Football is my vice. It’s the mistress that comes calling at ungodly hours and whose beckoning I cannot ignore, whatever the fixture.
The desire to get my weekly hit of the Premier League means curtailed social engagements, late nights and red-eyed early mornings.
So the news my supplier was to change shocked the system and promoted cold sweats at the prospect of having to go cold turkey for a season.
I was in the process of sourcing a new internet provider at the time, so Optus with its EPL offering was the obvious, if slightly reluctant, choice.
I already had the Foxtel sports package, so signing another long-term contract with a different provider for just one sport was an unwelcome burden I felt forced to bear. But with the countdown to the new season underway, time was of the essence to ensure I could secure my fix for the the opening weekend.
And early indications suggested this was not going give me the satisfaction levels I had become familiar with under the previous deal with Foxtel.
It took a week for Optus to reject my initial online application for an internet service at my address. Despite the online check showing Optus could provide a connection, I had to go into a store to hammer out the details.
I was then forced to spend hours on desperate calls to its customer support to organise the phone connection (who needs a home phone now-a-days?) before they could even make an appointment with an installer.
The kick-off was fast approaching and being without internet, let alone the Fetch TV service that would stream the games, was like waiting for a blind date to arrive – you don’t know if it’s even worth sitting around for or whether you should just cut your losses.
It certainly added to the debate around whether I should go with the official broadcaster, or choose a basic internet provider and trawl the backstreets of the web to find games via streams. I know plenty of people who have gone with the latter choice and have reported being able to see every game at the time it kicks off.
However, the clincher for me was that surely the official Optus service would be cleaner and more reliable.
When the service was finally installed, I was pleasantly surprised by the picture quality, and the amount of content available during the build-up to the opening fixtures. The presence of non-time sensitive interviews, classic matches and previews – via both Fetch TV and the Optus Sport app – enabled me to get a good dose of EPL ahead of the kick-off.
But the fact the offering is packaged up so seamlessly shouldn’t really have been a shock. Most of it is not original programming from Optus, but the syndicated content from the Premier League. It’s the same stuff that is broadcast around the world, and indeed, the same packages Foxtel was showing in previous years.
The only difference is Optus is providing more of it on demand. That’s all well and good, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to consume it all, and the only real buzz comes from the live matches. That’s the draw card. That’s the selling point.
Problem is, when it matters most, the coverage regularly features a delay, sometimes of up to a minute. It’s a problem that has already been flagged with the ACCC and is unlikely to go away without significant technical improvements.
Ok, so I can shut off from all social media and watch the game ‘as live’, but that’s not the point. I know it isn’t live. The events I’m watching have already happened, and the removal of the social media support network only emphasises the isolation from the passion, banter, and analysis avid fans have become accustomed to.
Delayed is delayed. Whether it’s a minute, or an hour. Optus sold it as being live. Fact is now, it isn’t.
It means the decision by Foxtel bosses to offer delayed coverage of every game from six club TV channels such as Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, has become even more of a masterstroke.
Even if you don’t follow those teams, you could watch at least 12 full league games a season featuring your team through the previous host supplier with it’s sports package (which I still have).
For many people, that will be plenty. Who in their right mind wants to stay up until gone midnight for the sake of a live game anyway? Well, addicts like me.
We thrive on the buzz that is delivered every match day, and whether in a pub with fellow supporters, or on the sofa with a cup of tea, we want to know the events unfolding in front of us are in real time.
As it stands, Optus is depriving us of that. Yes, we can watch every game through their service, but we can also do that via a whole host of streaming sites, without the minimum term lock in contract.
Sure the added features of the multiple channels, goal rush, and the app provide a holistic experience, but none of that helps when watching in a bar at midnight.
Although the service has streamed well in the venues I’ve watched it, there’s always some clever-dick close by ready to shout out “he’ll miss that” as he checks the latest Tweet from ‘the future’.
The anticipation of live has been lost, to be replaced by an empty feeling of resentment and glum acceptance.
The thing that would provide me with such an adrenaline rush has now crashed to become an experience where the only purpose of viewing is for confirmation.
Optus always knew it held the power. We football fans were already addicted. We’ve had the taste for it our whole lives.
Now the supplier we are forced to rely on for our kicks is offering up an inadequate substitute to appease rather than satisfy.
I am now tied to a two-year contract with Optus, facing a bill for hundreds of dollars to cover two seasons of half-baked coverage.
If Optus is committed to providing a revolutionary sporting experience, bosses need to understand why people are hooked, and not just play out-of-sync lip service to our problems.
It needs to quickly find a way to resurrect the live experience fans have come to expect to make me believe the expense is worth the investment.
Kevin Bradford is a West Ham fan and content marketing manager