Kaboom: Foxtel Media Upfront announcements destined to shake-up TV sector

Foxtel Media

Foxtel starting own industry org, beginning a ratings panel, launching Hubbl for 92% of Australians

Foxtel Media has pushed the button on an explosive trio of moves that could reshape the TV and video market in Australia.

The moves might make a mark in the TV sector like the one ARN is hoping for in the radio sector as it and Anchorage Capital seek to acquire SCA and then secure the best bits for themselves.

Foxtel is making moves that don’t involve any takeover though, but are reactions to a market that threatens to become too hard for consumers and one some say is too reliant on claimed viewing behaviour.

The moves are aimed to help lock in Foxtel customers and make marketers feel more secure about their investments.

Mark Frain at Foxtel Media 2024 Upfront

Digital revenue booming at Foxtel Media

It’s been a good year at Foxtel Media. Chief executive officer Mark Frain told Mediaweek he estimated Foxtel Media might be down in single figures year-on-year for calendar 2023. Not terrible in a market where metro revenue was down 15% in the six months to June 30, 2023.

The big mover at Foxtel Media is the growth in digital advertising which is up over 50% YOY. Digital products at Foxtel Media include Kayo, Binge, Foxtel Go, Foxtel Now and FoxSports.com.au.

By mid-2024, Frain expects over 40% of Foxtel Media’s revenue will come from digital. Three years ago that figure was 7%.

VideoAmp a key partner in Foxtel’s new measurement platform

‘Bold, disruptive move’: Foxtel builds own measurement platform

Accusations that measurement of Foxtel audiences was not 100% accurate earlier this year moved Mark Frain and Foxtel Group CEO Patrick Delany to act on a way to have more data to take to market.

“For the past few years I have been observing what has been happening in other markets regarding alternative currencies,” Frain explained.

“Particularly in the US in the last two years. Questions had been raised about how important alternative currencies would become.

“If you look at the US market now and their Upfront season, nearly every publisher spoke about alternative currencies they were using. VideoAmp and iSpot were driving it mostly in the US.”

Frain said the Foxtel group has 1m set-top boxes it has never really leveraged. “Customers say it would be great to learn more about our audience with more data from the boxes.

“This year we have signed an agreement with Kantar and they will build a measurement platform using Foxtel Group set-top box data.

“We will be able to use that data as a counterpoint to OzTAM in 2024. After a number of changes at OzTAM earlier this year, particularly around sport, we have realised it’s time to accelerate our ideas around measurement and currency.”

VideoAmp down under

Frain explained that VideoAmp is leading the charge in the US on alternative currencies. “They are working with every single major buying group with case studies and proofs of concept. Their partnership list includes all the major players in the US – Warner Bros Discover, Disney, NBCU, Fox and Paramount – who have all partnered with VideoAmp in some degree.

“A partnership here will bring together all of our linear data and all of our streaming data into one place.”

Frain noted that the Foxtel Group has re-signed with OzTAM which will continue to measure as it has done in the past. “Given our growth in digital and streaming, we wanted to double down on measurement and currency from other suppliers.”

Foxtel Media’s Nev Hasan

The return of Murray Love

This measurement move from Foxtel Media brings back memories of their Multiview panel that then research and strategy director Murray Love oversaw.

A decade ago Multiview started with 10,000 homes and then climbed to 100,000+. This time Frain and Love, now consulting to the company, are going real big and utilising the 1m Foxtel set-top boxes plus also harnessing the data from 3.1m digital customers of Kayo and Binge.

Frain: “What we are planning to do is take Multiview to a different level. Multiview was probably before its time. It was never set up as an alternative currency, but if we still had it, it would serve that purpose.”

Foxtel Media’s research partner is Kantar who is fast-tracking their build.

Amanda Laing with some of the key content Kantar and VideoAmp will be helping measure in 2024

“We will be getting the initial set-top box data from Kantar in the next month. By January 1 we will have all of 2023 and all of 2022 data that we can take to the industry.

There will be no subscription required, Foxtel Media will make the data available to the market.

VideoAmp, in addition to working with Foxtel, is talking to other potential partners including SBS, Samsung TV, Netflix and more.

Frain called it “a bold and disruptive move. We are the business that has the most capability to do it. We probably have the most to gain from doing it too.”

Has Foxtel’s audience been undervalued in the past?

The data from 1m set-top boxes is being forecast to deliver an accuracy, reliability and depth of data like the market has never seen before in terms of Foxtel, Kayo and Binge performance.

The jump will be from an existing panel of 2100 subscription TV homes to 1m set-top boxes and 3.1m digital subscribers.

Frain introduces Video Futures

Goodbye ThinkTV, hello Video Futures

Earlier this year Foxtel Media signalled its departure from the ThinkTV marketing body.

Explaining the move at its 2024 Upfront, the broadcaster said “we are on a different path and it makes sense to go our own way”.

Foxtel Media has been working on forming an alternative industry group called Video Futures Collective. It’s still early days, but the members could include other broadcasters and publishers like Samsung Ads, SBS, ESPN and Netflix. “We are looking forward to working with a different set of publishers after exiting ThinkTV,” said Frain. “They are publishers that share the same appetite for innovation as we do.”

Video Futures Collective is not a formal organisation at this stage, it has been described as more of a think tank for the members.

There were moves in the past to expand the ThinkTV membership beyond Seven, Nine and Paramount, but the idea was knocked on the head.

Huddl partners – any major player missing?

Saving the best for last? Hubbl

It might look like a word in search of an “e”, but Foxtel expects big things from what was previously known as Project Magneto.

Patrick Delany told the Upfront audience that 92% of Australians want a single subscription TV platform. Hubbl promises to be that…and more. But all Delany is ready to discuss publicly at this stage is the name. Details about the launch date and exactly what the offer is come later. March 2024 perhaps for launch according to guidance Delany offered at the APOS conference last month.

Foxtel refers to Hubbl as an aggregation play with tech developed by Sky UK and Comcast rewritten for Australians.

“Hubbl is TV and streaming made easy,” said Delany. “Fusing free and paid TV beyond the apps. It will deliver a happier consumer. It will deliver stickier customers watching more.

“Hubbl will become the heart of the home.”

Leah Purcell spoke about High Country

Foxtel Media Upfront executive summary

Time: 1’20” Press releases were embargoed for 8pm. Upfront finished at…8pm. It was wet outside, and cold inside. But a good time was had by all.

Welcome to country: Started with a smoking ceremony in Cockatoo Island shipyard then later Matt Nable explained the significance of the place known as Wareamah by the Wallumedegal, Wangal, Cammeraygal and Gadigal Peoples.

Host: Mitch McTaggart from Foxtel’s The Back Side of Television. Was funny, self-deprecating and got on and off quickly…mostly.

Using staff not talent: Foxtel Media used its own people, with Leah Purcell the only star onstage. Nine Foxtel Media staffers started the night with nine reasons to advertise. It worked a treat. One example: Amy From Sales talked about Colin From Accounts.

Executive role call: Didn’t catch them all, but included were Nev Hasan, Rachel Miller, Toby Dewar, Mark Frain, Annie Griffiths, Rebecca McCloy, Marty Medcraf (with some hysterical moves from Nathan Hindmarsh in the background), Amanda Laing, Alison Hurbert-Burns.

Video screen: The big, curved, vibrant screen was a brilliant backdrop. Patrick Delany has always been in the ‘go big or go home’ camp when it comes to screens. He had some crackers over the years at Fox Sports. This was another winner.

Content: It was a night for detailing innovations for advertisers. But there was still plenty of content too. Leah Purcell spoke about High Country, Amanda Laing detailed some of Foxtel’s content partners and key properties coming in the next 12 months while Alison Hurbert-Burns detailed Australian Originals on the way including the movie How To Make Gravy and the first look at a promo for Strife coming in December starring Asher Keddie.

Last word on the big deal: Mark Frain on Foxtel’s new measurement platform – “We are taking measurement into a new age. A future where your investment is accurately measured.”

Alison Hurbert-Burns paid tribute to Cal Wilson

See also: Foxtel Upfront 2024 – Every announcement in full

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