Opinion

Australians aren’t as sports-mad you think: The benefits of TV shifting to other entertainment

Adam Hodge from Gemba shares some insights that might embolden network and local TV decision makers to spend on other forms of entertainment.

Last week Mumbrella wrote a story under the heading ‘More Sport, Less drama’ in relation to the recently released ACMA report into spending on commercial TV programs for FY25.

The essence of this well-crafted piece was that sports rights and production costs had ‘gone through the roof’ in the past 5 years (doubled in fact) whilst other programming like scripted drama and kids had ‘taken a dive’.

Whilst Gemba tends to be associated first and foremost with sports marketing, the logo on the door says “Sport & Entertainment” so I wanted to show some data (and share a point of view) that might embolden network and local TV decision makers to reconsider their investment mix to redress the entertainment side of the future production pipeline.

Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Having worked in sports and entertainment marketing for almost two decades now, I’ve lost count of the number of times a brand, sporting league or network have said some variation of the statement: “Aussies are sports mad, so of course we should focus our spend on sport.” And whilst there is some perceived logic in the statement, the data shows that sport is really no more culturally important here than in many other developed nations. In fact, we rank 8th in the world for sport passion, behind markets including Spain, USA, China, German, and France. Sure, sports are definitely a big deal, but it’s no longer the default answer to the question: “What do Aussies care about most?”

And that passion for sport has been flat for the past decade with a compound annual growth rate (CAGAR) of just 0.86%. Whilst at the same time, passion for entertainment has climbed 40% more with a CAGAR of 1.2%.

Looking at the ACMA report in a bit more detail, we can see that over the past five years, spending on sport has been increasing at a similar rate to the increase in Aussies passion for sport – which makes sense, right? Spend your limited production dollars on the things your viewers care the most about. However, at the same time, passions for entertainment have been growing much faster than sport, but production investment is declining.

Which poses the question – why?

Given the bulk of sport production costs are likely borne by the rights fees themselves and that these rights fees are in an seemingly unending upward spiral, might sport as the final bastion of ‘Live TV’ require a slow down in network bidding wars to take the heat out of the market? And might some those massive sports rights dollars see as good (or better) commercial returns if invested into non-sport entertainment programing?

With the big streamers – traditionally focused on non-sport programming – all now having made it clear they are wading into the waters of sports rights (see Amazon and Cricket, Stan and Rugby, Paramount and Football and Netflix in NFL as examples), might the traditional networks – who have been leading the sports rights wars for decades – see some value in revisiting that strategy a little?

Might a bit more drama not be a bad thing?

Adam Hodge is is head of marketing strategy at Gemba.

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