Foxtel is Australia’s premium subscription TV network, home to the FOX SPORTS network and an aggressive player in the nation’s sports rights market.
The Australian subscription market is cutthroat. Over 70% of Australian homes are willing to pay for subscription TV and competitive subscription services have doubled in the last year. In this crowded category there’s one product that cuts through: live sport.
Foxtel’s AUD $600M broadcast deal for cricket was a strategically vital investment to secure a competitive advantage over the next 6 years.
And with a price tag like that, expectations for the cricket launch campaign were extraordinarily high:
1. Acquire new subscribers while also reducing CPA by 40%.
2. Steal share of free-to-air viewing from CH7.
3. Become number one channel on Foxtel.
However, thanks to Australia’s complex sport licensing laws, we were asking fans to pay $60 per month for a product they could still partially enjoy for free through competitor broadcaster CH7.
We had to create a cricket experience unique to Foxtel and a new way to watch the game that would set our subscription apart.
Nine out of ten Aussies watch Cricket - with the Australian team common ground for over 22 million people. To hit our commercial targets, we had to connect with every single fan and create something new to compel them to pay to watch cricket.
To do this, we had to understand how they currently enjoyed the game. We built a detailed map of major matches and traced fan attention and engagement for each play, overlaid with social conversation data, revealing what mattered and when.
The results were striking.
Cricket is the soundtrack to the Australian summer, but despite millions of Australians following the game, few ever saw the best plays on the pitch. The fan’s favourite play – taking a wicket – accounts for less than 20 seconds of the average 30-hour game and the majority only saw it through replays.
This was our key insight - most key moments in our audience’s favourite sporting pastime had never been seen truly live.
Armed with our audience insight, we knew we had to deliver more value for the subscription and transform the viewing experience from a passive, lean-back experience, reacting to what you’ve missed; to a lean-in moment, primed for something crucial to happen.
In short, we had to predict wickets.
Cricket is a hugely complex game, with almost impenetrable rules (to some) and a huge amount of variables – pitch condition, weather, air temperature, moisture levels, speed of delivery, bowling speed, bowling type, right or left handed batsmen, googlies (if you don’t know ask someone who does), slower balls, bouncers… the list is almost endless making it almost impossible to predict… for a human.
Introducing Monty, the world’s first AI ‘predictive commentator’ who can tell you when a wicket is about to fall and make sure you are watching when it does.
For those machine learning fans reading this, Monty is technically a supervised classification model. For Aussie fans, he’s pure magic.
First, we trained Monty, feeding him an entire year’s worth of Australian cricket team data – every ball faced and every ball bowled across Test, T20 and ODI cricket – each ball with 83 data variables attached to it.
Instead of buying media inventory with our media budget, we bought data, investing 3:1 into data against standard media.
Once we were confident that we had a fully operational Monty, we created an API output that could be used to trigger time sensitive adverts across video, digital outdoor and display directing subscribers to tune in to watch a wicket and maximise their subscription and directing non-subscribers to sign up to catch the wickets.
‘Game changer’ is used a lot in our industry. However, we feel this is the first time it's warranted as Monty has changed the live sport experience in Australia, offering fans a totally new way to watch the national game, when it really matters.
Once Monty was trained, we let him loose on live games where he tracked 83 variables for every single ball during live play, overlaying his training data and what happened in the last 5 minutes of play and projecting what would happen in the next 5 minutes.
When he spotted a wicket coming, he triggered dynamic creative across pre-roll video, mobile display ads and outdoor billboards with a call to action to tune in to Fox Cricket and watch the wicket fall – making sure subscribers got maximum value and alerting the rest of the public to the fact that Fox (via Monty) could predict the future!
Through a Google integration fans could also ask Fox Cricket for ‘Monty's Call’ through the Google Home Assistant during live play and an API was also integrated into the Fox Cricket app for instant predictions and enhanced visualisations, which fans could use to help with suggestions on drafting their ultimate fantasy team.
The true measure of data creativity's impact is whether it changes not only business outcomes but culture and consumer behaviour as well. This project for Foxtel was an unparalleled success in this regard. It created an entirely new interpretation of live sport data and gave fans an entirely new way to watch the team they loved.
Rather than offering data visualisation in sport as a bolt on utility after the event, we used data to predict sporting events - putting the viewer ahead of the game for the first time ever.