‘Seven forgot that we’re also a major commercial player’: Foxtel singles out FTA ‘frenemies’ as it announces new data platform and voice controlled remotes

Chief executive of Foxtel Media, Mark Frain, took issue with Seven’s upfronts at yesterday’s Foxtel showcase, quipping, “perhaps yesterday, Seven forgot that we’re also a major commercial player”. He also told agencies and advertisers that “we are more than a fourth line in a TV plan, and we are more than a TV company that does a bit of digital on the side”.

While announcing a new data platform for media buyers, Foxtel Xplore, Frain added: “Our dear frenemies have made many big claims in the last few weeks, but at the end of the day, their broadcast TV information, still the main part of their business, is reliant on panel data and inference.”

Frain presenting at the showcase

Speaking a day before Foxtel’s 25th anniversary, Frain said that, in contrast, “ours are second-by-second, real time actions recorded on millions of digital set top boxes and devices”. Seven declined to comment on the jab.

“On Foxtel, your ads get noticed. After all, you could be one of up to 60 ads in an hour on free to air BVOD, or one of four on Foxtel Go. I know where I’d rather be,” Frain continued.

“You could be part of the six minutes of commercial content an hour on Foxtel, or 14 minutes on free to air. As I said before, I know where I’d rather be. Your ad can appear at 15% screen coverage on Facebook, or 100% on Go and Kayo.”

Foxtel’s CEO, Patrick Delany, echoed the sentiment, noting, “we don’t just deliver dumb channels, we don’t just deliver dumb video on demand”.

Delany at today’s event

The business has been severely impacted by COVID-19, Delany acknowledged, but despite almost 300 redundancies and 140 stand downs this year, the chief executive said Foxtel has “almost slingshot out of it [COVID-19]”. Two of the ways in which it is doing so are through a new platform, Foxtel Xplore, and a voice control function on new remotes, according to Delany.

The media buyers platform provides data from more than 8bn of Foxtel subscribers’ viewing events per month, and spans both broadcast TV and streaming data, collected from over 1.1m set top boxes and 1.2m digital devices used for the apps Foxtel Now and Foxtel Go.

Currently, Foxtel Xplore has 0.5 petabytes of data uploaded to it, which is expected to increase to an additional terabyte per day once Kayo and binge are integrated next year.

“Like many within the industry, we have been on a data transformation journey over last two years – and are more than thrilled to be able to say that, when this solution launches later this year, viewing and audience data from Foxtel Group’s platforms will be all in one place. Most importantly, it will be easily accessible to help advertisers supercharge their campaigns,” Frain said of the new launch in a statement.

Xplore will allow users to break audiences down into demographics or segments, see viewing across devices and platforms, and run analysis reports.

“For example, our digital-only subscribers on Foxtel Now and Foxtel Go, which account for over a third (36%) of the total BVOD minutes viewed in Australia, are just as highly engaged as our Foxtel linear base – watching 48 million minutes of content a day. And that’s before you include Kayo and Binge,” added Nev Hasan, Foxtel Media’s executive director of agency sales.

“We’ve also been able to deep dive into some interesting viewer habits, for example finding that 40% of households with NRL fanatics, people who watch over half of all matches regardless of the teams involved, have also been regularly watching Keeping up the Kardashians.

“While the great majority of these households split viewing across devices or watch together as a family, 4.4% are one person households that watch on a primary device, demonstrating an equal interest in both League and the reality TV queens. It is this level of insight that we believe will provides the targeting options that are more closely aligned to client’s business goals and customer profiles.”

Group M’s chief investment officer, Nicola Lewis, said the platform “shows that Foxtel are looking to put a stake in the ground”.

“They’ve invested very heavily in technology, specifically in aggregating the incredibly rich pool of data that they have into their data warehouse, and it’s impressive,” she said.

OMD Brisbane’s group trading director, James Lucas, added that “there is still much to be understood about the tool and how it can be of benefit to our clients in the day-to-day execution of campaigns, however it definitely sounds like a big step in the right direction”.

Foxtel also announced a new voice remote, which will allow customers to voice search for Foxtel content in a similar way to the experience offered by smart speakers such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

Customers can search for shows, sporting teams, actors, directors, and characters with the technology, in addition to controlling the volume, scheduling recordings, changing the channel, and playing, pausing, rewinding, and skipping. They can also use a well-known movie quote – currently, over 500 are programmed in – to bring up the film in which it appears, as demonstrated by Delany during the showcase.

Foxtel said the remote understands “10 major Australian accents”, and confirmed to Mumbrella that this includes non-Anglo-saxon accents.

“With the launch of our new user interface last year and now the Voice control, we are continuing to invest in innovation to reimagine people’s experience of Foxtel and ensure we provide a premium experience of the best of TV and on-demand, all in one place,” Delany said.

Customers should feel confident about their privacy, the subscription TV business added, because the listening mode is only activated when the microphone button is pushed.

More than 250,000 Foxtel customers already have the remote, which is available to buy for $29. It works in conjunction with a software update which is being rolled out, and will be completed next month.

Last month, Foxtel reported sports streaming service Kayo had recovered from COVID-19’s hit to its subscription base, rebounding to 600,000 subscribers. And earlier in the year, it signed an exclusive, multi-year deal with HBO (following last year’s Netflix deal) and launched streaming platform, Binge.


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