ESPN moves into its prime time of the year

The end of the Australian footy season makes room for the US broadcaster

ESPN’s selling point in Australia and New Zealand is that it is the home of American sports. With the new season of NFL launching earlier this month and the NBA starting in October 2017, the Australian summer is a prime time for ESPN to sell globally and in the local market.

“It’s when the interest in all the US leagues is at its greatest,” ESPN Australia and New Zealand’s director of TV and marketing Patrick Bour told Mediaweek. “Where it is super strong is that it coincides with the conclusion of the domestic football leagues.”

Patrick Bour

The AFL grand final is on 30 September and the 2017 season of the NRL wraps up on 1 October.

“The cricket starts, but it is still a quieter time in the Aussie sports calendar,” Bour said. “So it’s really important for ESPN to deliver over that period.

“There is a lot of interest in the footy off-season in what’s happening on ESPN.”

The US Open, which wrapped up recently for 2017, allows the broadcaster to smoothly glide into its prime period of the year. Being a sports fanatic himself, Bour confessed to being glued to the TV watching the quarterfinal match between Roger Federer and Juan Martín del Potro just before his chat with Mediaweek.

“It was a classic match,” Bour said. But he was upset that Federer was out of the US Open tournament. “Not the result we were hoping for. But what can you do?

“If Federer had won, we would’ve had a Federer-Nadal semifinal, which would have been absolutely huge for the channel.

“It would have been the first time that they would’ve played against each other at the US Open.”

However, it wasn’t to be. Bour did recognise though that the interest in the US Open and other American sports brought to the Australian and Kiwi shores by ESPN is already strong and continues to grow. ESPN averaged 17,600 viewers for its live US Open broadcasts. This is a 9% increase over Fox Sports’ live ratings from 2016.

“We have heritage and strength in US sports,” Bour said. “We look to supplement those with big international events where we can, things like the ATP Tour and the FA Cup. Then we localise where possible when there are local stories to tell.”

Because ESPN is one of the few exclusive sports broadcasters in Australia, one would think it would view Fox Sports as a rival. However, according to Bour this is not the case.

“We are more complementary than competitive to Fox Sports. We are all pay-TV channels and we are distributed on the sports tier on Foxtel. ESPN is on Fetch TV as well, whereas Fox Sports is not – that’s the slight difference,” Bour said. “If we add a subscriber for ESPN or Fox Sports, it all goes into the growth of the platform, which is good news for all of us.

This is an excerpt of the full article, which appears in the latest issue of Mediaweek magazine. 

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