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OZ pay TV wars to court

Outcome could affect feevee industry

SYDNEY — The mercurial Australian pay TV industry is heating up yet again, with feevee operator Foxtel and Kerry Stokes’ free-to-air Seven Network going to court in battle over access restrictions to telco Telstra’s cable network.

In the wake of last month’s ruling from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) directing the 50% publicly owned Telstra to open up commercial access to its national network of broadband cable, the Seven Network applied to the Federal Court last week to have existing Foxtel and Telstra exclusivity arrangements ruled invalid.

In turn, leading Oz cable network Foxtel (in which Telstra owns a 50% stake) launched a separate preemptive action calling for the Federal Court to declare last month’s ACCC ruling invalid because of legal and administrative errors.

The outcome of these actions could have wide-ranging implications for the struggling Oz pay TV industry with its many competing operators keen to increase their reach through accessing the Telstra cable network. These include ethnic pay TV operator Television and Radio Broadcasting Services and the Seven Network’s cable sports channel C7.

Meanwhile, speculation is rife that international telconglom Cable & Wireless Optus is also moving to sell off management rights to its money-losing feevee subsidiary and Foxtel’s main competitor Optus Television, formerly known as Optus Vision.