Media buyers also revealed their respective outlooks for Foxtel in 2024.

Foxtel went all out this year for its 2024 upfront presentation by taking agencies, brands and clients to Sydney’s Cockatoo Island and cementing its slogan as “Australia’s most watchable”.

Although the weather was dreary, executives from the network were excited to showcase the best of what is to come in the new year, including innovations in audience measurement, ratings data, and carbon impact measurement for ad campaigns, as well as the introduction of Hubbl.

Foxtel also unveiled its new and returning content offerings for 2024 from sport, drama and scripted reality, including the first original feature film for BINGE, How to Make Gravy, an adaptation of Paul Kelly’s iconic hit from 1996.

Media buyers from holding companies and independent agencies shared their thoughts with Mediaweek on Foxtel’s offering, what it means for them and how they will spend in the new year.

Claire Fenner, national CEO, Atomic 212°

Foxtel has made a huge effort to reposition itself and define its product more clearly with this year’s upfront, emphasised with its departure from Think TV.

I was impressed to see Foxtel backing their product with the introduction of new measurement partners, Analytics Partners and VideoAmp, for greater campaign measurement and attribution and Kantar to develop Foxtel’s own audience measurement platform as an alternative to OzTAM. I’m excited to see how these partnerships play out and optimistic that this will be a great step towards increased focus on true media effectiveness measurement from all media partners.

It was also great to see that Foxtel have engaged Scope3 to help them and their advertising partners continue to work towards reducing and offsetting the carbon footprint of media campaigns.

The Video Futures Collective was an interesting announcement that I’m keen to hear more about, including which other video partners are involved other than the couple mentioned. Similarly, the announcement of Hubbl was light on detail but has the potential to be a game changer for audience viewing behaviour and could potentially create a very sticky audience for Foxtel to tap into and potentially increase the scope of their measurement solution.

James Graff, transformation director, OMD Sydney

Foxtel continued its theme of memorable spaces for upfronts, swapping Allianz Stadium for Cockatoo Island as its 2024 backdrop. As we have come to expect from Foxtel, another strong local and global program slate was announced supported by the foundation of sport including Cricket, NBL, NBA, Netball, AFL, NRL and more. It was a strong push with an aim to ‘win the living room’.

I’m particularly excited to see my Sydney Roosters kick off the opening NRL round in Las Vegas, with a Foxtel presence on ground via Matty Johns and NRL 360 for the inaugural event. Both Foxtel and the NRL banking on this increasing exposure (and therefore audiences) domestically and internationally.

Amongst the slew of SVOD updates this upfronts season, Foxtel proved no different with several major announcements.

Most notable were the VideoAmp and Kantar partnerships. Both acknowledge Foxtel is listening to the market demand on needing better streaming measurement. It’s an important commitment by Foxtel given 66% (3.1m subscribers) of the company’s customer base come from its streaming services. VideoAmp create solutions to unify audiences across traditionally siloed channels, enabling ability to make informed planning decisions.

It’s a solution running in US markets, with VideoAmp partnering with players such as Warner Brothers Discovery and NBC Universal. The proof of concept will form part of FoxTest, with larger scaling of outcomes not likely until 2025. It will be critical for forward leaning screen advertisers to co-develop with Foxtel, ensuring the outputs address priority needs and not become another measurement system for systems sake. This will be key as several other cross platform measurement solutions are delivered to market and demand to better understand digital streaming performance continues to grow.

Another major announcement was the Scope3 partnership, a sustainability provider that helps advertisers measure carbon emissions from digital campaigns. This partnership builds on Foxtel’s sustainability charter announced at last year. Foxtel showcased that they are already making headway, minimising their own carbon impact with reductions across display inventory by 63% and instream video by 36%. This announcement marks a clear shift in aiming to motivate advertiser action through increased transparency and ease by providing a tangible output for advertisers.

However, while a positive step in the right direction to boldly claim their commitment and increase transparency on campaign carbon impact, a consistent industry measurement standard across media carbon emissions is vital in enabling action on an issue of this scale (Foxtel can’t go it alone). This announcement is aimed as a forward leadership position by Foxtel, we’ll wait to see how technology partnerships may expand and what pressure this puts on other media organisations.

Overall, another confident upfront session by Foxtel, not shying away from big industry challenges such as streaming measurement and sustainability.

Denver Rego, head of biddable media, Frontier Australia

Foxtel’s was a highly anticipated Upfront event this year, driven by its previous success. There was a commitment to continued investment in local content, particularly prominent on the Binge platform.

A highlight was the introduction of a simplified, single-point screen strategy, designed to streamline operations for brands. The update to addressability on platforms Kayo and Binge was timely given the increasing competition in this space.

Substantial investments were channelled into data capabilities, reinforcing the company’s digital transformation. There was a strong emphasis on attention, analytics, return on investment, and constructive partnerships, such as the collaboration with Kantar for in-depth viewership analysis and the long-term alliance with VideoAmp to foster industry progression.

In the midst of these developments, Hubbl emerged as a potential industry disruptor, infusing a sense of optimism for 2024. This year’s Upfront presented a positive outlook for the industry’s future.

Daniela Rocchi, head of partnerships, Initiative Sydney

There were so many great announcements, where do I start?

This year’s Foxtel upfronts was a surprise and delight being held at the iconic Cockatoo Island, yes, the weather was grim, but the event was far from it. ‘’Foxtel upfronts Australian’s most watchable’’ was the slogan for the evening.

The networks strengths shone in their numbers with the sales team being first on stage representing Foxtel at its finest with some big numbers to be proud of; +3.1m streaming customers across Foxtel, Kayo & Binge with Kayo at 1.41m subscribers and Binge at +1.54m.

Foxtel has recognised the importance of data and measurement in its future plans for 2024. To address concerns regarding the reliability and relevance of reporting, Foxtel has introduced a partnership with Kantar, which will serve as a counterpoint to Oztam’s linear panel and provide a comprehensive understanding of Pay-Tv consumption and subscriber behaviour in Australia. The service will utilise viewing data from the past two years, incorporating data from set-top boxes, connected televisions, and mobile devices. Accurate and reliable data has become increasingly crucial with the availability of more viewing data sources.

In addition to the Kantar partnership, Foxtel announced a new partnership with VideoAmp, a media measurement and optimisation software company. This collaboration aims to develop a new measurement tool specifically designed to capture viewing data from all services within the Foxtel Group. With an abundance of data at their disposal, Foxtel recognises the need for a measurement system that can accurately identify ad exposure, audiences, and outcomes. A proof of concept for this measurement tool is expected to be released in 2024 and said to be a collaborative industry approach.

Foxtel has made an important announcement regarding their commitment to environmental sustainability. As part of their FoxTest initiative, which they have already completed 30 to date, Foxtel will become the first Australian broadcaster to offer carbon impact measurement of advertising campaigns. This will be made possible through a partnership with Scope3, a collaboration that will enable advertisers to measure carbon emissions from all digital campaigns exclusively running across Foxtel services. Foxtel is already working closely with Scope3 to reduce carbon impact through display media -63%. This initiative demonstrates Foxtel’s dedication to promoting environmental responsibility within the advertising industry.

I commend the network for establishing the Video Futures Collective, a community comprised of stakeholders from the streaming video market. This collective will collaborate to address and resolve significant challenges and issues within the industry. The primary objective is to promote fairness and equality across all aspects of video, with a specific focus on industry standards, measurement and accountability. The collective will consist of clients, platforms, and agencies, with launch partners including Foxtel, Netflix, SBS, and Samsung Ads. The Video Futures Collective is set to launch in November 2023, so stay tuned for updates!

There is no denying the network has had an exceptional year for local productions, receiving numerous awards and being recognised as the most awarded broadcaster and streamer at the 2023 Logies, with seven wins. As we enter 2024, Foxtel is poised with a highly competitive programming lineup, featuring renowned Australian actors and a handful of new commissions. One notable addition is the Homegrown originals coming to Binge, including the intriguing feature film “How to Make Gravy” currently in production on the Gold Coast. Additionally, the highly anticipated “The Last Anniversary” starring Asher Keddie and the award-winning “Colin from Accounts” Season 2 are currently in production.

Across the Foxtel Group, viewers can look forward to the return of beloved originals such as “Selling Houses Australia,” “Gogglebox Australia,” “Celebrity Gogglebox Australia,” and “The Great Australian Bake Off,” among others. Sports content also took centre stage, with an exciting lineup planned for 2024. This includes coverage of every match of the BBL & WBBL, NBL, NRL, MotorGP, and the new AFL rights set to kick off in 2025. Notably, Foxtel have secured deals with ESPN, Matchroom, and a five-year contract with UFC, which boasts the youngest fan base among professional sports worldwide.

The CEO, Patrick Delany, made a significant announcement to conclude the event. The highly anticipated Magneto, now officially named Hubbl, is an operating system that integrates both free and paid apps and content, revolutionising the management of subscriptions. This development is expected to be a game changer for television and streaming. The technology behind the new televisions and plug-ins was jointly developed by Sky and Comcast, with a similar product, the Sky Glass TV, already launched in the UK in 2021. Hubbl will feature a new and localised interface and operating system, although the pricing details have not yet been disclosed. The question on everyone’s mind is the affordability of this product, particularly as economic pressures continue to tighten for Australians.

Anna Magliano, head of client services, Kaimera

Despite the gloomy weather, Foxtel managed to deliver a confident and impressive presentation that was truly ‘watchable’. They spared no expense in showcasing their latest offerings and completely redefined their approach, coming across as big and bold. Their presentation included clients, media buyers, and the entire Foxtel team.

One of the standout moments was their partnership with VideoAmp, a game-changer in the world of broadcasting. With the decline in broadcast audiences and the ever-increasing fragmentation of viewership, this collaboration promises a new measurement system that accurately captures viewing data across Foxtel Group services.

Another exciting development was Foxtel’s partnership with Scope 3, enabling advertisers to measure the carbon emissions generated by their digital campaigns – a positive step in the right direction. It demonstrates Foxtel’s commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility.

The real star of the show, however, was the content lineup. Foxtel unveiled an impressive array of premium entertainment and sports content, featuring both new and returning Australian Originals like “How to Make Gravy” and a slew of local and international sporting events, including AFL, Cricket, and UFC. This promises a year filled with exciting and engaging content for Foxtel subscribers.

What truly stood out during this presentation was Foxtel’s strategic focus on the consumer and advertiser experience. They seem to have their priorities in the right place, ensuring that their viewers and advertising partners are at the heart of their strategy. Foxtel is poised for a very successful year.

Anthony Sciacca, head of media solutions and investment, EssenceMediacom Sydney

Not even Sydney’s gloomy weather could dampen Foxtel’s 2024 upfronts last night. At the impressive event, Foxtel made some major disruptive announcements that were presented as “Australia’s most watchable”.

The presentation was strategically focused on the market, highlighting the voice of their customers, including marketers, key agency stakeholders, and customers. They shared their concerns and priorities for the future, such as engagement, attention, and a unified view.

Unlike the usual executive features during upfront season, the Foxtel media team confidently discussed the success of the Foxtel Group over the past year highlighting how it had delivered on promises made at last year’s upfront. They highlighted the growth in subscriptions, revenue, and audience engagement, reinforcing their commitment to “Watchability” and doubling down on successful initiatives like FOXTEST – a test and learn vehicle that GroupM has been part of, and which is now becoming business as usual for Foxtel.

Foxtel media’s intention to disrupt the market was clear, as CEO Mark Frain put it, “by standing out, not standing still”. This was evident through several major announcements made during the evening.

Nev Hassan discussed the significant audience growth and active attention to delivery, which resonated with our new Breakthrough Planning process at EssenceMediacom. The expansion of their Characters Binge & Foxtel IQ will better enable us to plan, activate, and measure against High Value audiences (HVA’s) with partners.

The launch of the Video Futures Collective with Foxtel Media, Disney, SBS, and Samsung ads was welcomed. This will bring more collaboration and strategic partnerships with Analytic partners, Amplified Intelligence, Agile & Nature, to address market challenges and priorities for greater engagement, attention, and quality.

What set Foxtel apart from other upfronts this year were the Kantar and Video AMP announcements. These partnerships are exciting, as Foxtel’s scale of 1M set top boxes and 3.1M customer base make it robust. We will be able to understand and validate measurement from the last two years, potentially bringing measurement into a new age.

Telstra’s Brent Smart emphasized the importance of sustainability, stating, “We expect all our suppliers to operate sustainably. Why would the media be any different?” Foxtel’s partnership with Scope 3 will further enable EssenceMediacom to deliver against sustainability, a key pillar of the GroupM Responsible Investment Framework, and an area we are already focussed on to help our clients decarbonise media.

Foxtel’s synonymous association with sport and content was evident in the upcoming slate. They demonstrated their commitment to right deals between 2025 – 2031 (AFL & Cricket). Amanda Laing highlighted the importance of diversity of production houses, with personal picks including Krapopolis, Strife, The Twelve, Mix tape, High Country, and it’s first Binge film How to Make Gravy.

The event concluded with a bang when Patrick Delaney officially launched the Hubbl operating system which aims to change the TV experience for consumers by fusing paid and free TV and managing subscriptions all in one place.

I personally left the event truly excited for what’s to come.

Daniel Cutrone, managing partner, Avenue C

Foxtel Group hosted the 2024 Upfronts at Cockatoo Island, bringing advertisers away from industry norms, and on a journey into the future of video streaming. In a carefully crafted presentation, Foxtel unveiled pivotal highlights and strategies from their wider sales team, boasting 4.7 million subscribers across the Foxtel Group and nearly 50% growth in digital revenue.

Foxtel Media announced some powerful moves that will be sure to send shockwaves through the advertising industry, as they announced their parting of ways with ThinkTV, firmly signaling the shift away from Linear TV as a primary focus for the company.

Foxtel did not shy away from addressing pressing industry concerns, from measurement challenges and economic pressures to the declining linear TV audience. They fearlessly tackled the very issues plaguing the industry today.

With Amplified Intelligence, Foxtel showcased how Binge could capture an impressive 83% stronger active attention compared to other BVOD platforms.

Amanda Laing with some of the key content Kantar and VideoAmp will be helping measure in 2024

The team unveiled their ambitious strategy to capitalize on audience data, harnessing insights from over 1 million set-top boxes and 3.1 million digital customers. Their partnership with Videamp promised a ground-breaking solution for a comprehensive audience product across screens, a pioneering effort previously unexplored in the Australian market.

A significant emphasis was placed on Australian sports, with comprehensive coverage spanning Netball, PGA, F1, Supercars, MotoGP, UFC, NRL, and AFL, clearing up any misconceptions regarding Foxtel’s national game coverage. The average viewer was revealed to consume a staggering nine different sports, investing a total of nine hours per week.

In response to the overwhelming saturation of streaming services, with 66% of Australians feeling inundated and 92% yearning for a consolidated platform, Foxtel introduced HUBBL. This OTT product aims to be the central hub for home entertainment, integrating all free, pay TV, and streaming services into a single platform. This innovative approach not only ushers in a new era but also introduces a single impression-based digital currency, revolutionizing measurement standards.

Foxtel not only lived up to the generated hype but reinvented themselves to emerge as the dynamic, premium, and transformative streaming business of the future.

Michael Mellington, head of media partnerships, UM Melbourne

Foxtel never shy away from telling a big story at up front season, and the reveal for 2024 and beyond delivered in spades. This year however, fire breathing dragons and Tim Minchen originals were subbed in by industry leaders playing measurement and accountability buzz word bingo. But don’t be alarmed in true Foxtel style there was still the expected balance of a slick presentation balanced by wild entertainment.

Despite the uncharacteristic wintery Sydney weather, Cockatoo island provided the perfect backdrop to unveil their vision. Starting with live and video performances that encapsulated the importance of connection to country and storytelling. This sentiment was further supported by Foxtel’s continued investment into community, content and sustainability which has reached in excess of $10.2m.

By Foxtel’s own admission MC, Mitch McTaggert said all good things come in 3s so here are 3 key take aways from Foxtel’s night of nights:

1, The gloves are off:
a) Foxtel made a clear statement that their involvement in Think TV/VOZ will not continue. Quoting legacy systems are holding converged trading back, Foxtel is at the digital tipping point, which is where VideoAmp and Kantar comes into play. To further prove out effectiveness Foxtel is leaning into partners such as Amplified intelligence (binge #1) and infosum in an endeavour to provide deeper insights and measurability to advertisers. This shift in conversation is going to disrupt the current trading market and push agencies to challenge the status quo.

2. Content is still king:
With Paul Kelly’s “how to make gravy”, The Last Anniversary, Strife and continued strength in sport, which included a little dig at 7’s AFL digital rights, the investment into content continues, giving a reason for their 5m+ subscribers to come back each month despite ongoing cost of living pressures impacting subscribers

3. Hubbl is coming:
Tapping into Sky Glass and Puck technology Foxtel is changing the game on the user experience for streaming and App technology on the main screen. And while there isn’t a huge amount of information on this as yet, with a proposed launch in January, it’s wise to remember the introduction to binge and Kayo were predicted to be the demise of Foxtel, but in reality grew total net audience of the Foxtel offering. So this will be one to watch

Overall a very difficult session to summarise in a quick read, but Foxtel are on a strong trajectory and have made some big statements so the results will have to speak for themselves in 2024. Well done to all involved.

Article originally published on mediaweek.


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