contract at $40 per month. That made us an ‘Optus customer’, and I was hoping that come the announcement of the plans for EPL that might help in some way.
Turns out that with that plan, providing we signed up before 31 July 2016, which we did, we got the EPL for free. Only problem with that was it only allowed us to watch it on her mobile phone or through their website on the PC. Call me old-fashioned, but I wanted to watch it on the television.
To facilitate that, I needed to order a Fetch TV by Optus, basically a PVR/TV box similar to Foxtel’s IQ box or Sky Q. It arrived in the post the other week…
Foxtel versus Optus
My Foxtel package was:
- Basic channels plus box = $25
- Foxtel Sport = $25
- Children’s channels = $10
Total = $60 per month
My new Optus package is:
- Basic channels plus box = $30
- Sports channel for EPL = Free
Total = $30 per month
Foxtel bundled in Bein Sport for free with their sports pack when they lost the EPL, which offers Champions League football, FA Cup, and action from the top European leagues, but if I choose to I can add that to my Optus package for $15 per month.
You could argue that I’m only getting the EPL for free because my wife has a mobile phone plan with them, but on the other hand she has always had a phone plan and paid at least $40 a month for it, so we are no worse off for having that.
You could also argue that we need an internet connection for the premium channels to work on Fetch TV, where as no Internet is required for Foxtel. On the other hand though, we do already have unlimited internet through TPG and always have had, so again that is not an additional expense.
So, taking that into account, we appear to be winners under the new Optus deal. But not everybody is.
When Foxtel lost the EPL package, they signed up deals with Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham, allowing them to show their Premier League games, their FA Cup games and Capital One Cup games not live, but delayed and shown 10 hours after original kickoff.
Given that many games kickoff at around midnight Australian time, that’s not a bad deal for those who are patient. Add to that all the other sports they offer through Foxtel, like Test Cricket, AFL, Formula One, NRL, boxing, golf, darts, I could go on, Foxtel does offer much more than just EPL.
They have so much sport, they have everything except the one thing that I want; live EPL.
If you are a sports fanatic, and you like lots of different sports, this is a bad deal for you because you will probably have to sign up for both services, or maybe sacrifice the EPL and settle for the Foxtel package.
If you have no interest in using or owning a mobile phone, or you really don’t want the internet at all, then you really are a loser under the Optus deal if you are passionate about watching the English Premier League.
Of course, it’s not always about the money. Picture quality and professional delivery are also important, so how did Optus stack up on day one?
I didn’t have any problems watching it through my Fetch TV on my large TV screen, although I did keep getting a pop-up saying my connection was slower than it would have liked, and to check to see if there are other devices using the internet connection at the same time.
I realised that my Fetch TV was recording another program on a premium channel at the same time, so I cancelled that recording and that put a stop to the pop-ups.
But clearly any delivery over the internet is not going to be as good as the satellite delivered Foxtel. That said, there was no buffering at all during the games I watched and the picture wasn’t bad.
Lots of people have complained about a 40 to 50 second delay in the transmission, although this didn’t bother me. Some people though, apparently, have their social media feeds on whilst watching the game and were getting tweets or whatever it is telling them of a goal before they’ve actually seen it on the screen. So I can see how annoying that can be.
I’ve also seen how bad the picture quality is at the moment for the replays on their website, that has got to improve.
Optus also offers apps for iPhone and Android, from what I’ve read online, they did not work so well. In some cases, they didn’t work at all. Optus are a big company though, I’m sure they will sort out all of these teething problems in good time.
Optus also have a website where you can watch games live, or you can watch games in full or the highlights on demand.
Even though I appear to be a winner in these circumstances, I think in the long term we will all be losers. With telcos (like BT in the UK) muscling in on the media scene, and with sports rights being up for grabs every couple years for any number of different sports, we can expect even more fragmentation in the future.
If you are a sports nut, then you could end up having to subscribe to several different services and purchase or rent lots of different kinds of devices just to see everything you want to see.
I can’t see how this can be good news for sports fans anywhere.
When I look at the price being paid in the UK to watch less of the EPL and compare that to what we pay in Australia though, I realise that we are still much better off here. Australia is still the place to be to watch the English Premier League.
Finally, allow me to now answer the four questions originally posed at the beginning of this article.
- Yes, Optus have delivered live football on the big screen
- Yes, the EPL is only available to Optus customers, the current minimum commitment to be classified as a ‘customer’ is $30 per month on a 12 month mobile phone plan. Update August 2018: apparently this is no longer the case, you can subscribe to Optus Sport without being an Optus customer for any of their other services. The cost is $14.99 a month, but it does mean you can only watch via an app on a smart device. This is not ideal, most people would want to watch football on a large screen TV, and the app doesn’t get very good reviews. My advice would be to pay the extra and get the Fetch TV Mighty.
- No, you do not have to have Optus as your ISP, you can stay with your own Internet Service Provider
- How much it costs really depends on what package you buy; as I’ve already mentioned, Google ‘Optus EPL packages’ for more details
The big question though is can they ultimately deliver a better service than Foxtel did, and that’s a question I cannot answer, not yet anyway. Time will tell.
This has never happened on any of my posts before, but it has now. We have extra time.
Free English Premier League on FTA TV
FTA meaning, of course, free to air, and in our case our Special Broadcasting Services channel, SBS.
Optus has done a deal with SBS which allows them to show one EPL game live each and every week of the season over the next three years. Optus aren’t just chucking some dodgy old game their way either, sometimes they get what is easily the match of the day.
Here is a list of the opening six games they will be showing this season:
- Saturday, 13 August at 9:00pm AEST: Hull City v Leicester City
- Saturday, 20 August at 11:30pm AEST: Burnley FC v Liverpool
- Saturday, 27 August at 9:00pm AEST: Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool
- Saturday, 10 September at 9:00pm AEST: Manchester United v Manchester City
- Saturday, 17 September at 11:30pm AEST: Hull City v Arsenal
- Saturday, 24 September at 9:00pm AEST: Manchester United v Leicester City
Imagine getting United versus City, or Tottenham versus Liverpool, live on a Saturday night, 9 o’clock kickoff, and on terrestrial TV for free. And then imagine all the other free games.
This is a real bonus for the casual EPL fan who wants to catch up with some of the top games without having to pay a bean.
It gets even better.
Those same casual fans can watch The World Game (TWG), a 45 minute EPL highlight show on SBS Monday nights with 3 to 4 minute highlights of every game in the Premier League. I know that Match of the Day highlights on the BBC are a bit longer, but not by much. I think they only show 6 to 7 minutes, maybe 8 or 9 minutes for the really big games?
Australia is still the place to be to watch the English Premier League on TV.