SYDNEY — Months of simmering tensions surrounding Foxtel, Oz’s most successful pay TV operator, have finally boiled over: News Corp., a 25% stakeholder that manages the service, and fellow 25% shareholder PBL, owned by Kerry Packer, have publicly declared they’ll walk from the partnership with 50% stakeholder Telstra.
Telstra is a public telco that owns the cable over which Foxtel’s 40 channels are distribbed to most of the service’s 640,000 subscribers.
With a plethora of competing interests, News, PBL and Telstra have for months been unable to agree on a new-media strategy at Foxtel. Telstra has blocked most e-commerce initiatives.
Some believe the latest maneuvering may be a ploy to force Telstra to equalize its Foxtel stake at 33% with News and PBL. All parties were unavailable for comment.
According to a story leaked to a News Corp.-owned newspaper, Packer and Murdoch plan to strike an alternative partnership with Optus, which has been stagnating with 200,000 subscribers for two years. The U.K.’s Cable & Wireless, which now owns Optus, is said to be keen for partnerships — if not an outright sale — to revitalize Optus. Packer was one of the original shareholders in Optus.
News Corp., meanwhile, is thought to be keen to tidy up its Oz TV holdings. Plans are under way for a float of its global satellite TV businesses under the Platco banner, while buying the cable infrastructure of C&W Optus would reduce its reliance on outsiders like Telstra.