Telstra CMO claims ‘quality network’ will avoid Optus EPL-style lag as it launches sports apps

Telstra is starting a new push on its digital sports rights, with a new campaign set to launch this weekend, pushing its overhauled apps for AFL, NRL and the upcoming Netball Super League.


The telco’s head of media and marketing Joe Pollard played down concerns over lag on the live streams which has blighted the enjoyment of Optus’ English Premier League offering for some customers, many of which had to take out a new plan with the network in order to access the package

Pollard told Mumbrella at a launch event in Sydney: “You need to have a quality network to have a quality experience.”


L to R: Joe Pollard, Telstra Group Executive Media & Chief Marketing Officer; Todd Greenberg, CEO National Rugby League; Marne Fechner, CEO Netball Australia; Gillon McLachlan, CEO Australian Football League; Michele Garra, Telstra Executive Director Media

She added: “We have a slightly different strategy to Optus as we have the rights but any Australian can buy them. If you’re a non-Telstra customer you can buy a weekly, monthly or annual pass. If you’re a Telstra customer, it’s included in your plan because we believe in access for all.

“I can’t speak on behalf of Optus but we believe from a network quality perspective, whether that’s speed or coverage or reliability as it relates to drop-outs, that we’re a superior network. So we don’t find we have those issues because of the quality of the network.”

Pollard said the strategy of offering all three apps free of charge to Telstra customers on the right plans as well as data-free streaming had proven beneficial in terms of customer acquisition, and retaining existing customers on higher value plans, but declined to give specific numbers.

Pollard was quick to hose down questions on whether the improved mobile experiences could be seen as a rival for Fox Sports and, by extension Foxtel, of which Telstra owns 50%.

“Really the best way to watch sport is broadcast in HD on a big screen, and you get that with Foxtel,” she said.

“But from a mobile perspective, when you can’t be near a big screen you have it on your mobile. With our relationship with Fox Sports and us owning the mobile rights we feel like we’re in the ecosystem of being a Telstra customer you can get the best of both worlds if you want it in the home. And with Foxtel you get access to go, and so we see it as complementary.”

Asked if the company was looking at other sporting rights to add to the suite Pollard said “not at the moment”, adding: “We’re always looking at what our customers want. You’ve got the cricket rights coming up in the next year, the FFA has just been finalised and then you’ve got tennis – which is more of a free-to-air sport.

“So we look at it if it’s beneficial for Telstra. If you can access it for free somewhere else, is it what we want? But we’re always on the look out for new content deals.”

Pollard said niche sports could also be of interest, pointing to the niche apps the company has launched on its Telstra TV platform such as Indian content and plans for Mandarin language content.

All three apps enjoyed a soft launch last week, with Pollard saying even without promotion they had enjoyed a 350% uptake in downloads.


The company has engaged global experts who worked on codes such as the NFL and NRL in the US to help deliver the new experiences, with specific club apps allowing fans to tailor their content.

The AFL app has had the most work, with new features like an augmented reality photo booth that allows fans to pose themselves in different situations with their team, and “augmented ringtones”.

Speaking at the launch event, Gillon McLachlan, AFL CEO, said fans had turned to the app outside of the stadiums after many had to be turned away from the first match of the AFL’s new women’s competition over the weekend, with 2.6m minutes of AFLW content streamed over the weekend.

Netball has also had an overhaul with a simplified experience and a Telstra TV app allowing fans to watch two live games a week through the connected device. Nine Network will show the other two matches live, and will provide the production for the Telstra TV games.

The smartphone app will also be able to be played on TV screens via AirPlay and Chromecast.

NRL has also had “120 improvements to the ease of finding content” for fans, according to executive director of Telstra Media Michelle Garra.

She said: “An important use case for our apps is when people are actually at the game or on the couch – a lot of people tracking trends and player stats during the game.”

Garra added: “Nobody wants a generic version of content on the apps, so we have developed tailored club experiences for each of the apps.”

All apps will carry official sponsor advertising for each of the codes.


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