Odds Aside: Will Foxtel Rue Turning Their Backs on the EPL?

Did Foxtel pull the trigger on the dedicated club channels too early?

Thu, 9 May, 12:00 AM

Foxtel's decision to cut all ties with the EPL has been made to look even more ridiculous than when it was first announced - if that's at all possible.

A fortnight ago, Foxtel issued a press release which stated that on May 28 it would be saying farewell to its dedicated club channels as EPL programming on Fox Sports.

The release also included an unattributed quote which stated "...we've made the decision to prioritise the sport codes that Australia loves most..", highlighting their current line-up of NRL, AFL, A-league, cricket, F1 and rugby as their main focus going forward.

The decision then, as it is now, is baffling and beyond belief.

Optus secured the EPL rights in a shock move in 2016 from Foxtel and then went one step further by wrenching the UEFA Champions League and Europa League from Bein Sports in 2018.

That meant that Foxtel went from having the most popular and watched league in the world AND the most famous club tournament on earth wrenched from its grasp in the space of two years.

In response to that, and to Foxtel's credit, they opened up the Bein Sports channels (which had previously been an additional cost) as part of their sports offering while also adding the Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea TV club channels.

What Foxtel has done for the A-league has been magnificent with their coverage of each match, magazine shows and pre and post-match comments. It has definitely added some great flavour to football in this country, however, it is no secret that the A-league is on the nose with many fans in Australia.

This has especially been the case over the past few seasons and while many people have their thoughts as to why that is the case, one of them could be because of the lack of EPL coverage.

In many ways, the EPL was a complimentary offering for the A-league because you would normally watch the latter on a Saturday night before coverage rolled into the first game of the EPL shortly afterwards.

Not everyone can afford Foxtel and not everyone can afford Optus and although there are no stats to support it, there probably aren't too many households in Australia that are currently paying for both services.

We are currently at the final hurdle for what has been the most fascinating EPL title race in years with Manchester City and Liverpool fighting it out until the last matchday. Liverpool's emergence as the only team to match it with Pep's City has captured the imagination of the football public both here and abroad.

Next season many football fans will want to see if Liverpool can finally break their title drought, if they don't do it this weekend, or whether they or anyone else can keep pace with City again.

And the fact that Tottenham has played their part in securing an all-England Final in the Champions League will again throw more of the spotlight onto the English league. Throw in Manchester United and Arsenal's presence in the Europa League and you are talking about huge fanbases across the globe.

So why Foxtel in their infinite wisdom chose to turn their backs on EPL is beyond me.

It's fantastic that Foxtel still has the Bein Sports channels which showcase the La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga - these are some of the biggest leagues in the world with some of the best players, but they aren't the most popular leagues.

The fact that Foxtel released that statement a few weeks back without a key decision maker fronting up and putting their names to those quotes suggests they have lost touch with the Australian public. It appears as though they did so in order to avoid receiving instant backlash from the football fans.

Optus has the rights to the EPL, for which they are rumoured to be paying $50million a year for, until 2022 while subscribers can also see the Champions League and Europa League until 2020/21. Also among their suite of football are the FIFA Women's World Cup and Euro 2020.

I get it. It’s a commercial decision because the EPL isn’t exactly on at the ideal time (late night / early morning) so advertisers aren’t exactly going to be banging the door down to pay premium dollars for spots where viewership isn’t at its peak. But ultimately that release from Foxtel stating that they want to focus on sports that Australians love most is completely wrong because the EPL is a high visibility product and most would argue generates more eyeballs than rugby union, Formula 1 and many NRL and AFL matches.

So as a football fan you have to ask yourself one question – is it worth keeping your Foxtel subscription now that the dedicated club channels are going to disappear as well? Or will you cut ties with Foxtel, as many people have already, and sign up to Optus?


Written by John Anthony

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