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Foxtel

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More Channels for Digital TV


More Channels for Digital TV, by Greg Tingle - 15th December 2003


100 plus digital pay TV channels are to arrive next year, including movies on demand (MOD) and interactive sports broadcasts.

Yesterday, Foxtel finally received the go ahead to introduce its digital offering.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) approved the rate Foxtel can charge pay TV players like Kerry Stokes's Channel Seven to gain access to its network, removing the last regulatory hurdle Foxtel had to wipe out before rolling out its digital offering.

Foxtel plans to begin the service before the conclusion on Q2, raising the number of pay TV channels it offers from 47 to more than 100.

Foxtel will disclose the official launch date for its digital service, and the new channels, in early 2004.

However, it has confirmed it will offer a range of interactive services, including one that would allow viewers to choose a movie and view it shortly afterwards. Likened to having a personal video and DVD library in your lounge room, it will enable viewers to select new releases.

Foxtel will also offer interactive news and sports services. Sports Active will enable people to choose camera angles, view player and competition statistics and watch highlights. Too much to soon?

Sky News Active will offer a selection of eight local news screens, including specific finance news and sports broadcasts.

Foxtel does not intend to offer its own interactive gambling or betting services. Perhaps that's got something to do with NSW Premier Bob Carr being very vocally active about gambling in society.

The price Foxtel will charge for its new digital services has not been released yet, however, the entry level charge will be the same as that for its satellite service, currently $47.95 a month. This deviates from the model that Optus used a few years ago, which was in the range of $20 a month more than their pay TV offering. Optus since pulled the plug on their ITV commercial trial.

At the last Australian Media Forum in Sydney, Foxtel CEO, Kim Williams told Mediaman, and a packed house, that Foxtel was not doing a commercial trial, and that it was for real.

Foxtel is investing more than $600 million upgrading its analog cable network to digital, forecasting the new interactive services will boost stagnating subscriber growth.

Only 23 per cent of Australian households have pay TV, but Foxtel's chief executive, Kim Williams, predicts that the arrival of a digital service will increase this to between 35 and 40% by the conclusion of 2008. Talk about long range forecasts.

Space will be allocated for up to 24 competing pay TV services on Foxtel's upgraded digital network.

The Seven Network, which axed its C7 pay TV sports channel last year, is the best-known media company likely to introduce a pay TV service on the Foxtel network. Can David Leckie and Williams patch things up for the benefit of all?

The rate Foxtel charges companies for access to its network will be regularly independently audited. Who's on the panel, and how independent is yet to be seen.

If it's anything like last year, the Australian TV public is in for fun times on both sides of the digital TV phenomenon.

Profiles

Foxtel

Television

Links:

FOXTEL

Seven Digital

Channel 7

Sky News Australia

Digital Broadcasting Australia

Optus

ACCC

Mediaman: TV & Radio links

Mediaman interviews:

Kim Williams, Foxtel CEO - 3rd July 2003

Peter Webb, Digital Broadcasting Australia - 27th August 2003

Bruce Arnold, Carlson Analytics - 1st September 2003

Brett Clements, Hi't! TV - 19th September 2003

Donald Robertson, Australian Broadcasting Authority - 4th September 2003


About Greg Tingle:

Greg is a former Optus and Telstra "Salesperson of the month", and the director and broadcaster of Mediaman (www.mediaman.com.au).

Whilst at Optus, he helped grow the Pay TV and ITV division of the business.

Greg is a judge on Reality TV program, Hi't! and a regular on Sydney's Channel 31. He is often heard on Australian radio stations, and makes appearances at media forums.

Read Greg Tingle's full biography