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Foxtel vies for Optus slot

Aussie cabler outbids comp for Australis subscribers

SYDNEY — Australian cabler Foxtel looks set to launch some of its channels via satellite after outbidding rival Optus Vision for 50,000 set-top boxes in the homes of Australis Media’s former subscribers.

Australis’ court receivers sold the decoders (plus 15,000 in storage) as part of winding up the defunct company. No price was disclosed.

Foxtel is now negotiating to lease a transponder on Optus Vision’s Optus B3 satellite to enable it to service Australis’ former customers, who, in the interim, are getting channels from regional pay TV operator Austar.

That may not be easy, since the addition of 50,000 subs would mean Foxtel reaches about twice as many homes as Optus Vision. However Optus could use the satellite access as a bargaining chip in its efforts to persuade Foxtel and its program suppliers to share channels across all platforms.

CEO Tom Mockridge said Foxtel has not decided to extend a DBS service beyond the 50,000 homes formerly served by Australis, but is examining opportunities to do so.

Separately, Mockridge announced a reshuffle among Foxtel senior management, effective June 30, following the decision by chief operating officer Rod Thole to return to the U.S. at the end of his three-year term.

Director of legal and business affairs Richard Freudenstein is being upped to director of operations and business development. Director of marketing David Ansell gets an extra stripe as director of sales and marketing.

Michelle Guthrie, assistant director of legal affairs at BSkyB, is being tapped as Foxtel’s director of legal and business affairs.