Sports moving to Pay TV will disappear from the view of fans and marketers, researchers warn

Australian sports which have moved from free-to-air TV to subscription TV are disappearing from the view of fans and sponsors, eroding their ability to grow in a world where they are competing for the attention of audiences against the likes of Netflix and Stan, the audience at Mumbrella’s Sports Marketing Summit has heard.

Alasdair Johnston and Alex Sweeney warned sports lose public awareness when they leave free-to-air TV

Alex Sweeney, director of Clarity Strategic Research, said there were already examples of sports beginning to suffer after choosing the pay TV route, saying that such a move was excluding 70% of the potential audience.

“Any sport that automatically excludes 70% of the population is thought to be making maybe a risky decision,” Sweeney said.

“It’s interesting during the course of discussions how certain sports which have either not been present on free-to-air, or have reduced visibility on free-to-air are actually notable and conspicuous by their absence in (public) discussions.”

He highlighted Super Rugby and Supercars as examples of sports that were beginning to lose share of mind as they slipped behind pay walls.

“We kind of value the present- discussion and people who are watching Super Rugby, V8 Supercars, most of them petrol heads, but most of their V8 watching was waning and I don’t think it is a coincidence that those are the two sports that are less visible now on free-to-air than they have been for a long time.”

Supercars is losing water cooler moments with reduced free-to-air coverage, according to today’s session

He said that free-to-air remained the way to generate the water cooler moments that marketer’s coveted and people were also wary of their favourite sports being taken off free-to-air if anti-siphoning rules were relaxed under the proposed media reforms.

“A lot of people are wary of sports being taken away progressively from free-to-air TV,” Sweeney said.

“And they are that savvy, they are able to see that surely a sport, if it can afford to, would want to be on free-to-air TV. It’s the best way to broaden the reach, it’s the best way to generate a water cooler moment by having a number of people actually involved in your particular sport.”

Clarity director Alasdair Johnston said if sports were targeted by Pay TV under new freedoms to access more sports as a result of changes to anti-siphoning rules, it would have an impact on their profile.

“I think the big thing to talk about is the talkability and viewability of individual sports in those water cooler moments, and as sports move away from the public consciousness and public display it’s hard to see how it can’t have some form of impact,” Johnston said.

Cricket is one sport fans have raised concerns about, fearing it could become a target under the new laws.

He also said that there was still a widely held view that the idea of sport on Pay TV was “unfair” and that the Australian spirit of a fair go meant many people felt sport should be available freely.

There were also concerns for Cricket Australia after suggestions it would no longer run on free to air earlier this year.

The success of the Big Bash League has also been credited to its move to free-to-air on Ten after its debut on Pay TV.


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