Seven and Foxtel upbeat on Australia-India tests despite audience drop-off
Australian broadcasters Seven Network and Foxtel have hailed their live television coverage of the national cricket team’s home test series against India as a success despite the hosts’ defeat and a lower overall audience than previous high-profile tours.
The test series was the first to be shown live by free-to-air network Seven and pay-TV operator Foxtel under a six-year rights contract for Australian cricket worth A$1.18 billion ($850 million).
The deal brought to an end the long-running exclusive coverage of Australia home matches on free-to-air outlet Nine Network.
Seven drew an average audience of 819,000 (559,400 metro viewers and 259,300 regional viewers) for the four Australia-India matches, while Foxtel averaged 244,000 for its simultaneous coverage of the tests on the Fox Sports channels.
The combined average was 1.06 million, down from Nine’s 1.3 million (867,000 metro and 436,000 regional) for the last Australia-India series, also comprising four tests, in 2014-15, and 1.28 million (896,000 metro and 379,000 regional) for Australia’s five-test Ashes series against England in 2017-18.
The decline in ratings this season has been attributed in part to India’s 2-1 victory, the visitors’ first test series win on Australian soil, and continued fallout from the ball-tampering episode on Australia’s tour of South Africa last March, which led to prolonged suspensions for three players, including then captain Steve Smith.
Nonetheless, Seven is happy with results showing a 56-per-cent share of the daytime commercial TV audience during the Australia-India series, with Natalie Harvey, the broadcaster’s director of network sales, saying: “The tremendous reach of the cricket has delivered a massive audience, and has given our cricket partners and all advertisers unrivalled access to the key demographics they are targeting across the summer.”
Foxtel, which launched a dedicated cricket channel on the back of its rights acquisition and has differentiated itself from Seven by providing advertising-free coverage of matches, is also pleased with the return to date.
Martin Medcraf, the national sports sales director of Foxtel’s sales house MCN, said: “The Fox Cricket channel has over the past few months exceeded our expectations both from a ratings point of view, and more importantly, quality of production. The integration opportunities our advertising partners have experienced is world class and has provided the viewer with new and deeper engagement of the game.”
Foxtel's audience figures do not include cricket fans that have been watching the matches on Kayo Sports, the over-the-top sports streaming service it launched last November.
Foxtel completed its merger with Fox Sports, the Australian sports broadcaster, last April, in the same month that the big money cricket rights deal was closed.
Under their joint contract, Seven and Foxtel share live coverage of Australia’s home tests and 43 domestic Big Bash League Twenty20 fixtures per year, with Foxtel having exclusive rights to home one-day internationals and Twenty20 internationals, and an additional 16 BBL games.