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TV Manufacturers Ready For Foxtel Vs Hdd TV War

By David Richards | Tuesday | 03/12/2013

A bitter content war has broken out between free to air TV stations who are lining up with TV manufacturers including Samsung Panasonic and LG to deliver new Internet TV services in 2014 and Foxtel who want to snare the rights to several major sporting codes so that they can charge Australians to watch major sporting events.

As the Seven Network gets set to launch their Internet TV station next year the Ten and Nine Networks are working with set top box and TV manufacturers to launch new Internet delivered Hbb TV services a move that has seen Foxtel and News Corporation move to lobby the Federal Coalition Government to relax anti siphoning laws so that they can get access to sporting content currently shown on the free to air TV networks.

SmartHouse has been told that Samsung along with several set top box manufacturers including Humax and Topfield have already signed up to integrate Hbb TV capability into their hardware.

HbbTV combines a broadband connection with existing free-to-air broadcasts over a compatible set-top box or television to provide video-on-demand services and access to additional content that is not being broadcast over the free to air TV network.

According to the CEO of Free TV hybrid broadcast broadband television (HbbTV) services are proving extremely popular in Europe however H?kan Eriksson, head of Australia for telecommunications vendor Ericsson, said the standard agreed on by broadcasters in Australia was likely to become a "soft slide" as television networks transition to more intensive online services.

"If you have enough broadband capacity you don't need hybrid because you've got your own [channel]," Mr Eriksson told The Australian Financial Review.

He said plans to introduce hybrid broadcast broadband television (HbbTV) services in Australia could be short-lived, as online-only players increasingly look to offer services locally.

Key to the battle is content with the free to air TV stations holding the rights to several major sporting codes, TV series and movie rights.

Over the weekend News Corporation who own 50% of Foxtel moved to spruik the notion that the Federal Government should relax laws that prevent subscription TV operators snaring the rights to major sporting codes such as cricket and NRL and AFL football.

The Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) which is primarily made up of Foxtel and Fox Sports which in turn are primarily owned by News Corporation and Telstra have moved to lobby the Tony Abbott led Government with a 14-page submission to the National Commission of Audit.

What ASTRA is hoping is that a research study they commissioned from accounting firm PwC will convince the Government to relax their anti-siphoning laws.

The report estimates the cost to the taxpayer of supporting free-to-air TV between 2012-13 and 2016-17.

Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein claims that the FTA sector has cost taxpayers more than $6 billion in five years.

Harold Mitchell the Chairman of Free TV who has rejected the report yesterday issued a statement claiming "We are disappointed pay-TV is using the (National Commission of Audit) to peddle this nonsense".

"There is something deeply ironic about a monopoly that wants to charge ordinary Australians hundreds of dollars a month to watch their favourite sports complaining about the cost to taxpayers of a free service," Mitchell said. "Pay TV's business is about one thing: making people pay for content they currently get for free."

Mitchell said Free TV Australia had yet to see the submission "but this looks like a re-hash of the absurd and misleading claims pay-TV made to the Convergence Review".

Free TV said that ASTRA failed "to make any attempt to acknowledge or value the public benefits delivered by free-to-air television" and raised the issue of re-transmission fees by asserting ASTRA "completely ignores.pay-TV business has been built on accessing free-to-air channels for free".

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