Foxtel battles Stan for James Bond franchise


Foxtel battles Stan for James Bond franchise - 28th March 2021

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The James Bond franchise is up for grabs. CREDIT: NICOLA DOVE

 

By Zoe Samios

Pay TV company Foxtel is vying with streaming service Stan to strike a deal with the Hollywood studio that owns the James Bond franchise and shows such as Fargo, in an effort to secure what remains of the slate of Hollywood programming available to Australian streaming services.

Foxtel, which owns streaming service Binge, is preparing to bid for an output deal with Metro Goldwyn Mayer, an agreement that would shore up new international programs and films for its subscribers.

Stan currently airs programs such as Fargo, The Handmaid’s Tale and Clarice in addition to the James Bond films on its service, which are part of its existing deal with MGM. MGM was one of the first Hollywood studios to sign agreements with Stan before its 2015 launch. The current agreement, signed in 2018, will expire in the middle of the year.

But industry sources familiar with the negotiations, who spoke anonymously because the discussions are confidential, said Foxtel had already engaged MGM about securing a large output deal.

Foxtel has a deal with MGM for some films, but would want more of its content so it can build out its offering on streaming service Binge. The industry sources said Foxtel’s talks with MGM have coincided with discussions between the Hollywood studio and Stan, which wants to renew its existing deal.

Stan and Foxtel declined to comment.

Binge and Stan are both content aggregators, which means they have grown their subscriber base to date by buying content from production houses and Hollywood studios.

This model is now under pressure as major US entertainment giants such as Disney and ViacomCBS launch their own services such as Disney+ and Paramount+ and bring programs in-house. For local players Stan and Foxtel, the strategy shift by the US entertainment companies means they have less content to choose from. If there are programs available, they tend to be more expensive because Binge and Stan have to bid for it.

An extension or renewal of the existing arrangement is crucial for Stan as without a deal it will lose some new Showtime content to ViacomCBS’ Paramount+ service. Stan and Foxtel both lost Disney content late last year when its streaming service Disney+ was launched and Stan has less than a year left on its long-term deal with Showtime, the premium channel owned by ViacomCBS. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed plans by ViacomCBS to launch its streaming service Paramount+ locally, a decision that sees all future Showtime content brought inhouse.

Stan has implemented other measures to offset the loss of programs. It signed a short-term deal with NBCU last year, which gives subscribers access to programs from its streaming service Peacock and Sky, such as Gangs of London, I Hate Suzie, Brave New World and Capture.

It also has deals in place with ViacomCBS’ Paramount studio, which makes popular shows such as YellowStone and The Great and Sony.

The company also announced plans to embark on a major local content push, a strategic shift that was considered an alternative to being overly dependent on Hollywood for programs. Earlier this year it launched Stan Sport, a foray into live streaming of rugby union matches and tennis tournaments. Stan is valued by analysts at about $1 billion.

For Foxtel and Binge, securing the rights is important for finding new subscribers. Foxtel launched its entertainment service Binge in May last year and signed a multi-million deal for HBO Max Originals such as Gossip Girl, The Flight Attendant and Raised by Wolves.

Without large content deals it will be unable to attract a large amount of new subscribers in a market where it competes with Amazon Prime, Stan, Disney+ and Netflix. It currently has more than 430,000 paying subscribers. Stan, by comparison, has more than 2.3 million active subscribers.

The negotiations come as Stan boss Mike Sneesby prepares to take the helm of Nine Entertainment Co. Stan is owned by Nine, the owner of this masthead. Foxtel is owned by News Corp Australia and Telstra. Mr Sneesby, who was the founding CEO of Stan, was announced as the replacement to Nine chief executive Hugh Marks earlier this month. Mr Sneesby’s replacement has not been announced.

(The Sydney Morning Herald)