The end of February and the start March are critical times for Foxtel. The business polishes off its two highest-rating winter channels and strategises to make sure as many people as possible subscribe, re-subscribe or add the sports tier back to their Foxtel subscriptions to follow the NRL and the AFL on Fox League and Fox Footy.
Long-time Foxtel executive Peter Campbell took over as head of Fox Sports after Patrick Delany moved into the Foxtel CEO role three years ago. Campbell doesn’t talk publicly much and never about sports rights. With Foxtel apparently walking away from Rugby Australia, Campbell wouldn’t be too far away from the action.
Campbell was Foxtel’s director of sports and Olympic Games for 13 years from 2000 and left the News Corp family in 2013 for four years to establish AFL Media. Campbell returned to steer and negotiate rights for Fox Sports in 2017.
Campbell put in a public appearance last week at the 2020 launch of Fox League, and today he will be present at the 2020 launch of Fox Footy.
Fox Sports’ two dedicated football channels have similar rights packages – they each have broadcast rights to every game of the year plus all the finals except for the Grand Finals. Fox League also misses out on the three State of Origin clashes.
Fox League and Fox Footy are both subscription drivers for the Foxtel platform, although not all those customers stay long term, instead dipping in and out for the respective football seasons. The Foxtel sports offering is even more potent now with the addition of Kayo which is rounding up sports fans who couldn’t justify or afford a Foxtel sports package.
Speaking to Mediaweek, Campbell explained: “Some people build seasonality into their subscription. They may not unsubscribe, but we would like to keep them in the sports package. What we have seen with Kayo coming on board is we can see easily where there are spikes. The football seasons really started in February with the NRL9s on in Perth, the AFLW and the AFL men’s pre-season and also of course the start of the Supercars season. It’s an exciting time of year.”
Between the four days of live games Thursday to Sunday, Fox League runs news and review programs with a bit of entertainment. “NRL 360 is the Fox League weekday flagship. Other programs include The Fan and then we wrap the week with entertainment.
“One of the things our team have been able to do is to make sure we have fun and put smiles on people’s faces– we don’t want to always be talking about hit-ups and yards. Matty Johns is key to our entertainment programming while The Professor has a new show this year – Narrow World of Sports.”
With the diversity of sports the Fox Sports channels offer, Campbell said: “Customer satisfaction, looking after our customer, and ratings are important metrics. We might like to have everything, but we can’t. The offering we do have is a comprehensive line-up of sport featuring both men and women.”
The growing women’s sport coverage has been drawing some big audiences. Campbell reminded us that the recent Australia v India Women’s T20 World Cup match was the second-highest rating female sports program of all time. The only event to pull a bigger Fox Sports crowd was Sam Stosur’s French Open loss in 2010.“We are always looking at we can better serve female representation in sport on Foxtel. On Fox Sports we are having a pop-up channel – FOXW – and we are very conscious of making sure don’t think it is just a stunt. It won’t be a focus for just that week. We are trying to put a spotlight on women in sport that week. Our commitment to women in sport over a 52-week period is just as strong.”
Fox Sports is currently in year three of a four-year cycle where it has been funded by the Federal Government to cover niche, under-represented and female sport.“We have to go through a process every year pre-submitting plans to the department for them to see what we are looking at doing that year. Then at the end of the year we put in another report dealing what we did. Over the first couple of years we over-delivered on everything we said we would do when we provide the year in review,” said Campbell.
With Fox Sports and Kayo now both an option for sports fans, Campbell is happy with wherever viewers choose to go: “My obligation and my remit to the Foxtel group is to make sure that the events that Fox Sports acquires, produces and packages is of the highest possible quality in a linear form for Foxtel and then for on demand viewing for iQ3 and iQ4 plus providing all that same content to Kayo, but packaged the Kayo way.”
The packaging of the popular Minis highlight packages are shared between Foxtel and Kayo to make sure the same packages are available to Foxtel and Kayo customers.
Fox Sports can usually manage the load of carrying all the live sport available, but Campbell noted: “When we are full, then Kayo can carry those additional feeds live.”
Viewers addicted to the “no ad breaks during play” strategy from Fox Sports have no cause for concern the strategy might change. “We are blessed by amazing commercial partners who want to invest in Fox Sports. Those partners understand our ad-free during play proposition to viewers. That gives us an opportunity to integrate those partners into live play with some branding, using different things. In the cricket for example Toyota gets naming rights of the Flying Fox, or maybe McDonald’s and the scorecards.”
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