Packer bid may be on track

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Australia’s Channel Nine owner Kerry Packer is believed to be among overseas and local bidders for the lease of unused time on a free-to-air Kiwi horse racing channel.

Action TV, launched last November, is run by New Zealand’s official bookie, the Totalisator Agency Board (TAB).

It screens “Trackside” for bettors on weekends and plans to extend viewing from July 28 by screening one weeknight.

But that still leaves 84% of the time on the UHF channel unused. The TAB is looking for partners interested in a lease deal for these idle hours and has appointed Sydney merchant bank Baring Bros. Burrows to send out detailed memoranda to interested parties.

“The idea is to lease this time out so that we can generate a revenue flow,” says Campbell Moncur, the channel’s manager.

“By leasing to the right partner we attract a wider tune-in audience to Action TV.”

“We will listen to anything that’s feasible” says Moncur, adding that ideally the TAB would like a partner with compatible aims and the ability to access good programming.

Moncur would not name either local or international broadcasters known to be interested. However, Sydney newspapers already have named Packer as being an interested bidder. Others believed to be interested in bidding include CanWest Global which runs New Zealand’s TV3 and Australia’s Channel Ten, and some New Zealand publishing and regional TV groups.

Moncur says interest has been strong. He thinks the channel should know its likely partner by October or November of this year.

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