Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Australia’s dominant pay TV platform Foxtel won’t be able to renew exclusive IPTV deals with more than 60 channels, mostly U.S. and UK entertainment services, when the current contracts expire over the next few years. That’s created an opportunity for fledging IPTV service Fetch TV which aims to secure deals with some of those channels, including those owned by ESPN/Disney, Discovery, MTV/Nickelodeon, National Geographic and the BBC. “As these contracts expire we are able to engage in carriage discussions with those providers,” Fetch TV CEO Scott Lorson tells Deadline. Foxtel agreed to not renew exclusive IPTV deals with those channels in April when it obtained the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s approval to buy regional satcaster Austar. Part-owned by Malaysia’s ASTRO All Asia Networks, Fetch TV launched in Australia in 2010 and wholesales its services via ISP providers Optus and iiNet. Lorson won’t disclose subscriber numbers but says they’ve been growing since iiNet started bundling IPTV with broadband and fixed lines services in July and Optus followed suit in October.
Fetch TV currently provides 25 linear channels as well as on-demand channels. It has PPV movies deals with all major U.S. studios and offers more than 1,440 movies for rent, including 20-30 new releases per week. As part of the basic package, subscribers also get 30 free movie titles per month from The Movie Network co-owned by WB, Disney, MGM and Australia’s Village Roadshow. TMN’s contract with Foxtel expires on Dec. 31 and Foxtel has been maneuvering to buy films direct from each studio after last month buying the Showtime channels from Sony, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Fox and Liberty Media. Thus far The Movie Network partners have not bought into Foxtel’s proposed approach. Foxtel won’t comment on those negotiations but, asked to comment about the end of those exclusivity deals, a spokesman tells Deadline, “Foxtel understands that the media world is becoming increasingly competitive. We are confident that the quality of our content, exclusive and non-exclusive, together with the technology and services that we can offer our customers gives us an advantage as the market develops”. Lorson says he’s looking at the opportunity to launch premium SVOD and linear movie channels, which would mean offering a wider selection of more recent titles on a subscription basis. He’s also keen to expand Fetch TV’s distribution, noting every telco and ISP in Australia apart from Telstra (which owns 50% of Foxtel and has its own IPTV service monikered T-box) is a potential partner. Vodafone is trialing its service on the government-funded $A30.4B National Broadband Network that is progressively rolling out across the nation.