Despite attempts by the National Rugby League (NRL) and Australian Football League (AFL) to quash Optus’ TV Now service, the legal case has instead had a positive effect, according to Optus chief, Paul O’Sullivan.
At a media briefing on the telco’s results for the third quarter, ending 31 December 2011, O’Sullivan, said the court case, which Optus won earlier this month, had worked to further publicise the service which enables users to record free-to-air television and watch the footage later on a smartphone, tablet or PC.
“The feedback from customers has been very positive,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve actually had a lot of interest in the product sparked by the publicity and the news that’s out there.”
O’Sullivan also cited a social media poll in which “the vast majority” of people surveyed were in favour of the technology and having access to that technology.
“I’d like to reinforce the view that Australians have a lot of stake in the new digital era, therefore it’s essential to get the regulatory settings right,” he said. “We cannot allow the digital future to be dictated to by any one group and we must take all interests and the wellbeing of the wider community into account.”
“I think it’s important that we separate the sporting codes from the technology,” he said. “What we’re quite clearly saying is that this technology is now available, the world wants it and that the world is using it and Australian should not be isolated from that.
“I think it’s both unfair and unrealistic to deprive Australians of the right to use technology that’s right at the forefront of how individuals are using technology and using the internet globally.
“The reality is people will want to watch content on any device, anywhere at any time and what we’re providing is the ability to personally record it and play it back which is really an extension of your home VCR.”
O’Sullivan would not be drawn on Optus’ reaction should a competitor start to offer a similar service to TV Now, and instead noted the importance of a level playing field in the industry.
“We firmly believe that content should be freely available and that all carriers should have the right to access it. Otherwise there’s a risk for those with the deepest pockets and starting from a position of incumbency can afford to pay the most of the rights and use them as a barrier to competition.
“We’ve always advocated that there should be a level playing field and everybody should be able to buy content at the same price and there should be an obligation to provide it.”
Looking forward, O’Sullivan said the company was optimistic about the opportunities in the market for digital products.
“There is a myriad of products in the market today that exist which allow you to shift content from one place to another,” he said.
“We recognise we put in a resilient set of results but there’s more growth out there to capture and we’re very focused on that.”
O’Sullivan also said the rollout of a long term evolution (LTE) network, announced last September, was well underway, with the telco expecting strong takeup.
“Something that will help enormously is the timing. We’re starting to roll it out and the range of devices that will be available in the market will increase significantly over what’s available today,” he said.
On the choice to kick off the first rollout in Newcastle, scheduled to go live in April, he said investments made in the area over the past couple of years had made it the ideal option “to test market” and to get used to how the technology operates before taking it into major capital cities.
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