Pay TV provider Foxtel is doing better than ever, but there are plans on the drawing board that will known your socks off.

Not only did it announce its first ever profit in February, but the company is making serious in-roads into the Ratings Share of the Free-to-Air broadcasters, despite its low penetration rate.

Foxtel achieved a 20.5 per cent share of viewing in the nation’s five capitals in Week 10 of the current ratings period.The result beat out all the networks except the Seven Network for Survey Week 10 (March 5 to 11) in the official OzTAM results.

Other results as released by Foxtel were Nine with 20.1 per cent, Ten 17.8 per cent, ABC 11.9 per cent and SBS 3.3 per cent. Seven’s share was 23.6 per cent.

The significance of the achievement comes into focus when you consider that only 25 per cent of the homes in OzTAM’s All Metro TV Homes ratings panel have Foxtel subscriptions. Foxtel points out that this is in line with its market penetration. On the other hand it’s a less impressive result when you consider how many distinct channels it took the Pay TV provider to achieve the accumulative total.

However, where homes do have Subscription Television connected, they do watch it. Pay TV achieved a 59.2 per cent ratings share in subscription television homes in the with OzTAM results (2am to 2am) for Week 10. That figure for the whole 10 weeks conducted so far is averaging a 57.9 per cent share, says Foxtel, well above the 55.6 per cent share for the corresponding period in 2005.

Foxtel was particularly strong in Sydney where it came first with 25 per cent of viewers beating all others for eyeballs.

“The results have been driven by the breadth and choice of channels and programming we have on offer and have also been achieved against one of the most competitive battles being waged by the free-to-air networks for viewers ever,” Foxtel Executive Director of Television and Marketing Brian Walsh said.

With things going so well for Foxtel, its hard to reconcile these results with dire warnings the company’s CEO Kim Williams made to Senator Helen Coonan, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Williams tried to argue that the Government needs to regulate the Internet to stop it stealing viewers saying that feature film and TV downloads represented an enormous threat to the exiting broadcast channels including Free-to-Air.

In particular Williams noted that it was possible for an Internet-based download service to buy exclusive rights to a sporting event. Such content is tightly regulated by the Government to ensure major sports coverage is available to those without subscription television services.

Strange that he should complain about the regulatory controls covering sports broadcasting. The company recently announced that it plans to change its market strategies because it has perceived a problem with its existing reliance on sport to attract subscribers.

Foxtel has worked out that the ‘woman of the household’ often resists getting Pay TV for fear that their husbands will watch too much sport. The company has said publicly it intends to try to balance its marketing messages in the future to be more inclusive of women’s views as they are often the most powerful gatekeepers in the family home.

In other Foxtel news, the company is reportedly planning to launch a slate of new technology including a download service for mobile devices. One of the products on the work bench is iQ2go a portable hard disk drive TV set.

“Portability with television is the next logical step with television – like portability with radio was a logical step a long time ago,” Williams told The Age at the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association 2006 conference.

Such a device, which is being prototyped by two different manufacturers, will be able download a full movie in about one second. This is considerably faster than any widely available broadband Internet system will be able to do in the foreseeable future.

“I think it will take off,” Williams said.

The company also plans to add a Movies on Demand service for users of it PVR set top boxes and has plans to make its broadcasts available through mobile phones as well as the mobile iQ2go device mentioned above.


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