Pay TV Is Almost Entirely About Sport

When we asked readers last week why they chose pay TV, the most popular response was not to have pay TV at all. But amongst those who were paying, the chief reason was sporting access — a finding which matches up with the ratings for pay TV generally.

Our favourite TV blog TV Tonight publishes a weekly summary of pay TV ratings. The most recent set (linked below) demonstrates just how important sport is in attracting audiences: the top 16 programs were all live sporting broadcasts. And the top-rating non-sports program attracted just 54,000 viewers — a difficult sell when free-to-air broadcasters can easily attract half a million viewers to just about anything, even in an era of declining ratings.

Pay TV Ratings: Week 19 [TV Tonight]


  • I know this isn’t entirely relevant, but I find it funny that three of the four players I can identify in that picture no longer play for the club they’re pictured playing for. Wow, that was a convoluted sentence.

  • I don’t think some of the comments made by Angus are entirely fair. Based on ratings, it is not all sport that attracts viewers to Pay TV – the football codes draw far bigger audiences than other codes. If you were to look at a similar ratings list in the middle of summer, you will find cricket coverage in the list but not so dominating. Football in particular is a big driver for Pay TV subscription (as can be seen by the recent AFL deal by Foxtel/Austar).
    Pay TV have long argued that the number of viewers to a single channel is not the way they operate. They sell themselves as a network of channels (i.e. the Foxtel or Austar network) in terms of ratings, and to both subscribers and advertisers (their income sources). Of course up until now Free TV have argued against this view, as it lessened their ratings and they would pitch themselves to advertisers as having many eyeballs in the same place at the same time. But now that Free TV are moving towards to network model (e.g. Nine has Nine, GO! and Gem) where they freely create extra channels which may cannibalise their existing channel but keep their competitors at bay, surely the network ratings should be the main measure?
    For example, the 5-city ratings shares from week 18 (the latest from the OzTam website):
    Seven 24.9%
    Nine 19.8%
    Foxtel 17.8%
    Ten 16.0%
    ABC 14.4%
    SBS 3.9%

    • Andrew, I think you missed the point… Angus was pointing out that the highest rating shows on Pay TV were sport as a whole – not what sports got which ratings, or even how the ratings worked.

      Angus then goes on to select a single non-sport show for comparison with free-to-air to draw up the difference between eyeballs on screen for the different delivery models (paid vs free).

      Also, you mentioned “They sell themselves as a network of channels (i.e. the Foxtel or Austar network) in terms of ratings, and to both subscribers and advertisers…”
      I’d have to disagree there; I can’t imagine ever seeing an ad for a Lifestyle type show during a Live Boxing match (as an extreme example).
      They will be selling particular spots at particular times during particular shows to the advertisers.

      As an example; If I was a men’s deodorant company, I would not sign up for advertising on the promise that “Foxtel has 17.8% rating share”, but I *would* sign up for advertising on the promise that “We can offer you a slot during the car racing on XX date at XX time”, as I know I’d be hitting my target audience.

      • Jess,

        Not being in the industry, I don’t know all the details on how advertising works. But I do know that it is not as simple as the example you supplied. Have a look at this report on advertisers with the Bolt Report program on Ten (

        My point was reto the fact that individual channels in Pay TV do not compete against each other – they get bundled in subscriptions and have a single company to arrange advertising deals ( I have seen it mentioned previously that they see themselves as a block of channels competing against other blocks, including each Free TV network. So they prefer to look at network ratings as I mentioned previously. I cannot find a reference for this fact, so you will have to trust my recollection on this one.

  • I would pay for TV if it meant there were no ads. But since it doesn’t and I don’t care for sports then I really don’t see the point.
    However as IPTV like Fetch TV matures it does becomes more enticing to sign up.

  • I only get Foxtel to watch AFL, their commentators are better, they put it on live (very important!) and they have less ads. Free to air TV channels are their own worst enemies, Channel 7 with idiots like Bruce McAveney and not showing footy live. Channel 10 with a dunce like Steve Quartermaine, god I want to punch him in the head when he commentates on my team’s games.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!