It was
a gay old time at Sydney’s Horden
Pavilion on Wednesday night when the Australian Pay TV industry hosted its version of The Logies: the fourth
Astra 2005 awards night. The glass trophy was awarded across 26 categories, which included viewer
voting and peer group votes. Just like the Logies in fact, except that there was an actual figure given on the
voting by Deb Richards, the head of the industry lobby group ASTRA (Australian
Subscription TV and Radio Association).

She
mentioned that “more than four hundred thousand votes overall” from viewers had been
cast – not very accurate, but still a figure. Contrast that with the silence and evasion from TV Week
and the Nine Network about voting for Logie nominations, to be revealed in around ten days’
time.

Sky
News won the Channel of the Year (voted on by the industry and not viewers, a
quaint method when Foxtel and Astra make so much of the growth in Pay TV
viewing). The night confirmed that Foxtel – half-owned by Telstra,
and 25% owned each by PBL and News – is really the industry,
despite the presence of Optus and Austar and a couple
of other smaller players and a host of channels and suppliers of content and
services.

Nothing goes to air on pay TV in this
country on any channel that isn’t on the Foxtel
platform, (there were about 68 channels at last look), unlike the US where
there are multiple platforms.

Fox Sports is a major player. Its two channels are in the basic
subscription package that anyone subscribing to Pay TV in this country
must take. It won the Most Outstanding Sports Coverage Award, an
industry vote, for its coverage of the Australian Open Tennis in 2005.
And yet, that’s an oddity because the Seven Network produced the global
feed – Fox Sports only repackaged it. Meanwhile, the Fox Sports coverage of the
A League Soccer, which was an own production, wasn’t judged good enough by the industry, nor was Fox Sports’ NRL
coverage. Now what is the message from the industry to Fox Sports?

Much of
the vision for Sky News Australia comes from those three shareholder owners and
content suppliers and their regular news broadcasts would look threadbare
without that contribution: indeed Sky News would not exist without the support
of Nine, Seven and Sky news and the provision of news
vision.

Again,
funny that. In fact
there was strong representation of former Nine, Ten, Seven and ABC people
through the crowd of around 776 people on Wednesday night, especially at Foxtel and Fox Sports. In some respects it was like
revisiting ‘Old Nine’ before Kerry Packer started having conniptions.