Australias Foxtel Takes to the Skies


Sydney, Australia -- Foxtel, the country's leading pay
TV company, will launch a direct-to-home satellite service March 1, after saying just one
year ago that such a project was too expensive.

The cable operator -- which is owned by media and
telecommunications powerhouses News Corp., Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. and Telstra
Corp. -- first moved in the direction of DTH with its purchase of Australis Media's
Galaxy DTH service when Australis was liquidated last year.

Foxtel is believed to have around 100,000 potential
subscribers on its waiting lists for the DTH service, and it will be able to reach about 2
million homes in the major metropolitan markets that aren't served by its cable
operations. It already has about 40,000 satellite customers from the Galaxy purchase.

United International Holdings Inc.-owned Austar is the
largest satellite DTH provider in the country, with about 300,000 subscribers. Cable &
Wireless Optus Ltd. only provides cable service for now. But as the operator and part
owner -- along with Austar -- of the B3 satellite that transmits services across
Australia, it is widely expected to start a DTH service this year.

The final obstacle to Foxtel's launch of a DTH service
was removed on Christmas Eve, when it announced that it had cut a deal with C&W
Optus/Austar for transponder capacity. While the move left PanAmSat Corp. out of the
Australian DTH market, it is seen more as a response to the need for industry

"Without a long-term satellite deal in place, we have
been unable to make our service more widely available," Foxtel CEO Tom Mockridge
said. "This new arrangement means that we can commit to provide additional channels
to our existing satellite customers and begin to install new satellite customers in
Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Sydney."

Foxtel sees the deal as a simple rental of
satellite-transponder capacity, he added, noting that the company remained "strongly
committed" to its cable business.

Austar managing director John Porter added that having a
common platform "eliminates duplication of a costly delivery system and enables the
providers to continue to compete aggressively on product, price and customer

New satellite subscribers will be charged $A199.95
($US127.49) for installation. Foxtel will subsidize the cost of the satellite set-tops,
dishes and installations, which cost it between $A900 and $A1,000 ($US573 and $US638).