Australia’s two richest men, media rivals Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch, have joined forces to transform a narrowcast satellite channel into an international service.
Subject to regulatory approvals, Packer is selling half of his Sky Channel, which broadcasts to 6,500 pubs and clubs, to Murdoch’s News Corp. for A$75 million ($56.43 million), and has appointed his son, James Packer, chief executive of the service.
Sky, which mainly features Aussie horse, greyhound and other racing, as well as pay-per-view boxing, will become the base for a new feevee channel. It will be carried on Murdoch’s Star TV, which reaches 60 countries from Asia to Africa’s east coast, and the Foxtel cabler Down Under, as well as Packer-backed rival Oz cabler Optus Vision.
The deal comes after a year of extraordinary acrimony between the two media barons over everything from shareholdings in the Fairfax publishing empire to sports telecast rights for Rugby League and Rugby Union.
By burying the hatchet, on this score at least, Packer gets his service to Asia while Murdoch shares in the racing club rights he has been seeking.
“Sky Channel has a prestige reputation and its existing production and television expertise, combined with Star TV’s distribution and marketing strengths, will ensure the presentation of a quality channel in Asia,” Star CEO Gary Davey said. “This channel will be introduced throughout Asia on a country-by-country basis in keeping with the interests of the local populations.”