SBS to air all World Cup group games as Optus rebuilds

SBS will broadcast the rest of the World Cup group stage on free-to-air TV after Optus determined its streaming service could not cope with the immediate demand from the Australian public.

The telco bought exclusive rights to 39 of the 64 games for a reported $8 million but multiple games have been disrupted by technological failures since the tournament kicked off six days ago.

A weekend of criticism saw Optus reach an agreement with SBS for the public broadcaster to air four extra games on Monday and Tuesday while its technicians worked on a solution.

But the company decided it needed more time, announcing on Wednesday that SBS would air the remaining 31 group games.

The extended SBS coverage will continue with its broadcast of Portugal’s clash with Morocco at 10pm tonight.

“The FIFA World Cup is the absolute pinnacle of football, a sport that Australians are deeply passionate about,” SBS chief executive Michael Ebeid said in a statement.

“SBS looks forward to continuing to simulcast the games, together with Optus over the next 10 days.”

The World Cup is shared between SBS and Optus. Pic: Getty

Optus will continue to stream the World Cup as it attempts to rebuild its reputation as a football destination, having recently extended its deal to broadcast the English Premier League.

“Since Monday, we have continued to improve the product, and Optus has delivered the last six matches without any issue,” chief executive Allen Lew told reporters.

“We have the confidence we needed to reassure the Australian public that we’ve got this and that our effort have worked,” Lew told media on Wednesday afternoon.

“However confident we are, we have listened to the feedback of Australian soccer fans. Effective tonight, all Australians will have choice.”

Optus will refund customers who signed up to pay $15 per month for the World Cup and open its service for free to all until the end of August.

The World Cup knockout phase begins on June 30 with eight matches played across four days; one game per day is slated to be exclusive to Optus.