After hitting Australians up for a subscription fee that can run as high as $100 a month Foxtel now wants to charge Australians to watch the Olympics and later on the Commonwealth Games.
The move is seen as a dangerous precedence that could over time see major sporting events forced into a pay per view network.
The Olympic that has been free on Networks like Channel Seven for decades is now set to cost Australians up to $50 dollars for the privilege after Foxtel won a share of the television rights for the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
If successful Foxtel who has a subscription TV monopoly in Australia, could soon be bidding on major sporting events in an effort to force Australians to pay for their sport viewing.
Recently Foxtel CEO Kim Williams turned up at the National Press Club in Canberra with an agenda to convince the Federal Government to undertake a comprehensive review of Australia’s media and telecommunications regulation ahead of the $43 billion national broadband network rollout.
Williams wants to get a change to regulations that control the broadcasting of major sporting events like the State of Origin which currently favor free to air networks. If the regulations are changed Foxtel will be allowed to bid for the event and then force Australian’s to pay to watch via a subscription to Foxtel.
“I wouldn’t be taking a shareholding in that particular offering,” said media analyst Steve Allen, of Fusion Strategy. “The punters can vote with their cheque book.”
Currently Foxtel is slashing subscription costs for new subscribers in an effort to build up their subscription base. A higher subscription base will then allow Foxtel to secure the rights to sporting events and movies that Australians will be forced to pay an addition fee for.
The move by Foxtel to charge consumers for sporting events is a dangerous trend said a Merrill Lynch analyst. “They have a monopoly and are 50% owned by Telstra. Maybe now is the time for the Federal Government to force a sale of Telstra’s share of this business”.
They added “It is clear that Foxtel see themselves as a major TV force but the big difference is that everything is paid for as opposed to being free on the free to air networks”.
Commenting on the current Federal Government regulations covering TV coverage in Australia Williams said at the National Press Club “It should issue licences to new players to provide new networks, either terrestrially or via satellite. That will help to drive digital television take-up,”
“Why shouldn’t a company like Foxtel or others have the opportunity to offer a fourth free-to-air network or a fifth over satellite if we can make a business case work? Why shouldn’t any other reputable and well-financed company be able to offer a fourth network terrestrially if it can make the business case work?”
The comments that are seen by analysts as a move to try and force the de regulation of TV coverage in Australia could result in expensive TV said one analyst.
One Foxtel insider said “the people who watch the Winter Olympics are already paying $100 a day to ski. Why should we not try to get $50 off them for four weeks of TV coverage”.
On top of subscription revenue Foxtel is also offering multi million dollar advertising packages to consumer electronic vendors. Among those to have already signed up is Panasonic.
Please tell us what you think with a comment below. Should Australians be forced to pay for sporting events?