When I first got Foxtel back in January 2000 programs generally had just one ad break per hour consisting of promotions for other Foxtel programs; for instance, were you watching the Simpsons, you would get an ad for the History Channel, a sport and The Simpsons. Several years later the ad frequency had increased to every 15 minutes. Now the ads appear roughly every 11 minutes and are full blown "retail opportunities" as Martin Brundell was wont to say when it was time to interrupt the grand prix. Try an experiment: flick around your Foxtel channels and see how often you lob on a station when there is an ad on. This happens for two reasons: one) there are more ads, derrr; and two) Foxtel subsidiaries puts ads on differrent channels at the same time to stop you flicking, just like the FTA stations.
Obviously the ads increased as Foxtel sought to pay for increased programming costs as it purchased more product. It was also loss leading. Foxtel was prepared to drop money as it tried to attract subscribers to cable television just like a drug dealer tempting a potential junky. "Go on, try it. A little taste won't hurt."
Foxtel is now set to shell more than half a billion dollars for the rights to just about all the footy. Where does it find this enormous chunk of change if it is not able to increase subscriber numbers? (It would be interesting to know how many new subscribers signed up for Foxtel when it had the footy from 2002 to 2006.) Stands to reason they will have to increase their advertising revenue. Betting promotion will increase. Cross promotion, too. There will also, no doubt, be an add-on cost for subscribers to access the Footy Channel. And then there are Foxtel's disguised ads: the pre-match half hour filler.
It is already mooted Foxtel will have ads during play for the four matches per round they will simulcast with Seven, while it is unlikely they will have ads for the other (soon to be) five games. The way Fox handles this twin coverage will also be interesting; how will the simulcast matches with ads compare with the straight to Fox matches without ads. With the aid of an imaginative mind, that dichotomy prompts another question: will Foxtel ever have ads on their non-simulcast matches?
Rohan Connolly, be careful what you wish for:
Seven, and to a lesser extent Ten's, coverage of AFL today reminds me more than a little of the current political climate in Canberra. Trying so hard to be all things to all people that they end up standing for little and not pleasing anyone much.
That's Foxtel's advantage. It knows its market is serious hardcore football fans, and caters accordingly. Though, it has to be said, the sort of things for which we're now grateful should be a given for any network.
Like live coverage of games, for starters. Like no advertising breaks after every goal, so you can actually see the score replayed and analysed by the special comments men. Like panel shows that actually talk about football and not themselves.
I'll have to pay. But at least I'll get to see what I should, and know that I'm watching it on a station that appears to genuinely love the game as much as I do, not just as a potential ratings boost for its other programs.
Foxtel has always provided solid footy coverage. They don't have any great commentators (the pool of commentary talent is depressingly shallow), they don't employ any whizz-bang effects, but, as Rohan says, Foxtel treats footy as the main event, not the garnishing. Whether it stays that way is another matter.
All that and I have not mentioned sports viewers' least favourite two words: 1) official; and 2) broadcaster.