How anti-siphoning is limiting Fox Sports

Patrick Delany on levelling the playing field for a sporting chance

Australia is a sporting nation,” said Fox Sports Australia CEO Patrick Delany during his address at the 2016 ASTRA Conference.

About five to 10 minutes of Delany’s address were spent describing the deep connection that Australians have with sports. This set up a base to emphasise the importance of a dedicated sports channel like Fox Sports Australia on subscription TV.

“The law actually stops us from doing the things that our competitors can do.”

Australia is different, he said. “We define our national identity through major sporting moments.”

The channel set a NRL ratings record on Saturday 3 September 2016. The clash between Melbourne Storm and Cronulla Sharks was the most-watched NRL game on subscription TV.

“It’s been an amazing year, especially when you think about the fact that this time last year we didn’t think we’d have NRL at all,” Delany later told Mediaweek.

“The Australian public has embraced having every game live and ad-free on Fox.”

In the past 12 months, the average audience for all games shown on Fox Sports Australia is up by 9%. NRL accounts for 50 of the top 100 programs on subscription TV. This achievement resulted in Fox Sports being named 2016 ASTRA Channel of The Year.

“The Australian public has embraced having every game live and ad-free on Fox. More than that, they have embraced the way we are covering the games with all the graphics and callers.

“It has spread over in all our other sports – AFL is also up and Supercars is up massively, about 40%.”

Fox Sports will have a dedicated footy channel for the next season of rugby league. This month, Foxtel customers are being given a taste of this with Fox Sports Australia’s NRL pop-up channel for the finals round.

“This year we have the live AFL and NRL finals. It is a cause of great excitement for the team because it is one thing to call any game of NRL, but to call the finals where there is a real outcome is a real honour.”

Fox Sports Australia shares the rights for NRL with Nine as it is a listed sport on the anti-siphoning list. While Fox holds the rights to broadcast all the final-stage games of the NRL, Nine holds the exclusive rights to show this year’s grand final match.

“Consumer expectations are completely different,” Delany stated. “The law actually stops us from doing the things that our competitors can do. We saw that in the Olympics. Seven was able to buy the Olympics exclusively and run a pay TV service around it. That law, which has 1,800 events listed, doesn’t say anything about needing those events to be free. It doesn’t have anything about them being live. The whole world has changed. It’s about time we looked at that law and brought it up to date with the technology and the world.”

As to whether Fox Sports Australia would be looking to bid for the Big Bash League, Delany said: “We are always poking around the rights markets, especially for some sports.”

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