The phenomenal growth of the KFC Big Bash League since the inception of the League in 2011/12 is a fantastic case study regarding the importance of Free to Air Television in building a brand.
Significant increase in viewers, attendance, membership and awareness are the key measures used by the League to evaluate growth. All these metrics have had substantial, compound growth since BBL|03, when Network Ten came on as broadcast partner, moving from behind the paywall at Fox Sports. The ability to reach a mass, national audience has been the major catalyst for change and a vital strategic move for the success of the League.
The key measure in evaluating the growth of the League is unprompted awareness. At the end of BBL02, after two years of broadcast on Fox Sports, the League had a 50%* awareness. After the following four years of the broadcast deal with Network Ten, awareness has risen to 73%*, after BBL|06. Average audiences on Fox Sports were very strong at approximately 250,000^ viewers per game, an excellent result on a Pay TV platform. However, audiences on Network Ten for BBL|06 exceeded 1M^ viewers on average for all 35 matches, the highest average of any sports league in Australia. The ability to reach almost 100% of Australian households as opposed to a significantly smaller number of households with access to Pay TV was paramount in the growth phase of the League.
In addition to the compound growth in TV viewership, the increased awareness of the League has had a tangible benefit on attendance at match. The average attendance across all matches has increased from 14,383 to an amazing 30,114 over the same period. This includes new record crowds for domestic cricket at 7 of the 8 venues and 20 of the 35 games in BBL|06 being sold out. The average crowd for BBL|06 now places the KFC Big Bash as the 5th highest ranking in domestic global sports leagues.
The growth of the Rebel WBBL has also been heavily influenced by coverage on Network Ten. The League is now approaching its third year and already has awareness of 53%. Average ratings for the 12 broadcast games was 253,000^ compared to 192,000^ for AFLW, which also aired on FTV. This also highlights the importance of a broad reach, when compared to the average viewership of A-League on FTV and Fox Sports, of 90,000^ and Super Rugby, exclusively on Fox Sports, of 40,000^.
The future of multimillion dollar broadcast deals in the ever-changing media landscape is always up for debate. The current deals for cricket in Australia are up for renewal at the end of this summer and the importance of the KFC Big Bash and Rebel Women’s Big Bash will have a significant influence on the process. Free to Air has been a fantastic partner for the Big Bash in growing both the Leagues and an important element in continuing the momentum. The importance of Fox Sports as a potential partner as the Leagues reach a more mature phase in their life cycles should not be dismissed as cricket continues to strive to meet the vision of Australia’s Favourite sport.
What will be of growing interest is digital integration into the Broadcast medium and what the landscape looks like as the emergence of streaming becomes more accessible. But let’s save that for another post.
*Gemba Brand Health Tracker 2017
^Oztam National Audience. A-League to Round 18