Optus…Yes? Or No?

With the news this week that Optus are delaying pre-orders for next season’s Premier League packages, one wonders what the telco’s thinking is behind the TV rights upheaval they orchestrated. On face value, their strategy of paying $189 million for the rights to make the EPL in Australia internet-only is sound, and one that speaks to the direction the TV market is headed. On the other hand, there’s one glaringly bad problem, it is at the expense of consumers.

While Optus may claim to be on the side of Premier League fans, the overriding feeling is one of a new player aiming to make a splash in the market. They have, effectively, held EPL viewers to ransom, taking the product away and then forcing fans to spend more money to get it back.

Let’s also congratulate their efforts to confuse current and new customers alike. Even if you’re an Optus customer, the mind boggles as you attempt to understand if EPL matches are included in your current broadband or mobile phone plan and if it counts against your monthly data allowance. This is before we even get to the hoops non-Optus customers must jump through to ensure they can still watch the Premier League live next season. It might just be that much easier to save the money and Google an illegal stream…

Optus’ approach makes little sense and stinks of a short term money grab devised by data analysts deep within the bowels of the Optus offices. The move could be considered an effort to match BT Sport’s entry into the UK market. But this Australian effort comes nowhere near what the British telco offers in terms of accessibility and product.

Yes, Optus must be under pressure to make some kind of a return from their almost $200 million outlay, an amount almost double the next highest bid from Foxtel the the blind auction (Richard Scudamore and his Premier League chums must be laughing all the way to the bank). Online streaming is undoubtedly the future, and where TV consumption is heading, but Optus’ ability to deliver the product becomes questionable when the telco and NBN chief have voiced concerns over the capability of the country’s internet infrastructure to deliver what the product they are promising.

But what else could they have done? The answer is pretty simple — but goes against the corporate norm of short term thinking and would require plenty of intestinal fortitude at an executive level.

If Optus genuinely wanted to establish itself as a leader in this area, they should’ve thought of the customer first. Again, it comes down to what value they can provide. Instead of making it difficult to watch your Premier League team, why not offer an affordable and easily accessible service to anyone, whether they are an Optus customer or not? Imagine a situation where anyone could pay $15/month to watch any Premier League match live on any of their devices? All the customer would need is a device and a credit card, with a sign in process so smooth, it would feel as simple as the touch of a button.

Being so accessible and so affordable would generate a huge amount of brand loyalty and respect for Optus to leverage its mobile and broadband products. A return on the TV rights expenditure would be made in no time! Unfortunately, Optus are more interested in extracting value from the consumer, than providing it.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon once said “Focus on the things that don’t change”.

No one wants something to be harder to get than it was before. Those that want the Premier League want it to be on the TV now! Just like they had with Foxtel.

No one wants it to be harder to watch something than it used to be. Can this play by Optus even be supported by Australia’s existing internet infrastructure? 

Currently, Optus are failing on both counts and should re-consider it’s strategy or at the very least how it offers it before making a run for the A-League TV rights as well.

This post originally appeared on The Dirtbag. If you enjoyed it, it would mean a lot if you hit that lovely heart button.
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