Foxtel first announced the plans to launch a free product in October and said sports such as Supercars events would be made free. It was considered a major strategic pivot for the pay TV company and a move that could change the way it negotiates broadcast deals. But it immediately caused scrutiny because Seven West Media, the free-to-air broadcaster for motorsports organisation Supercars, had exclusivity for certain events.
Mr Ogrin said premium tier one sports such as the AFL and NRL will not be in front of the paywall but that Foxtel and Kayo would look at ways to grow more niche offerings. Broadcast matches in front of a paywall could be considered more appealing to smaller sports codes such as motorsports, surfing or volleyball that are focused on boosting audiences.
Industry sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said last year that Foxtel boss Patrick Delany had discussed the product – Kayo Freebies – with Rugby Australia when proposing a new broadcast deal. Foxtel is currently in talks with Netball Australia about a broadcast deal and the sources have indicated it is similarly discussing this type of model.
Foxtel has received $40 million worth of government funding to broadcast under-represented ports on television. It has been controversial because Fox Sports is only available by subscription, meaning taxpayers must pay to watch the sports they are already paying to broadcast.
The first $30 million was awarded in 2017, but in 2020 the government announced $10 million over two years to support coverage of women’s, niche and under-represented sports.
Mr Ogrin said Kayo Freebies was not created for the purpose of the grant, but would help Foxtel meet its obligations while growing the subscriber base. As of September 30, Kayo had 681,000 subscribers (644,000 paying).
“It wasn’t specifically designed [to meet grant obligations] but it does open the door for opportunities to do that,” he said. “This will be new ground for us. It will certainly open the door for tier two and tier three sports. It’ll be a great opportunity for them.”
All matches and events that will air on Kayo Freebies will be supported by ads. This hybrid model allows advertisers to reach large audiences. Kayo Freebies will have live events, regular live games, replays and special events such as documentaries and classic matches.