Fox Sports’ Peter Campbell: Foxtel much more than just sports rights

• Campbell was Mediaweek’s guest on the Your Money channel this week

By Your Money’s Ingrid Willinge and Mediaweek’s James Manning

The head of Fox Sports, Peter Campbell, has probably spent more money than anyone at Foxtel since the subscription TV platform first launched.

He’s been at the forefront of acquiring Olympic, AFL, NRL, cricket and many other rights in his tours of duty at the broadcaster.

Campbell spent 13 years at Foxtel looking after sports rights until he departed for the AFL in 2013. After several years running AFL Media he returned to Fox Sports as chief operating officer and was more recently appointed head of Fox Sports.

Watch: See Peter Campbell on Your Money here.

Campbell was Mediaweek’s guest on the Your Money channel this week just days before the First Test against India starts on Fox Cricket next week.

How happy are you with the Fox Cricket TV audiences so far? You had close to half a million last Sunday.

It was a great night at the SCG with close to a full house and the noise and colour that the Indian crowd brings to a match. It is early days but to get 460,000 for the second session of the T20 was very good. Ratings are but one measure of success, but they have been very encouraging.

Is the form of the Australian cricketers a concern?

We have unbelievable form – our women are World Cup champions. The men’s team is going through a rebuilding phase but Australians love nothing more than our backs again the wall. Australians do their best when they are under pressure and I think we might be pleasantly surprised with the team’s performance.

Can you build on these initial numbers?

We have never had international cricket played in Australia over the summer and is a real opportunity for us to build a narrative and a story over the next six years as we follow Australian cricket. It is a time of year when Australians love and absorb the sport.

Do you expect the numbers will drop for cricket matches you share with Seven?

Our audiences do tend to drop when we share a sports match with a FTA broadcaster. Hopefully between Seven and us what we are doing is growing the number of people who can experience cricket differently.

If you look at the AFL, in many instances Fox Footy and Seven take each other’s coverage. The difference with the cricket is that we are both largely doing very distinct and very different types of coverage of the game. We are giving our viewers very different opportunities and each broadcaster will express their different personalities that way.

How much do you have to do with the new Kayo Sports streaming service?

Most of the content that is available on Kayo comes through the Fox Sports business. But it is run very much as a distinct business unit. There are 50 live sports that can be watched through Kayo. With Fox Sports we are the Fox Sports channels. Kayo has the added benefit of sports not only available on Fox Sports but content from ESPN and beIN as well.

Have you been planning Kayo for some time so you could assemble the streaming rights?

It has been planned for a reasonably long time because we wanted to make sure we got the user experience right. In terms of the rights we have always sought, when acquiring sports rights, both traditional broadcast rights for subscription television and digital rights. Fox Sports and Foxtel have nearly always carried their products on a digital service either through Foxtel Now, Foxtel Go or Foxtel Play. Kayo is just a different way of presenting live sport to a different type of consumer.

You have all the most popular major sports now. What does that mean for niche sports like NBL, or maybe even The A-League, which is going through a transition period?

We are able to open up a sport like cricket, which we know has enormous appeal to third or fourth generation Australians. With newer Australians we know what cricket means to people who come from India. This gives us a brand new opportunity to talk to those Australians and to be able to say we have a product featuring your national team.

With NBL and The A-League, we are lucky to have sports that have always backed us to be able to acquire sports rights that will broaden the breadth and depth of sport to as many people as possible. We can cater to the big audiences through the traditional AFL and NRL, cricket and rugby, and to sports with smaller fan bases. There is clearly still much interest in those sports.

How are your 4K broadcasts performing, and could we see more 4K channels eventually?

So far there is just the one channel and we are very pleased with the audience reaction to 4K. Remember we still have customers who were watching in standard definition so when they move to 4K it is extraordinary. When you talk to Katie Page at Harvey Norman and hear about how many 4K sets they are selling, the natural progression for us would be to continue delivering the pictures. It is a big learning for us from a production perspective as we have to rebuild all our graphics in 4K and we need a new broadcast setup. We have done about six events so far and next is the test match in Adelaide in 4K.

Is the future of Foxtel in your hands? Aren’t sports rights the single most valuable pieces of content a broadcaster can have?

I don’t think so. When you look at what Foxtel offers customers, it is such a broad depth and range of amazing content be it news, sport, entertainment, drama, movies and now 4K. The streaming service we are now able to offer customers via the iQ4 means the set-top box is an amazing on-demand streaming device in addition to the linear channels.

People really want a smorgasbord of content and the ability to consume it when they want to. The deals we have from HBO and FX are just amazing and we are the only place you can see that amazing product.

Are there any sports rights you are still chasing?

I always want more. If you think about the Australian sporting landscape we have got the big sports and also the smaller sports.

When it is time to renew your various deals? Does how you serve those sports matter, or do administrators ultimately look for the biggest cash offer?

The sports bodies look at a number of different things and they want a partner who is also on a subscription platform. Not everything can be covered properly on one channel for many sports. Sports rights owners are far more sophisticated now than 15 or 20 years ago when they started to embrace subscription television. Depth, reach and engagement with viewers – we are both after the same thing.

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