Cricket Australia makes the best of its ‘bittersweet’ Foxtel digital deal

Cricket Australia is preparing to see traffic numbers to its own platforms “suffer” following the transfer of exclusive digital rights to Foxtel, the sport’s commercial director has admitted.

Ben Amarfio, the executive GM of broadcasting, digital media and commercial, said the deal was a “bitter sweet” move for, but a necessary one “to grow the overall pie” as the sports body launched its digital strategy for the upcoming season.

Amarfio: ‘We’ve been charging our fans to watch live cricket for five years now’

Speaking to Mumbrella about the deal diluting the Cricket Australia assets, he said: “It’s bittersweet. Traffic will clearly come down because we’re not exclusive. But what will happen is that the market will grow. While we may suffer a little bit in terms of numbers, the overall pie will grow.

“If you want the live experience, you can go to one of the platforms, but if you want a deeper experience, you can come to us.”

Addressing the audience at a media briefing, he added: “For the first time ever, we are opening up the curtains. We have always been very tight with the rights. We have always kept them to ourselves. We were a bit greedy; we wanted all the traffic to come to us and all the engagement. [The deal with Fox] will give us much more reach.”

Amarfio’s comments came following the news that cricket’s broadcasting rights would move from Nine and Ten to Foxtel and Seven.

Starting this coming summer through to 2024, the AU$1.182 billion deal will see the rights split between Seven and Foxtel, but with the pay TV network gaining premium content such as ODIs, international T20 matches and 16 Big Bash matches.

Asked whether the paywall introduction could lead to a situation similar to UK cricket, where the sport’s move onto pay-TV has been blamed for its recent decline, Amarfio said: “When the England Cricket team did that deal with Sky a couple of decades ago, they put 100% of their live content behind a paywall, which meant their exposure was huge but went down to much smaller than it had been before.

“The big distinction between that deal and ours, is that 80% of our premium content will still be on free-to-air. Only 20% will be behind the paywall, whereas theirs was 100%. We’re not that concerned.”

He added: “We’ve been charging our fans to watch live cricket for five years now. During the Nine digital joint venture, you had to pay $30 for the whole season. Our fans have had to pay anyway. The price point may be different.”

In order to make up the traffic lost to the Rupert Murdoch-owned platforms, Cricket Australia has now launched a content-sharing and technology partnership with YouTube.

Aimed at boosting cricket’s appeal among a younger audience, the deal will see the creation of a new content series that will be simulcast across YouTube and on’s homepage.

Explaining the deal, Finn Bradshaw, Cricket Australia’s head of digital, said: “It will be content that is promoted by YouTube; that is targeted by YouTube. We’re proud of our audience, but we know there’s an audience we’re never going to get on our own platform, and YouTube is obviously really powerful way of reaching younger people.”

Google will now also take over Cricket Australia’s tech stack from Nine.


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