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Can Delany Take Foxtel To New Heights & An IPO?

Today, heralds the start of a new journey for the News Corp controlled Foxtel with the business holding a strategy day for what many are tipping is a feeler campaign for a potential float.

The transformation of Foxtel started back in 2018 when Patrick Delany was anointed as the new CEO today he sees himself as the disrupter in the media industry.

The content streaming and entertainment industry turnaround of Foxtel has been so impressive under Delany that the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of NSW is now running a course in how it was achieved.

The industry see him as a risk taker, today was his his strategy show.

A man who hates failure, the former lawyer and head of Fox sports before taking up his Foxtel CEO gig, took on the role with a clear brief to transform the debt laced business which at the time was facing new competition from Netflix, Stan and several global streaming Companies that were set to enter the Australian market, there was also issues over sports rights.

Today Foxtel is facing competition from the Viacom CBS owned Paramount+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Britbox and Disney + and Delany believes he has the answers to compete with the foreign invaders. 

He moved quickly locking down the sports deals he really wanted, NRL, AFL, Formula One while recently ditching poor performing codes such as Soccer and Rugby Union.

Delany, who led Fox Sports Australia since 2011, replaced Peter Tonagh, who had led the Foxtel business during its merger negotiations with the sports broadcasting business.

Delany who knows a lot about sports rights, quickly took a leaf out of Sam Chisholm’s playbook he got the backing of Rupert Murdoch to splash the cash to buy up the sports that today delivers the audience that is a key anchor for Foxtel and Kayo.

Chisholm who quit the Nine network to take on the role running BSkyB in the UK, became a legend in the industry after he took control of the broadcasting rights for the UK Premier League.

BSkyB – a company formed by the merger of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Television, and British Satellite Broadcasting – looked into the possibility of obtaining live rights to the Premier League.

Back in 1999 BSkyB chief executive Sam Chisholm attempted to make a joint offer with ITV which did not come into fruition, so he formed an alliance with the BBC, aware the corporation wanted a highlights package.

Sam, like Delany has with AFL and NRL, built a repour Premier League bosses he invited Parry to its facilities in Livingston, where Premier League executives met Murdoch in person.

This saw Chisholm make what he thought at the time was a successful pitch to the league.

The league phoned Chisholm back advised him to bid higher.

Chisholm in turn telephoned Murdoch to seek his permission and submitted a new offer which got BSkyB the rights to the most watched sports code in Europe.

In 2003 BSkyB paid $2.7 billion for a three-year deal.

A former lawyer with Australian law firm Gilbert & Tobin, Delaney began his career in television in 1998 at Southern Star Entertainment where he relaunched the Lifestyle Channel, Channel [V], Music Max, and The Weather Channel for the Foxtel and Austar platforms.

In 2002, he was appointed as director of digital at Foxtel.

In 2005, he was appointed as executive director of content, product and delivery at Foxtel, where he introduced product and service innovations including Foxtel iQ, Mobile Foxtel, Foxtel On Demand, HD, 3D, Foxtel on Xbox and Foxtel on T-box services, as well as Foxtel’s availability on Virgin Airlines.

Two years ago, Murdoch gave Delany a clear brief, increase subscriptions and cut costs.

He started by introducing a new 4K box that delivered sports like Australians had never seen before.

He slashed costs that had got top heavy under Tonagh, and he moved to transforming the on-air experience for subscribers with a new software makeover and above all new content deals with the likes of HBO.

Today Foxtel has more than four million subscribers, the Delany factor kicked in and the network was reshaped.

His sports knowledge led to sports platform, Kayo being launched, then came the entertainment platform Binge, and we will soon see Flash, which will feature more than 20 local and global live news sources.

A sharp increase in subscribers to Kayo and Binge in the past year contributed to News Corp’s most profitable financial result in eight years, News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson said last month.

Today it’s all about the Foxtel Group and the successful implementation of the Foxtel Group strategy to potential investors.

Delany has a three-year plan, which he says he intends reaching.

5 million plus subscribers, having reached four million total subscribers in FY-21, one million higher in the past 12 months.

Approximately $3 billion in revenue with continued opportunities for margin expansion,supported by streaming revenue growth, continuing to slow the decline in residential broadcast revenue and ongoing cost transformation through digital growth and
operational efficiencies.

A capex to revenue ratio of 4%, having fallen from 14% in FY-19 to 7% in FY-21, to help underpin the Group’s continued strong cash performance of $274 million in FY-21.

Delany said: “Our strategy briefing highlights that today Foxtel Group is a very different company to the one-product Foxtel of three or four years ago.

“The business has been repositioned as a technology-led streaming company with multiple sources of revenue growth from streaming, a strengthened Foxtel retail offering and growth in digital advertising”.

Talking about Foxtel under Delany Robert Thomson said “The Foxtel narrative is particularly positive, as our early emphasis on streaming and on securing long-term, valuable sports and entertainment rights has put the company on a decidedly upward trajectory,” Thomson said.

Earlier this month ChannelNews exclusively revealed the roll out of the iQ5 cable-less set-top box.

This is a box that streams content over an IP network it also Foxtel to slash cable costs while also delivering a new experience for Australians.

Angus Aitken, a partner of Aitken Murray Capital Partners, described Foxtel’s new streaming businesses as “scalable and capital-light”.

“They are the absolute opposite of the capital-heavy business Foxtel once was … the Foxtel business that was perceived as hard work and going nowhere by most analysts and fund managers is now a genuine growth vehicle for News Corp and Telstra,” he said.

“You can clearly see why this business could be an IPO within the next 12 months.”

Morningstar analyst Brian Han said Foxtel’s perceptual value had increased dramatically with its pivot towards streaming services.

“What the move into streaming has done is announce to investors ‘Do not mistake us for a one-trick pony’,” Mr Han said.

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