• Channels promise more live, HD and uninterrupted AFL and NRL games plus new weekday programs
Fox Sports chief executive Patrick Delany took the stage before an audience of over 200 major advertisers, sports stars and administrators, subscription TV colleagues, Fox Sports talent and media to launch the 2016 schedule earlier this week.
“We have a spine-tingling lineup of sports for 2016,” Delany told the crowd.
Speaking to Mediaweek after the event, Delany said subscribers would have a much richer offering with all of the sports spread across the seven Fox Sports channels. “When it comes to the major football codes, no matter who your team is, they will be live on Fox. The message to viewers is that simple. Very few people follow just one sport. We feel the $50 price point [for the $25 Foxtel basic package and the $25 sports tier] is very affordable both for existing subscribers and new ones.
As to the effect of lower Foxtel subscription prices, Delany said: “$50 is extremely good value. The impact has been great. Foxtel has been able to get far more customers through the door either in bundles or on the $25 plan. There is also a lot entering at $50 and many are then upgrading. We are seeing a big upgrade as we move into the winter sports season. Our new message is aimed at both getting new Foxtel subscribers and getting people to upgrade to the sports tier.”
The broadcaster does get more business at this time of year. When asked if many subscribers take a sports package now and then drop it at the end of the football seasons, Delany said: “Not as many as you would think. There is a little bit of ebb and flow after the sports season through summer. But the best time for selling Foxtel subscriptions every year is February and March.”
Despite all the new NRL programming and the extra channels, Fox Sports won’t launch a dedicated channel until 2017. “The dedicated NRL channel starts next year. It was too late in the year when the deal was brokered to do it for 2016. We decided with the NRL that is was better to do it well rather than risk rushing it. You can see from our schedule already this year that we will be able to produce an amazing NRL channel next year.”
Fox Sports very much likes the NRL match schedule when there are no clashes with two matches overlapping or being played at the same time. “It is all clean air which is why we can have massive Saturdays and Sundays with all the games back-to-back. Next year when Monday night football goes and there is another game on Friday they will be back-to-back too. There will be a 6pm and an 8pm game. No head-to-head clashes.”
Fox Sports summer highlights have been the A-League, the arrival of the NBL and some recent big audiences for cricket with Australia playing New Zealand. “The basketball has been interesting,” said Delany. The audiences for many of the regular season games have been very small, with the numbers lifting since the final series started. “The NBL gets a lot of people going to the stadium. In some sports you can’t get people to the games because they are so successful on TV. Others you have a stadium sport where you haven’t quite broken into the TV audience. The A-League sits between both of those and basketball is that space too.
“Let me say I am glad we are about to enter the winter season again. It runs for so long now. It is February and everybody is playing footy and that will run right through until the start of October.
Delany agreed he may have got a few new grey hairs during 2015 during all the sports rights negotiations. As to the rights deals he needs to renegotiate in 2016, he said there is always a lot of pressure for any rights negotiations. “Australia is a very competitive place. We have the A-League and the Socceroos rights coming up and we will see what happens. We have been in football a long time and we care a lot about it. We are anticipating the payoff when Australia fully embraces what is clearly a great sport.”