In the moments after the official announcement of the new media partnerships with Cricket Australia last Friday, Mediaweek spoke with both Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany and Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner.
Our interview with Tim Worner was pretty short as the official announcement was delayed over an hour because of last-minute changes to the contracts for television coverage of international cricket in Australia.
We did manage to ask Worner if it was hard to give up the cricket digital rights.
“Not at all,” Worner told Mediaweek. “I have been very clear about saying we are going to do deals that make financial sense. To go and get the digital rights in this deal would not have made financial sense.”
He admitted Seven West Media is moving quickly to organise and to monetise its new summer sport.
“We have started already. Our first game is an international women’s one-day match. We started planning for that last night.
“Our sales plans are also well under way. We have a group of clients up on the Gold Coast and we are heading back there now and presenting the cricket to them.”
With that he jumped into a car with Seven Group CEO Ryan Stokes and headed off to Sydney Airport.
We started our interview with Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany by asking how much Foxtel needed the cricket.
“We have really wanted to get back into cricket for a long time. This now means that every summer we will have every ball of every over of international cricket live on Fox Sports with no ads.
“Viewers will have choice – they can choose between the commentary on Seven or they can go with Fox Sports and we will reinvent the way cricket is broadcast and seen by fans.
MW: How much of the close to $1.2b does Fox Sports have to pay over the six years of the deal?
PD: We have a bit of that. We think we have paid a fair share. Remember we have the exclusivity of the One Day Internationals and the T20s, but we have exclusive streaming rights. Digital is now owned by the new merged company [Foxtel and Fox Sports]. We think that becomes more and more valuable over time.
Foxtel has 2.6m people watching today as a broadcast company. We now see it as a streaming company. We are aggressively rolling out the iQ3, which is a streaming set-top box. When you put that with the internet it goes boom in terms of value and product.
If a viewer is looking for a movie on 10 channels, instead of looking for a one in 10 chance of finding something you want, you can actually stream any one of 1,200 movies.
It means with sports we are able to show niche sports that we couldn’t previously have done because of satellite costs. It opens up the world.
The vision for Foxtel is that it is a premium product and we bring the best entertainment in the world.
The second part of our strategy is to get aggressively and heavily into streaming [with] different brands and different angles on all of these things. These rights give us a fantastic stranglehold on summer.
MW: What is the strategy to pay for these rights? Lift subscription prices or attract more Foxtel customers?
PD: We are going to get a lot more customers. We are going to be able to offer different services at different price points under different brands and configurations to people. To-date we have been constricted to a world of households. We love that world and we offer that to families who can rip it apart for their individual uses or they can bring it together with a fabulous high-definition picture to be shared.
There is another world of people who maybe want an individual service. The number of subscribers we have will sharply increase over the years.
Cricket is just one of the bricks in the wall that we are building.
MW: Is getting around the anti-siphoning list a problem for Foxtel?
PD: There is nothing different about this deal in terms of anti-siphoning from the NRL or AFL deals. There are commercials parameters we agree on and, as long as the FTA broadcaster is happy with that to happen, then it is completely within the regulations for what we are going to do.
MW: It seems you will be sharing the digital rights with Cricket Australia.
PD: We will both be making sure that fans of cricket get great access to the sport. There will be new and different services that Cricket Australia will represent for us. There will be more news on that to come.
MW: Did the ball-tampering controversy make Foxtel rethink its bid?
PD: The ball tampering was disappointing, but one of the great things about Australia is that if people cop it sweet and own up to mistakes, then we are very forgiving. I have known Steve Smith for a long time and he has been a partner with Fox Sports for a long time and he is in all of our ads at the moment. I am looking forward to seeing him and his colleagues back representing Australia.
Top photo: Tim Worner, James Sutherland and Patrick Delany