The appearance of the Nine drama series, The Alice last night (Sunday) and over the rest of the year on Monday nights has also signalled something else at Nine. Its mobile phone contract is changing once again.

Are these two events linked?

Well could be, seeing that the common denominator is Optus.

The Singapore-owned telecoms group is a part funder of The Alice, as Crikey pointed out earlier this year, and last week all Nine staff with corporate mobile phones were told by email that the carrier contract was changing from Telstra to Optus.

As Crikey revealed Optus has given Nine its Pay TV drama spend of a $1 million a year. The deal could be for up to three years, which would fund half the production costs or thereabouts of the 22 episode series.

Optus used to spend that money on top-up funding for a number of Aussie-made dramas or tele-movies. But The Alice deal gives Optus the series for its Pay TV channel Ovation, along with discounted advertising and other business deals.

So surprise, surprise, up pops the corporate mobile account shift revealed this past week to Nine executives. Funny that.

Nine has been at Optus before and switched to Telstra. Sam Chisholm, the present interim CEO of Nine was a director of Telstra for a number of years till 2004, as well as chairman of Foxtel. He drove the settlement of the Pay TV deal with Optus back in 2002 that gave Foxtel a monopoly over Pay TV in this country.

Peter Fray

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