By Matthew Galea
Following a Premier League club has changed considerably if you are following from Australia this season.
Gone are the days of beautiful high-definition television, showing pristine quality, up-to-the-second footage straight from the United Kingdom into our living rooms on Fox Sports.
Instead, the majority of fans must now watch on laptop screens, tablets or maybe even phones after Fox Sports lost the broadcast rights to Optus.
Thankfully, Manchester United have been good to watch this season, because I am not sure I would have put up with Optus’ slow streams on a laptop or iPad for Louis van Gaal’s philosophy.
The telecommunications provider shocked everyone when they usurped Australia’s premier subscription television service to the rights in November last year.
Instantly, Premier League fans began to question how on earth Optus was going to deliver the service.
They offered the chance for interested customers to sign up for opt-in notifications, promising to keep fans in the loop on how they planned to deliver the Premier League, stating they would outline their plans by May 15.
When that date came around, they delayed the roll-out for weeks, citing issues with their website.
Not a great start!
Eventually, it was revealed Optus customers paying over $80 a month on a mobile, internet or home phone plan or subscription would receive free access to the Premier League on the web, with an extra $15 to access their television service Fetch.
So, three weeks into the new season, how does the new broadcaster rate?
It is fair to say that the opening weekend was something of a disaster for Optus.
Users were left frustrated with faltering streams, which were anywhere between 30 seconds and two minutes behind the live action – a virtual age in the world of Twitter – as the hashtag #OptusOut reigned supreme on social media.
— OZMUFCSA (@OZMUFC) August 15, 2016
— Allan Meilak (@Spesh32) August 27, 2016
Trying to watch United’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth was a terrible user experience, but as bad as it was, what choice do Premier League fans have?
Optus, for lack of a better term, has those that want to watch their Premier League teams live without the risk of illegal satellite services or virus-clad illegal streams by the balls.
But it has not been all bad.
Personally, since the first week I have had fewer and fewer issues.
I refuse to pay an extra $15 on top of what I already pay to have access to the Premier League as well as Foxtel (which has more than made up for its lack of Premier League with La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and more) for Fetch Mini to watch the same stream on my television, so I have been watching United’s game and the Premier League in general on my iPad.
I still find it bizarre that in 2016 I cannot watch the Premier League on my TV in full HD, but at least the picture quality on the iPad is good.
The delay on the stream is certainly noticeable, particularly if you like to have Twitter running in the background, but on the plus side, not having to get out of bed at 2 am to watch a game is not the worst thing in the world.
Cut outs have been less and less frequent as well, though having to refresh my stream once every 30 minutes remains less than ideal.
Another positive of Optus’ coverage is the ability to watch every Premier League game and all the highlights “On Demand”, without having to remember to record matches or programs, while the availability of classic matches is always a good way to fill in the time if you have an hour or so to kill.
Also, the fact that one game per week is broadcast live and in HD on free-to-air television with SBS is surely another positive – one which United fans in particular will be able to enjoy in a couple of weeks for the Manchester derby.
Still, I would not hesitate in trading all those features in to get United and the Premier League back on Foxtel and the stress-free enjoyment of live, high-definition viewing on the big screen.