Fox Sports CEO Patrick Delaney would love nothing more than to attract more young women to the network, but could broadcasting more female sports do just that?
Speaking to B&T straight after Fox Sports 501 was named Australia’s pay TV Channel of the Year at the 2016 ASTRA Conference in Sydney yesterday, Delaney said the number one (and obvious) challenge for the network is to help maintain growth for Foxtel, and one of the ways Fox Sports is doing this is by staying young.
“When you’re a sports network, you can find yourself bound to middle-aged, white males,” he said.
“In the AFL and NRL, we regularly start grooming current players to be representatives of Fox Sports – not just to come on our shows, but literally become interviewers and commentators, and then once they retire they come straight onto our benches. We’ve got a good tradition of doing that.
“We are doing our best to attract more young people and more women to Fox Sports – those two things are very important to us. The Holy Grail would be to attract young women to watch sports.”
Delaney also noted the possibility of a new era of female sports, and is optimistic about the uptake of these sports by the female audience.
“Women are playing mainstream sports that aren’t just sports that women play,” he said.
“In terms of women’s AFL, women’s NRL, and women’s rugby and rugby sevens, I don’t see why they wouldn’t take off, so long as they’re engaging with the tribe that represents them on the field.”
On a different note, does Delaney believe more broadcasters will force sports to change their format and rules to make them more appealing and commercially viable?
“Absolutely,” he said. “There’s been a lot of talk in the NRL about breaking the sport into quarters, and I for one would be interested to see what that would look like.
“That said, a big part of rugby league is inducing tiredness into the players, which causes errors, which can lead to points being scored, so I don’t know.
“There are other sports like cricket and netball which have brought in rule changes, so I don’t think it’s so much TV, but the market asking for these changes to bring the sports up to date.”
Finally, Delaney said it is unlikely that Fox Sports and subscription TV will be affected by the federal government’s planned overhaul of Australia’s media ownership laws, he has urged our prime minister to just get on with it.
“I would just encourage the government to be brave and start doing the overhaul,” he said.
“These things are probably never popular, but the sets of laws that we have date back to the 90s when only free TV existed and pay TV was on the horizon, and now with the web and fast broadband, all of these things are completely ridiculous and alluding to all sorts of distorted situations where certain players have quite a strategic advantage over others, and that can’t be a good thing for this country.”