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How Aussie cricket could save Foxtel from glaring summer sports truth

Two massive cricket tours to Australia could help address the telling pay-TV reality.

Aussie cricket captain Pat Cummins is seen with Virat Kohli on left and holding the Ashes urn on right.
Aussie cricket is set to give Foxtel a massive boost over the next two summers with an India tour to be followed by an Ashes series down under in 2025/26. Pic: Getty

The India and England cricket tours to Australia can’t come soon enough for pay-TV provider Foxtel after a quarter million subscribers ditched the service over summer. Close to 250,000 Kayo customers either opted out of their subscription altogether or pushed pause until the 2024 NRL and AFL seasons commenced. Kayo subscribers numbered 1.17 million at the end of last year, a marked drop from 1.4m in the previous quarter.

While the loss of viewers has been attributed in part to discretionary spends on the back of cost-of-living pressures, the bulk of lost subscribers appear to have voted with their remotes and rejected Kayo's summer fare of sport. The prospect of one-sided Test series against Pakistan and the West Indies was a turn-off, with many subscribers departing during the football off-season before signing back up in March.

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"Cycling through streaming subscriptions allows you to still be able to watch your favourite shows but save money at the same time and people that have sports streaming subscriptions are particularly adept at this," Mark Neilsen, streaming expert at Finder.com.au, told Yahoo Sport Australia. "Since it's been operating, Kayo’s subscriber numbers have tended to increase (in the football season), then drop off around December before picking back up again in March.

"This reflects the season for major football codes in Australia like NRL and AFL, as well as other popular sports such as F1. There’s no point keeping a subscription to a sports streaming service if you can’t watch your favourite sport."

Viewer subscriptions for Kayo tend to drop off every year after the NRL and AFL grand finals. Pic: Getty
Viewer subscriptions for Kayo tend to drop off every year after the NRL and AFL grand finals. Pic: Getty

Blockbuster cricket tours over next two Aussie summers

The good news for Kayo/Foxtel over the next two summers is the arrival of Australian cricket's two biggest rivals. India will play five Tests during the 2024/25 summer with England out here 12 months later to contest the Ashes.

That should see a greater retention rate among subscribers. Kayo recently launched its Get on Board campaign, aimed at wooing sports lovers back for the winter seasons. It will also soon be offering customers 4k coverage, which it predicts will help swell numbers.

But expert media analyst Steve Allen predicts further pain across most platforms. "As Foxtel acknowledge, summer sports are not the best season this year for them," he said. "Q4 and Q1 usually see a seasonal drop.

"Purely and largely, winter/spring versus summer. AFL and NRL, in particular, are both really key players in gross audience numbers for Foxtel. It's far more likely, with the squeeze on household budgets as a result of cost-of-living, the SVOD (subscription video on demand) platforms will really suffer grossly and separately."

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