Lachlan Murdoch squashing FTA sport for Fox’s benefit

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In late 2010, James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch traded a few shares among themselves. As a result, Murdoch became a big player in the affairs of the Ten Network.

Some saw this as a good thing, with fresh interest in an under-performing channel from a proven performer. Otherwise viewed it with trepidation, and saw it as a very dark day.

Murdoch’s main television interest, of course, is the Fox network.

Since the introduction of Channel Ten’s digital channel ONE as a free-to-air sports channel, One and Fox Sports began competing for rights and for viewers. ONE’s initial approach was aggressive, screening Indian Premier League cricket, German and Italian leagues football, NBL and NBA matches to bring joy to local basketball fans, and other big overseas sports such as baseball and the NFL.

These were all added to the existing rights from Ten’s AFL deal.

Anecdotally, this had some impact on subscriptions to Foxtel. Numerous pubs and clubs ended their subscriptions, instead choosing free-to-air sport and a Sky racing subscription.

Of course, we now know that ONE’s life as a sports-only channel was short-lived. The ratings for digital networks are linked to the parent channel, so it is difficult to know what really happened.

According to Murdoch, it was a financial dead-end having the channel. My question in response to that is, was the problem really for Channel Ten, or for Murdoch’s back pocket as filled by Fox Sports?

Now instead of a NBL replay we have re-runs of old Get Smart, and Friday night’s sports feast is replaced by some teen movie.

There are existing rules in place to protect media from being owned by one person or group, but Murdoch’s influences at Ten have been able to slip through. The neutering of ONE was a big part of an attempt to destroy free-to-air sport, thus giving Murdoch’s main company a stronger hold on the broadcasting market.

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