There’s been some
interesting movement in the Australian Pay TV industry since newcomer SelecTV
Broadcasting launched its $25 million public float last month. The new group,
headed by former Foxtel CEO Jim
Blomfield and sporting one Jeff Kennett on its board, is spruiking its $29.95, 20-channel
English language starter package as the cheapest going round. A claim that’s
clearly put the wind up its only recently profitable competitors.

Within days of SelecTV’s
launch, Foxtel and Optus announced new cut-price, “$1-a-day” packages. Now,
Crikey has heard mutterings from inside Foxtel questioning whether its new competitor’s
prospectus is actually still valid in light of the recent changes in the industry.

SelecTV’s 27 April prospectus
claims that one of the broadcaster’s “strengths and competitive advantages” is that it “offers
consumers the lowest price points available in the industry”. And as far as
Crikey can see, this is still technically the case – although not by much.

Foxtel’s basic entry
package, now down from $50.95 per month to $36.95 per month, is still 20 cents
a day more expensive than SelecTV while Optus, discounted to $31.95 per month, is
8 cents a day more expensive.

But there’s plenty
more for competitors like Foxtel to quibble over in the maths department. Like the price of
installation. SelecTV charges $400 to install for first-timers – a one off
no-contract payment, while Foxtel charges $70 installation, but
with a 24-month contract.

Meanwhile, SelecTV’s
corporate advisor, David Williams, can’t see what all the fuss is about. Foxtel
and Optus “would be wiser to take the attitude that we’re really not going head
to head with them,” Williams told Crikey this morning. “Generally, we’re aiming
at a different market.”

Whatever you say, Mr Williams. But it smells like good, healthy competition to us.

Peter Fray

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