SBS football presenter Les Murray says that selling the rights to 39 FIFA 2018 World Cup games to Optus in return for adding EPL matches to their free-to-air schedule for the first time in 12 years will be better for viewers.
Under the 2018 FIFA World Cup sub-licence deal, Optus will transmit live 64 matches of the 2018 Men’s World Cup but SBS will retain simultaneous free-to-air rights of 25 of the matches and Optus will have exclusive rights to 39 live matches.
Since Italia 90, SBS has broadcast every match of the World Cup except in 2002 when the Nine network broadcast 16 exclusive matches.
Les Murray has been the face of SBS’s World Cup coverage for over 30 years and says that yesterday’s announcement is a win for the SBS football audience.
“With this agreement SBS gets 114 games while it loses 39 games,” he said.
“We believe that is on balance a very good deal for the free to air viewer.
“SBS has first pick of what games in the World Cup it wants to broadcast. This will ensure that the best and most attractive games, including all games involving the Socceroos, the final etc will be on free to air
“The EPL, the world's most popular league, returns to free to air screens for the first time since 2004. Many EPL fans will now no longer have to pay in order to watch their favourite league. This surely will overall better service football's development and the viewers than screening 39 games in a World Cup once every four years.”
Meanwhile SBS said that it understands some fans will be upset from not seeing all the World Cup games on its network.
“This was a great opportunity to get the EPL,” said an SBS Spokesperson.
“So it makes absolute sense to consider a shared arrangement. Some fans may be disappointed but many more will very happy about the overall offering.”
Commencing next EPL season, Optus will sub-licence exclusive free-to-air TV rights of one EPL match per round to SBS until 2018-2019.
It’s live coverage of the EPL will include a pre-match and post panel show with hosts and analysis provided by SBS. They will also show a replay of each match within 72 hours.
Optus also told Four Four Two that their objective was to provide the EPL in a variety of platforms and having a presence on free-to-air was part of that.
“Ultimately our goal was to be able to deliver the EPL to fans of football in a range of ways,” an Optus spokesperson said.
“So that no matter how they want to watch it, they have many options available to them. And free to air is one of those opportunities that we have. We also acknowledge that SBS has a really rich history in football.”
The spokesperson added: “So in terms of the matches we are going to be making available on SBS they will get one match per round and about half their allocation will be taken from the earlier Saturday afternoon UK time-slot. The rest of them will be taken from the later Saturday time slot.”
- Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.