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Football fans angry at Optus's patchy English Premier League debut

Manchester United fans with a banner

The first broadcast by Optus of English Premier League football action has infuriated fans who paid to watch the exclusive live coverage only to have it disrupted by major technical faults.

The hashtag #OptusOut was trending on Twitter as fans vented their frustration about the signal dropping out, delays of up to a minute and a poor-quality picture.

Last year the telecommunications provider beat the former rights holder Fox Sports to the Premier League deal, reportedly worth $180m over three years. Fox Sports, whose parent company is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, had been Australia’s sole broadcaster since 1997.

Some Premier League fans – already unhappy at having to sign a two-year Optus broadband or mobile subscription just to see the Premier League – are now furious that their enjoyment of the matches, including Bournemouth versus Manchester United, was ruined.

One fan complained that Optus had failed to “live up to basic expectations” and should “give the rights back to Foxtel”. Another encouraged people to complain to the telecommunications ombudsman.

An Optus spokeswoman blamed the disruption partly on the Premier League satellite service, not the Optus network.

“Optus can confirm that there was a 30-second transmission disruption during the broadcast of last night’s Premier League match between Bournemouth v Manchester United,” she said.

“We have been advised by the Premier League that the disruption was caused by their satellite distribution supplier. The issue was not related to an Optus mobile or fixed broadband network outage, or the Optus Sport App.

“As soon as Optus became aware of the issue, we switched to an alternative feed. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused and appreciate their patience while the broadcast was restored.”

But there is a second issue related to the variety of platforms that people are using to take the Premier League stream, which used to be broadcast on Foxtel television in HD and may have been more reliable.

“The technology used to deliver ‘over-the-top’ content via broadband and mobile networks is slightly slower than traditional terrestrial and satellite broadcasting,” an Optus spokesman said.

“This is consistent with the viewing experience on other web-based or app content services currently operating in Australia. While we have not received a large number of calls about lags to the streaming service, we recognise that individual experiences can vary, particularly over devices, browser interfaces, and networks.”

Fans can watch the Premier League with a two-year broadband Fetch TV subscription for a minimum of $2,640 or a sim-only mobile phone subscription for a minimum of $360. Existing subscribers with certain mobile, mobile broadband and home broadband plans were also eligible for free Premier League access.

The Optus glitches echo problems users had with Seven’s $20 Olympics app that failed to keep up with demand on its first weekend.

“Users may have experienced issues accessing the app and live streams due to the demand,” a Seven spokesman said. “Our service provider in Rio delivering the Olympics on 7 app is working to resolve this and the impact from the heavy demand.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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