Foxtel launches its biggest investment to date, Fox Cricket

Foxtel has officially launched its dedicated cricket channel, Fox Cricket – its most sizeable investment in history.

The News-Corp owned subscription service launched the channel in Sydney, and has signed on Toyota Australia, Alinta, Lion Beer Australia, Bet365, Harvey Norman, McDonald’s, Bunnings and Maytronics as sponsors. In addition, it has added former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith and Australian Cricket coach, Darren Lehmann, to its commentary lineup.

Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany presenting in Sydney on Tuesday night

Other commentators include Shane Warne, Mike Hussey, Alan Border, Brett Lee, Mark Waugh, Isa Guha, Jess Yates, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Vaughn, Ian Heale, Alyssa Healy, Elyse Perry, Mel Jones, Sarah Jones and Neroli Meadows.

Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany told Mumbrella Foxtel’s offering is different from previous years as the business is doing everything “completely fresh”, citing Foxtel’s involvement in the launch of the Big Bash League in 2011.

“Frankly, there comes a point in all broadcasters – as a body of work – where you have a heritage and you don’t want to leave it behind and so you don’t want to risk anything and I think that’s what happened,” Delany said.

“And we do sport, that’s all we do. In order to really represent a sport you really must own it and then you must push the story into the future and so hopefully that’s what we do well.”

The new channel will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week from November 2018 until March 2019 with 31 commentators and more than 10 dedicated cricket shows. Fox Cricket’s launch comes three months after Seven’s cricket launch, which revealed the network would aim to take 40% of the audience across all demographics during the summer period.

Under the new deal with Cricket Australia, Foxtel will show all men’s domestic tests and one-day internationals along with some Big Bash League games on the new ad-free channel.

All domestic test matches and most Big Bash Leagues games will be simulcast on Seven, while Foxtel will have exclusive rights to the one-day internationals and 16 Big Bash matches. Digital rights will be held by Foxtel and will form the basis of a partnership with Cricket Australia’s digital arm, the Cricket Network.

In April, it was revealed Foxtel and Seven had nabbed the cricket rights from Nine, in a deal worth $1.182bn. Seven will pay a little under $80m per year over six years, leaving a majority of the bill with Foxtel.

Despite being ad free during play, Delany insisted advertisers are very happy with what has become Foxtel’s largest investment to date, due to the extensive camera coverage and use of 4K technology.

“The reason we are very proud of ad break free is it’s a huge effort. The fans absolutely love it and so do our sponsors,” he said in a presentation.

Delany revealing the 2018/19 season lineup

“This will be cricket like never before.”

MCN’s national sports sales director, Martin Medcraf, said the launch of the channel was an evolution of the way brands connect with sports.

“Rather than putting a traditional emphasis on TVCs, we’re creating a more balanced spread across Fox Cricket’s TV, digital and in-app channels. Additionally, we are working in collaboration with partners and Fox Sports to enhance favourite technologies like snicko, hot spot and ball tracker, plus build additional new innovative technologies on the channel,” Medcraf said.

“The shift in approach means we deliver a premium environment for advertisers, while enriching the viewer’s knowledge of the game and enhancing their experience.”

But the launched of Fox Cricket isn’t just about the sponsors. For Delany, the focus is on attracting new subscribers and retaining current users. He is not fearful of how Cricket Australia’s damaged reputation from the ball-tampering scandal will affect audiences, describing the Australian audience as “resilient” and “good at giving people a second go”.

“Cricket is important because if you think about the sports season – half winter and half summer – we had a lot of subscribers leave us because we didn’t have the cricket. Now the hope – and in fact we are seeing the trend – is just that,” he said.

The first two matches of cricket on Foxtel, the Women’s T20, pulled in metro audiences of 21,000 and 18,000, according to OzTAM’s preliminary overnight ratings. But Delany is confident the channel will draw in major audiences.

“We know cricket can be very big on Fox because when we have Australia playing away – for example at the end of the Ashes two seasons ago, Australia left and played in South Africa and it was quite a good time zone and we got figures of 550,000 simultaneous viewers so we’ve got a lot of fans, we are going to get a lot more fans. This will be a very high-rating and intense channel,” he said.

When Mumbrella asked whether Delany had already seen a growth in subscriptions since the announcement of the sports rights, he said: “It’s very difficult until the winter sports end. You’ll see our new Fox Cricket ad on TV from this Sunday, you’ll see all the billboards line up, the newspapers build up and that’s when we drive the sales. You don’t buy a bathing suit until summer.”

To Delany, the launch of the channel is all about investment in the family offering – keeping it broad. It follows the launch of a 4K channel, the launch of the IQ4, Fox Flicks and Fox Showcase.

But the future of Foxtel most likely won’t remain in its current form.

“No matter what Foxtel does there’ll be an IQ. This is probably the last model of this type of IQ. The next model will be in the cloud and will rely far more on the NBN and satellite.

“But you will hear the narrative that Foxtel isn’t just live anymore, it’s about streaming, it’s about doing things that others don’t.”


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