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Foxtel counters Optus’ EPL push by adding new BeIn Sports channels to sports pack for free

bein sports logoFoxtel has moved to shore up its sports offering weeks before it loses the English Premier League from the platform to Optus by striking a deal with BeIn Sports to offer three new HD channels for free to sports subscribers.

The move sees BeIn, which is currently a $20-per-month extra subscription for one standard definition channel, move into the main sports pack alongside Fox Sports and ESPN. It also adds a slew of international football rights including Champions League and the upcoming European Championships to the Foxtel offering.

The May 15 launch date for the new channels is also the final day of the English Premier League season, giving Foxtel the chance to heavily cross-promote the new football-rich offering to its subscribers in what is expected to be a large marketing campaign. 

Optus surprised the market when it paid $63m per season for the rights in a surprise smash and grab raid at the end of last year, leading to an angry backlash from EPL fans against Fox Sports. Observers say the move could see up to 70,000 subscribers, paying at least $50 per month each, depart the pay-TV provider.

The telco has since said it will launch a 24/7 Football channel on rival platform Optus TV which is delivered on the Fetch TV platform via another set top box, as well as a dedicated app and website. However it has yet to solve the issue of commercialising the product for viewing in pubs and clubs, traditionally a good revenue stream for Fox Sports.

The new deal also sees BeIn Sports, the sports arm of Qatar based broadcaster Al Jazeera which bought out Setanta Sports in 2014 in Australia, move towards a model it enjoys across many other countries of wider distribution and monetisation through bigger advertising dollars from bigger audiences rather than subscriber fees.

It offers Fox Sports a rich variety of football rights including the Italian, German, Spanish and Scottish leagues, as well as Europe’s top club competitions the Champions League and Europa Cup which Foxtel will hope is enough to persuade wantaway subscribers to stay.

BeIn acquired the rights for the Champions League from ESPN last year, with the May 15 launch date coming in time for the Champions League final on May 29, and the European Championships which it shares rights for with SBS in June.

BeIn has suffered from fans in recent years for only being available in standard definition and not broadcasting many of the matches it holds rights for live, as it 0nly had one linear channel to put content on.

The network also has the rights for the English Premiership Rugby, which has its final on May 28, Six Nations Championships and much of the Autumn International series in the northern hemisphere in November, including all of the Wallabies matches.

Richard Freudenstein, outgoing Foxtel CEO said in a statement: “The addition of these new dedicated sports channels from our partners at BeIn Sports is a huge win for sports fans who subscribe to Foxtel, greatly increasing the value of a subscription.

“The channels will be compulsory viewing for fans of international football and rugby and complement the already great line-up of sports channels on Foxtel.”

Alex Hayes

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