By Glenn Dyer and Stephen Mayne

The business pages are full of stories today on the linking up of the PBL-Miscosoft joint venture company ninemsn with Optus in a content deal for the telco, and the possibility of other arrangements down the track.

However, it’s not the first sort of deal between the Packer empire and Optus, which is now controlled by the Singapore government. Back in 1993, Kerry Packer committed to spend $300 million taking a 15% stake in Optus, but then pulled out after a lengthy due diligence. Fast forward 12 years and it’s the more tech-savvy James Packer who was involved in forging yesterday’s deal.

If the original 15% stake had been committed and retained, the Packer family could very well been the owner of a phone company, saved $400 million in loses from One.Tel and been a more strategic player in the telco and new media businesses.

There would have been no costly deal with News Corp and Telstra in Foxtel though, but Optus would have produced huge capital profits and real, actual earnings, unlike the tide of red ink sloshing out of Foxtel.

The first sign this year of the growing links was the deal that saw Optus put all the pay-TV seed money for drama into the Nine Network production, The Alice, asCrikey reported back in February.

The Optus money was at least $1 million but more like $3 million over three years. The deal upset the independent producing industry and has meant that The Alice will be produced for Nine this year with Optus showing it on Ovation (it bought the pay TV rights). In exchange Optus also got deals on advertising, some of which are included in this latest arrangement.

So after 12 years of chopping and changing between Telstra and Optus, PBL’s relationship with the dominant incumbent appears to be waning again. This could have some impact on the forthcoming auction for AFL broadcasting rights, as Telstra/Foxtel will want to retain a slice of the action, but presumably Optus would like to be in the winning team as well.

I wonder how much hard talking former Optus boss, Chris Anderson, had to do around the PBL board table to get this latest deal up. And the Singaporeans are obviously flexible. Having just taken a hit by the federal government over Singapore Airlines and the Pacific route, Qantas director James Packer is forgiven and a much bigger deal is forged between PBL and Optus.

As ever, it’s wheels within wheels in the telco/media space.