English Premier League deal makes Optus a broadcasting player says CEO Allen Lew

Allen Lew Optus CEO

Media player: Allen Lew

Optus CEO Allen Lew has not ruled out on-selling part of the English Premier League football rights to Fox Sports, but said the move was central to the telco’s transformation to becoming a content platform.

Optus swooped on the exclusive broadcast, broadband and mobile EPL rights, wrong-footing broadcast incumbent Fox Sports in securing the three year deal believed to be valued in excess of $100m, with reports suggesting as much as $45m per season.

Lew told Mumbrella the move into broadcasting and securing exclusive rights for a major global sport was a first for an Australian telco.

“No telco has ever talked about content from the perspective of broadcasting rights that are exclusive and linking it directly to that particular telco, so in that sense we are game-changing,” said Lew.

“For all these live games on broadband and digital and mobile we have a very important asset we can use for the next three years from August 2016.”

English Premier League 2015Whilst Telstra has been heavily involved in pushing out AFL and NRL footage on mobile devices through apps it has not made a play for main broadcast rights due to its half ownership of Foxtel.

He said the commoditisation of the telco industry meant Optus was now staking a claim as a content platform and the EPL announcement was its strongest demonstration of that.

“This gives us the opportunity to come out as really differentiated that nobody can follow,” he added.

However, Lew was not willing to reveal how Optus would use the broadcast rights, saying it had plenty of time before the EPL deal came into place to develop its offering to consumers across its Fetch TV, Optus TV, broadband and mobile.

“The world of broadcast is changing quite significantly and especially in a country like Australia where there is a high penetration of broadband,” he said.

“Broadband is going out to almost every single home. If you look at the landscape there are a multitude of ways we can get this valuable content to the big screen that people have in their homes, through their PCs, through their laptops, through their tablets and through their mobiles and we have looked at multiple options and developed an internal plan that allows us to optimise these strengths that we have.”

Cricket-Australia-Logo-2003-234x323One possibility which has been floated is for a dedicated Optus sports channel on the Fetch TV platform. The company recently did a deal with Cricket Australia which would allow it to broadcast international cricket highlights as soon as a day’s play or match has finished on a platform like Fetch. It also now has the rights to CA’s archive.

Equally the company could create an app, similar to the NBA’s, which would allow people to pay a one-off fee for a season’s worth of access.

Lew said crucial to the decision by Optus to bid for the EPL was looking at the size and loyalty of the following in Australia.

“We have done a lot of work on the transactional front to make sure we can justify this financially, but more importantly as well there is also a huge strategic element.”

Lew declined to rule out on-selling rights to Fox Sports or another party, with free-to-air public broadcaster SBS among the likely candidates.

“I think we are looking at a lot of different options and at this stage. I don’t want to  publicly announce what we are doing because there are multiple discussions which are ongoing at this time. We will make it convenient and make it easy for Australians to get access to this content,” he added.

He said Optus continued to look at other content, including the need to develop other exclusive Optus content. When asked about the possibility of bidding for rights to NRL games, Lew again declined to comment.

“If you look at it narrowly we are competing against telcos, but if you look at it broadly we are competing against all companies that are going for customer attention. At the end of the day whoever wins is the brand that customers feel is delivering the best multimedia proposition to them.”

Simon Canning


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