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Down Under really going for digital

70,000 homes have ordered the digital service

SYDNEY — Australians are watching more pay TV than ever and signing up for digital channels at an accelerating rate, according to figures released Thursday by dominant paybox Foxtel.

Some 70,000 homes have ordered the digital service since Foxtel started offering free installations Oct. 10.

That means nearly 500,000 existing or new customers have signed up since Foxtel upgraded to digital in March.

Foxtel, co-owned by News Corp., Kerry Packer’s PBL and telco Telstra, had 942,000 subs by Sept. 30, an annual growth rate of 17%.

Including homes connected to other platforms, like Optus, Foxtel had 1.13 million subs compared with 1.1 million June 30.

Pay TV viewing reached record levels in cable and satellite homes in October, peaking at 55.3%.

Foxtel expects to maintain momentum this month with the preems of “Deadwood” on the Showtime movie channel and its Oz drama series “Love My Way” on Fox8.

Also on Thursday, Foxtel, regional satcaster Austar and Richard Branson’s Virgin Blue airline announced they would introduce live satellite in-flight TV, offering 24 channels for A$5 ($3.75), starting in mid-2005. Airline says it’s the first outside North America to license the “Live TV” technology from the U.S.

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