Rupert Murdoch’s TV and streaming company Foxtel is fighting claims it is overstating its audience on key entertainment and sports content, including NRL and AFL broadcasts, which could reduce how much money it receives from advertisers.
Australia’s television ratings provider OzTAM contacted Foxtel last week following the release of ratings data about the NRL’s first round of the season. Foxtel said it had an average audience of 523,000 per game, up 17 per cent year-on-year, but did not explain where the data came from.
Kayo Sports audience data is tracked internally by Foxtel.
OzTAM chief executive Doug Peiffer said he saw the press release with the numbers and is working with Foxtel to understand the data. “I have put a call into Foxtel to understand how they have put those numbers together,” Peiffer said.
Foxtel has denied any wrongdoing.
“Transparency and accuracy of data around audience numbers is something which we take incredibly seriously, and we continue to work closely with OzTAM in relation to its industry-wide linear reporting,” a Foxtel spokesman said.
Multiple media sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak publicly, claim Foxtel is misstating data it receives from OzTAM by combining it with internal data and failing to remove duplicate audiences across its services, such as Foxtel IQ, Foxtel Go, Binge and Kayo Sports.
Foxtel is being accused of inflating audiences for its marquee sporting broadcasts like the NRL and AFL.Credit:Getty
Advertisers rely on data from OzTAM, the television industry’s verified measurement system, to make decisions on how to allocate advertising budgets across various types of media, with higher ratings typically leading to more spending.
OzTAM tracks people watching subscription television via a dedicated panel comprised of 2120 homes, from metropolitan and regional Australia. The panel tracks the consumption of popular Foxtel and Binge shows, such as The Last of Us and The White Lotus, or the first round of the NRL, regardless of whether a person is watching it on a Foxtel channel, or via one of its associated streaming services.
Sources close to OzTAM, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions are confidential, claim Foxtel is adding these figures to internal streaming consumption data, without removing those who may already be sitting on a panel. This is a concern, as it may allow Foxtel to inflate audiences and sell advertising packages based on the figures, particularly during live sports matches such as the AFL or NRL.
The sources said OzTAM was in contact with Foxtel Group chief executive Patrick Delany late last week about the matter, which was raised with OzTAM’s Pfeiffer after the NRL ratings release.
The concerns, which sources say came from OzTAM’s technical committee, prompted an investigation and a warning. Nine, the owner of this masthead, sits on the OzTAM board.
The concerns have occurred at a crucial time for Foxtel as it prepares to renegotiate its debt with banking lenders and reconsider the prospects of a public float.
Foxtel had $1.93 billion in drawn and outstanding debt as at June 30 last year, according to its most recent annual financial report, the bulk of which was due to mature in 2024. The Australian Financial Review reported Foxtel’s shareholders, Telstra and News Corp., are still keen to list the business once market conditions improve.
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