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Veteran News Corp. executive Peter Tonagh has been replaced as CEO of Australian pay-TV leader Foxtel, ahead of the company’s merger with Fox Sports Australia. Fox Sports CEO Patrick Delaney takes over with immediate effect.

The announcement was made on Wednesday by News Corp.’ CEO Robert Thomson, who heaped praise on the departing executive. “There is no question that Peter Tonagh has been a thoughtful, far-sighted leader, and his positive influence will resonate for many years to come,” Thomson said.

A merger between Foxtel, which is jointly owned by News Corp and telco operator Telstra, and Fox Sports Australia, which is 100% owned by News Corp., was approved by regulators two months ago. The merged company will be 65% owned by News Corp., although that may change if it is given an IPO, as has been suggested.

Delaney has been head of Fox Sports Australia for the past seven years. Previously he was head of digital at Foxtel.

“With the process of bringing Foxtel and Fox Sports together proceeding towards a conclusion soon, it is the right time for me to move on and put Foxtel into the hands of the person who will lead the new company. I have known (Delaney) from his years at Foxtel and Fox Sports, and he is the right person to be at the helm in this new era,” Tonagh said in a statement.

“I am proud of what Foxtel has achieved in recent years. We have dramatically lifted the quality and quantity of Foxtel’s programming while making it more available and affordable for millions of Australians.”

Free and pay-TV in Australia has been severely challenged by the success of streaming services Netflix and Stan, and by the rollout of the National Broadband Network. Its residing strength is domination of sports – especially live sports — programming. But that is reflected in its subscription prices, which range up to US$111 (A$137) per month.