How Foxtel is using data in a bid to turn its fortunes around

For many observers perusing the media landscape, Foxtel is a company with its back against the wall. So, what will be its salvation? Mumbrella's Hannah Blackiston speaks to Foxtel's chief data and analytics officer Jane Eastgate to find out.

Usually a feature starts with some setting of the scene, an intro on the person involved, or some background on why the topic is interesting. But the best way to introduce what Jane Eastgate does at Foxtel is with a single statistic.

Each week, Foxtel is able to pull 600m viewing events from its boxes and devices per subscriber. That’s a phenomenal amount of data, and it’s data that Foxtel alone has access to because of the way its technology works. It’s also data that Eastgate believes is completely pivotal to the company’s future.

Eastgate joined Foxtel in 2018 after spending 15 years at Coles, including almost eight years as the head of Flybuys analytics. Prior to that she was with PwC and AC Nielsen.

Jane Eastgate

“My career has been about creating customer value that makes a difference for customers and the business. When I started 25 years ago it was all about putting together presentation packs and then presenting them to, at that time they were FMCG clients. You would present them and then you’d walk away you wouldn’t know what was done with that insight and information,” says Eastgate.

“But over the last 25 years that has absolutely changed. Part of what I’ve been trying to drive is about making analytics accountable for the decisions that it drives and the value that it brings, making sure analytics and data is embedded in everyday decision making and you can quantify what value you bring to the table through measurement.”

What lured Eastgate to Foxtel is the assets available to her. From the customer base to the content to the amount of data on offer, it was too good an opportunity to pass up, and Eastgate could see the benefit she’d be able to deliver to the business.

A data transformation

Eastgate’s role at Foxtel came off the back of a ‘data transformation’ championed by CEO Patrick Delany who took the helm in January 2018. At the time, Delany said he was excited by the ‘extraordinary assets’ the company had.

“The transformation started with Patrick Delany. It’s got to start at the top, so it started with Patrick and board accepting his strategy. Central to his strategy was that data and analytics would underpin the transformation of Foxtel,” says Eastgate.

Off the back of this strategy, Eastgate’s role of chief data and analytics officer was created. She then spent three months pulling together a data and analytics strategy, with the aim that it would be both simple and practical and would leverage the assets Foxtel already has.

“It’s about building foundational capability so we can be match fit going forward in a changing local and global environment. It started literally on day three, with me standing up and pulling together 20 different data sets into one place for the first time that have been disparate over the business in different silos, but when joined together gave a view of our customer. You need to get those foundation pieces in place before you can deliver any insight.”

Waking up to analytics

It isn’t just Foxtel that wants skin in the data and analytics game. Eastgate says a lot of organisations have woken up to the power of analytics and the way data can be meaningful and impactful in day-to-day decision making. While traditionally data and analytics wasn’t the sexiest part of a business, and teams were banging out work based on briefs which then may, or may not, have ever seen the light of day. But things have turned and the reliability behind data is making it impossible for companies to ignore that side of the business.

Which brings us back to the figures, and those 600m viewer events. Eastgate points out this is a USP for Foxtel. While free-to-air broadcasters have access to some data through BVOD platforms and other tech, Foxtel viewers are unable to watch content without their data being tracked, and Foxtel has access to this over linear broadcasting also, which Eastgate says still makes up 90% of the viewing landscape.

“From an agency perspective, it’s quite interesting because [FTAs] don’t have first-party data, they can’t collect viewing data, so they use ratings data which is sample data. Or they purchase third-party data and combine it to come up with segmentation which leads to advice on where to put your ads. At Foxtel we are uniquely positioned, and it will only ever be that way because of the way the technology platforms work, to have Census informational viewing behaviour on the set top box as well as the OTT devices.

“It’s exciting and it’s a big part of why I joined Foxtel because with that data you can create compelling customer interactions, be it through email, through the actual product itself, through an innovation roadmap. It permeates the organisation in terms of the use cases and decisions that can be made off the back of that, let alone the revenues. From a customer perspective, it’s phenomenal.”

The streaming frontier

Of course, outside of that broadcast linear focus, Eastgate also has her sights set on the growth potential in streaming. Foxtel has reported early success for sports streaming platform Kayo, since its launch in November the platform has signed 209,000 paying customers, within a total of 239,000 customers, and there are whispers in the industry that a lifestyle streaming platform could follow. In this day and age, companies need to be everywhere that people are consuming content, says Eastgate. But it’s important to not get distracted by the new shiny toy and lose focus of where eyeballs are still spending the most time.

Eastgate’s role also involves working very closely with MCN boss Mark Frain on optimising the data that comes out of the company’s Multiview platform and turning the proposition Foxtel can offer into something that gets agencies excited. It’s about smarter advertising, says Eastgate, which is all the more important as the broadcast narrative becomes more and more about lessening ad spends and SVOD services which don’t rely on commercial input.

Preventing churn

For Eastgate, the next six months are all about focusing on the key areas that play into the data transformation strategy for Foxtel. Customer churn and content decisions are two key areas of focus at the moment, but there are several others areas the company is looking to highlight in the coming months.

In Q3, broadcast subscriber churn jumped to 17.7%, up from 15.6% in Q2, due to the increased price of Foxtel subscriptions in 2018. But in March, churn was 16.2% and in April it fell to 15.1%. The aim is to get this even lower, using data and analytics to target customers before they jump ship, and work out the best ways to keep them.

“For me a big part of what the next six months looks like is continuing to go on the transformation journey with the whole of Foxtel, embracing data and analytics and using it on a day-to-day basis to make decisions. It’s really about cultural change, which has already begun, but it’s continuing on that because it’s not enough to have myself or my team, if we want a revolution in this space we need to all be in it together. It’s about bringing the business along with us.”

Foxtel’s future, as told by data

It’s no secret that the last few months have been tough for Foxtel. Earlier this year, it was reported that parent company News Corp was being forced to commit a $300m bailout to the company to keep it financially viable, there’s been a lot of staff turnover in the last few months and in a post-Game of Thrones world, there’s a lot of discussion about where subscription TV sits in the viewing landscape. When asked about how important data and analytics are to a company which seemingly has its back against the wall, Eastgate makes it clear that the importance cannot be overplayed.

“We’ve got to balance the commentary as to what we already have and how well that’s doing. We run numbers that show us viewing hours in Foxtel, engagement with the product, and it’s growing. But yes, there are challenges there, there are new entrants, new players in the space and they’re doing things with data and analytics. But as I mentioned, we’ve got a USP around data and we will absolutely be using that to deliver on our strategy.”


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