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Foxtel, the TV Network that started life telling the world that it would be advertising free, will market its electronic program guide (EPG) as a premium advertising medium as it moves to a HD set top box and new EPG service that will include re-transmission of the Seven free to air network.

According to the Australian newspaper Foxtel will create a new, advertiser-only space on its EPG that will house long-form entertainment content for brands.

A template that will cut the cost of making an interactive ad – which enables a viewer to request sponsor information or pause a program to access long-form advertising content by pushing the red button on their remote control – also will be launched.

Foxtel is also expected to follow moves in Britain to include more sponsored content with the programs a viewer records to his or her set-top box.

However, the Nine Network has been forced to cancel plans to make the first episode of its gangland drama Underbelly available in the on-demand section of Foxtel’s EPG, so pay-TV viewers could download it and watch it in their own time.

 

That move – which was part of the first major advertising campaign undertaken by a free-to-air network on the rival pay-TV company – was scuppered by a court decision last week that prevented the program from being screened in Victoria.

Meanwhile, the EPG for the commercial free-to-air broadcasters is also up and running on Channel 4 on the digital spectrum, although sources said it would not carry advertising content. The developments come as Foxtel signed a deal allowing it to re-transmit the Seven signal on the Foxtel platform and include it on the Foxtel EPG.

Foxtel chief executive Kim Williams said improvements to the interactive advertising products, including the use of the EPG, would be a focus in the second half of the year.

“We are looking at improving our interactive advertising product even further, particularly using the recordable memory,” he told The Australian recently. “Cars, consumer electronics and computers: these are where people want the opportunity to really explain (the product).”

Anthony Fitzgerald, chief executive of pay-TV sales company MCN, said the Nine and Ten networks were in talks to enable their advertisers to run interactive ads on their re-transmitted signals on Foxtel.

 

“It will happen as soon as we finalise our agreement with (our interactive advertising) service provider,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

A new interactive advertising template would cut the lead-time for creating interactive ads from 10 weeks to two or three weeks, he said. “These will be off-the-shelf template-based solutions that will be pre-tested,” he said. “We’re talking about a $15,000 to $20,000 turn-key solution.”

In Britain, BSkyB has also launched an application that enables viewers to record a program by pressing the green button during an ad for that show.

“It is absolutely possible when recording programs to the EPG, or downloading them, that it would be downloaded with sponsor content,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

More videos and trailers are expected to appear on Foxtel’s EPG in the new advertising section, which will be promoted on the company’s channels.

 

Mr Fitzgerald said the new formats and the launch of a new satellite, opening up more bandwidth for advertising applications next year, triple the number of interactive campaigns on Foxtel to about 100 next year.

MCN devoted a quarter of its ad space over summer to what it calls “true solus” breaks – 30- or 60-second ads that appear on their own with no station promos – for advertisers including Hungry Jacks, Holden, Coca-Cola, Reckitt Benckiser and GSK.

MCN will sell the same product during Easter as it chases growth of more than 20 per cent this year. Advertising revenue jumped 44 per cent to $130 million during the December half of last year.

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