News Corp chief plays down Foxtel’s loss of Premier League rights

Australian pay-television operator Foxtel’s loss of English Premier League rights has been downplayed by its parent company News Corporation, with the media conglomerate’s chief executive, Robert Thomson, questioning the value of the top division of English club football.

Telecommunications company Optus last week confirmed it had signed a three-season deal, from 2016-17 to 2018-19, for rights to the EPL. The deal includes live coverage on television, broadband and mobile platforms for all 380 games per season.

Foxtel, the Premier League’s sole broadcaster in the country since 1997, will be dislodged as the league’s rights-holder in Australia as a result of the new deal. Optus is said to have paid $45m (€39.6m) per annum for the rights, with the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper stating that its bid was significantly higher than that entered by Foxtel.

However, Thomson defended the decision not to outbid Optus. He said: “You can buy any right as long as you're prepared to pay any price. But, sometimes, by our reckoning, any price is not appropriate for us or our shareholders. There are some EPL fans in Australia, there's no doubt about that, but we're certainly not talking about prime time. The 3pm kickoff in UK is 2am in Australia.”

Thomson added: “Hardcore fans of anything in Australia are called tragics, but the sweet spot for EPL (is) at two in the morning: tragics are insomniacs. You might have noticed, Bayern Munich beat Arsenal 5-1 in the (Uefa) Champions League which may be itself an indictment of the value of the Premier League.”