(Inside Digital TV via NewsEdge) Will Australian digital-TV operator Foxtel go high definition (HD) domestically late next year‾ Perhaps, but there are a number of factors at play.
"I think we will launch HD towards the end of 2007 or possibly early 2008. The timing is dependent on the Optus D2 satellite being launched. We are currently at maximum capacity on the Optus C1 satellite," says Patrick Delany, Foxtel executive director of content, product development and delivery.
"We'll have more cable capacity once analogue is turned off, but we still need more satellite capacity if we are to continue offering one uniform product to satellite and cable customers. Technology compression advances such as MPEG4 will deliver further opportunities," he adds.
Foxtel believes it can take advantage of the HD opportunity in a way free-to-air (FTA) broadcasters have so far failed to do in Australia.
"FTA networks in Australia have really squandered their opportunity in HD, so we believe there is a real opportunity to differentiate with HD," he says. "In terms of how many channels, Australia is a high-profile market, but it is a small market."
He says Foxtel is "looking at all the countries around the world where HD has been launched. We've committed to doing at least two channels, and we are perhaps looking to do more. Ideally, we would like our service to include branded channels, perhaps movies, sports and documentaries. I think people expect documentaries, but they don't necessarily watch them. We are also looking at a push video-on-demand (VoD)- style channel where we can push HD programs, whether they are subscription VoD (SVoD) or pay per view into our new set-top boxes (STBs)."
Foxtel has been hugely successful in digital during recent months. It now has more than 1.1 million digital customers, and has achieved 90% digital penetration. As such, analogue services soon will become a thing of the past.
"By March 2007, we will have completed our transition of analogue subscribers to digital, and all Foxtel subscribers will, therefore, be digital subscribers. We have certainly performed above expectation over the last 12 months," he says. "There are some areas where we have done significantly better than expected, and some where we have not done as well as we would have liked, but the net effect has led to a very good bottom line and a great platform for the future."
The mobile TV future
Foxtel is now also on the implementation stage of mobile TV.
"We think mobile TV has tremendous potential. The two things we see for growing our business are mobility and VoD.