To enhance viewership of cricket, Foxtel capitalized on AI technology to create a "predictive commentator" that alerted fans when critical moments were poised to emerge in the course of a 30-hour match.
Objective and Context:
Foxtel is Australia’s premium subscription TV network, home to the FOX SPORTS network and an aggressive player in the nation’s sports rights market.
The Australian subscription market is highly competitive. Over 70 percent of Australian homes are willing to pay for subscription TV, and competitive subscription services have doubled in the last year. In this crowded category, there’s one product that cuts through: live sports.
Foxtel’s AU$600,000,000 broadcast deal for cricket was a strategically vital investment to secure a competitive advantage over the next six years.
And with a price tag like that, expectations for the cricket launch campaign were extraordinarily high. Specifically, the campaign was expected to:
Acquire new subscribers while also reducing cost per acquisition by 40 percent.
However, thanks to Australia’s complex sport licensing laws, Foxtel was asking fans to pay AU$60 per month for a product they could still partially enjoy for free through competitor broadcaster CH7.
Foxtel had to create a cricket experience unique to Foxtel and a new way to watch the game that would set its subscription apart.
This campaign was defined by the cultural significance of cricket rather than clinical audience segmentation.
Nine out of 10 Aussies watch Cricket, with the Australian team common ground for over 22 million people. To hit commercial targets, Foxtel had to connect with every single fan and create something new to compel them to pay to watch cricket.
Foxtel had to understand how fans enjoyed the game. The company built a detailed map of major matches and traced fan attention and engagement for each play, overlaid with social conversation data, revealing what mattered and when. The results were striking.
Although millions of Australians follow the game, few ever saw the best plays on the pitch live. The fans' favorite play — taking a wicket — accounts for less than 20 seconds of the average 30-hour game and the majority only see it through replays.
This was the key insight: most key moments in the audience's favorite sporting pastime had never been seen truly live.
Armed with its audience insight, Foxtel knew it had to deliver more value for the subscription and transform the viewing experience from a passive experience, involving reactions to what they’d missed, to an active, anticipatory experience, in which viewers were primed for something crucial to happen. Foxtel wanted to try to predict wickets.
Cricket is a complex game, with almost impenetrable rules (to some) and a huge number of variables: pitch condition, weather, bowling speed, right- or left-handed batters. The list is almost endless, making it almost impossible for a human to predict.
As a response, Foxtel introduced Monty, the world’s first AI “predictive commentator,” which attempted to foretell when a wicket was about to fall to make sure people were watching when it did. Rather than simply launch a new channel, Foxtel created an entirely new way to enjoy the national game.
The company’s media planning became a seamless extension of its strategy. It identified three critical roles for media during the fans’ game journey and aligned media channels that gave Foxtel the best opportunity to demonstrate Monty’s predictive power.
Each channel had a unique role, connected at every point through mobile.
Overall Campaign Execution:
Foxtel's first step was to train Monty, feeding it an entire year's worth of Australian cricket team data. Instead of buying media inventory with its media budget, Foxtel spent 300 percent more on data than it did on standard media.
Once Foxtel was confident that Monty was fully operational, it created an API output to trigger time-sensitive ads across video, digital outdoor, and owned assets, directing subscribers to tune in to watch a wicket and maximize their subscription and directing non-subscribers to sign up to catch the wickets.
Foxtel started with digital outdoor around iconic cricket stadiums and Australia's largest public spaces, sharing live Wicket Warnings with millions of Australians, creating a social proof for the new way to watch the game on Foxtel.
With over 85 percent of fans following the score on mobile, Foxtel ran real-time Wicket Warning pre-rolls. Each execution featured the current bowler and their chances of taking a wicket in the next five minutes.
For fans following along from the pool or barbecue, Foxtel designed a Google Assistant experience, so they could ask Monty when the next wicket would fall and race back to watch live if his prediction sounded promising.
Finally, as fans tuned in to watch the wicket fall, Monty provided commentary for the pressure mounting on the batter through the Fox Cricket mobile app.
The app experience was augmented with instant predictions and enhanced visualizations, which fans could use for suggestions on drafting their ultimate fantasy team.
These capabilities transformed every fan's phone into an entertainment experience, combining mobile app, voice, and ads to put them ahead of the action for the first time ever.
The sophisticated use of experimental machine learning completely repositioned the role of mobile in live sports. Using a range of mobile formats and features, Foxtel engaged millions of fans throughout the season, adapting content and targeting based on their behavior during the live game.
Monty correctly predicted over 1,867, wickets with a high of 87 percent accuracy during India’s tour of Australia.
In addition, Foxtel observed that: