News Corp-controlled Foxtel says it is too early to determine the long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its business as it announced a round of job cuts in Fox Sports' news division.
On Wednesday Fox Sports boss Peter Campbell revealed the company, owned by Foxtel, would axe up to 20 jobs from news programming, but told staff it had nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on sport codes across the globe.
Fox Sports will axe up to 20 jobs as part of the changes.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer
"The decision results from trends in viewing away from peak times in recent years, and an industry-wide softness in the advertising market rather than the coronavirus," Mr Campbell said in an internal note, obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Like other media companies, Foxtel is facing pressure as the spread of the coronavirus causes major sports codes to suspend their seasons or play games behind closed doors. Suspension of sports seasons or cancellation altogether would be particularly problematic for Foxtel's sports streaming service, Kayo Sports.
Foxtel had been pinning its hopes on the upcoming NRL and AFL seasons to revive subscriber growth at Kayo after an unexpected slump caused by an underwhelming summer of cricket. But both codes could potentially lose portions of their seasons to the virus.
At its most recent update to investors, Foxtel said Kayo's paying subscriber base had declined by 32,000 since November to stand at 370,000.
A Foxtel spokesman said it was "too soon to determine" the long-term effects of the pandemic on the business.
Fox Sports' redundancies instead follow a decision to reduce the news content the broadcaster runs on weekdays, caused by changing consumer demands and a challenging advertising market. The business will instead focus on morning sports bulletins and evening shows.
"Our customer audience analysis shows viewing of Fox Sports News now peaks in the morning and evening and on weekends, with low daytime viewership. Therefore we are going to focus on delivering live sports news and the channel’s marquee programs, including AFL Tonight, NRL Tonight and Cricket AM, during those peak periods," Mr Campbell said. "In this environment, we need to look at transformative ways to do things differently and more efficiently."
Earlier this year Fox Sports made a number of cuts to its rugby division, axing popular host Nick McCardle on the day before the launch of the new season as well as removing Monday to Friday night programs in favour of a leaner schedule.
At the time, a Rugby Australia executive said the cuts were imminent across all departments, including rugby league, AFL and cricket.
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