Cricket Australia’s media rights partner Foxtel Cable Television Pty. Ltd. made 200 employees redundant and will cut another 140 workers in a move to keep the company afloat amid the coronavirus crisis, The Australian Financial Review reported April 8. Media news website Mumbrella reported that the Fox Sports pay-television channels and Kayo Sports OTT platform were among the Foxtel divisions hit by redundancies.
The government’s restrictions on public gatherings forced sporting leagues such as the Australian Football League and the National Rugby League to suspend their seasons. Foxtel, which owns Fox Sports Australia Pty. Ltd. and sports streaming app Kayo, has been hit hard by the cancellations as the company sees sports as a major driver of its subscriber and advertising revenue.
In 2018, Cricket Australia had announced a $1 billion plus broadcast deal with Foxtel and Seven West Media, beating out incumbents Network Ten and Nine Entertainment. The six year deal, included a dedicated FOX Cricket channel. Seven and Fox Sports, both broadcast all men’s Test matches while Fox Sports exclusively broadcast all One-Day and T20 Internationals of the Australian cricket team. Foxtel also owns the digital rights for the Cricket Australia.
Sport is central to Foxtel’s business and the company is Australia’s biggest spender on sports media rights, so it has been hit particularly hard by the shutdown of live sport. Delany made specific reference to sport in an email to staff about the layoffs, saying: “The government Covid-19 restrictions are however seeing major challenges for us including the broadcast and streaming of live sport. And looking ahead, the economic outlook for Australia is deteriorating and our continued transformation will become even more important.”
He added: “What the team at Fox Sports have all done to reinvent our programming so our customers stick with us, has been extraordinary. And the ratings tell us customers are engaged with our classic matches, documentaries, pop-up channels and live shows, and value what we are producing.
“However, we need to be prepared for a scenario in sport where season starts are delayed further. It is clear all codes are struggling with significant financial challenges and we should anticipate that the future shape of sport in Australia will be very different.”
Fox’s flagship properties include the Australian Football League, which it holds from 2017 to 2022, the National Rugby League from 2018 to 2022, and Cricket Australia from 2018 to 2024. Alongside the layoffs, the Australian pay TV operator also suspended nonessential expenditure, implemented a hiring freeze and released all casuals, contractors and freelancers in noncritical roles.