Austar under fire from the bush
EXCLUSIVE: When 111 Hits, CBeebies and BBC Knowledge launched on November 1st there was an outcry from the bush. TV Tonight turns to Austar to find out why regional viewers missed out yet again.
EXCLUSIVE: When three new channels (111 Hits, CBeebies and BBC Knowledge) launched to Foxtel customers on November 1st there was an outcry from the bush. Austar’s regional customers missed out on the treats that were available to their city cousins.
TV Tonight heard your pleas, and turned to Austar for some answers.
A spokesperson for Austar said it was not offering the channels because it didn’t want to pass on extra costs to its customers.
“Every channel that we look at is an extra cost,” she said. “We get offers of hundreds of channels a year to put on the service. We have an existing channel line-up which we think is fantastic. But we have to be very careful what channels we put up because it’s all an incremental cost and this is a difficult climate for our customers. We don’t want to have to ask our customers to pay more and more. So at this stage we have not made a decision to put any of the new 3 channels on.
“We hope at some stage to be able to offer new channels to customers but at this stage we’re very comfortable with our channel line-up.”
However, the 111 Hits Channel, comprised largely of repeat programmes from several other channels, is offered to Foxtel customers as part of its basic package, without any extra cost to customers.
“That’s a Foxtel decision,” she said. “Foxtel and Austar are two separate companies. While we have a very similar channel line-up there are certain differences. They have channels in tiers that we have in basic such as MTV, the W Channel and so forth. Our packages aren’t completely synonymous.”
Exacerbating the problem for viewers was the fact that Austar channels had been running promotions for the arrival of new channels.
On November 1st, TV Tonight readers vented their anger.
“Why the hell tease us with all your D Grade tv “stars” raving about how they loved the old shows……..and then give us nothing, no apology, no explanation about how we won’t be receiving the new channel….. nothing!!” said Raechel.
“You mean I had to sit through ad after ad, getting more excited as they went on, only to not actually get the damn thing?! What BS!!” said Jenny.
“I am so pissed that we that get Austar can’t get this channel. I really wanted to see The Wonder Years again I was also hoping to see some new shows that aren’t already on other channels,” said Wendy.
“Austar is an absolute joke! First I hear they will not invest in HD television and now they have no intentions of adding the new Foxtel stations to our subscribers. We keep seeing the advertisements for both yet we cannot get access to them. Also, we are not allowed access to the free-to-air channels 7, 9 and 10 the way Foxtel subscribers currently enjoy. Austar subscribers stand up and be counted! Enough is enough!” said Mick.
“I’m absolutely sick of being considered a second class citizen, just because I live a little bit outside of what the entertainment and communications industries consider the “desirable” zone.” said Suze.
Austar defended that there are cross-channel promotions across its platform, which did indeed tempt viewers with 111 Hits.
“There have been promotions on the platform for Channel 111 but these have been accompanied by disclaimers that the channels will only launch on Foxtel,” said the spokesperson.”When the ad comes up there is a voice-over that says the channel is only available to Foxtel viewers.
“There was a 2 day period in error where the channel failed to put the disclaimers up,” she acknowledged. “They’ve since assured us they’re running, and should be running, for Channel 111 in the future.”
Austar is also unable to provide the new HD Channel BBC Knowledge because it hasn’t yet launched its HD MyStar, its network equivalent of Foxtel’s iQ2. It’s not expected until late 2009.
“We’re currently developing our HD MyStar and we expect to launch that later next year. We don’t have an HD product in the market and therefore we don’t have the ability to show HD Channels.”
So far there are no decisions on what channels the HD MyStar will offer when it launches.
Austar says 10% of its residential customers have the current MyStar box, which has two free to air tuners as well as satellite tuners. While the FTA tuners do pick-up local digital channels other subscribers are missing out.
“We worked very hard to get those tuners put in the box,” said the spokesperson. “We’re only the second company in the world to have a box with those two sets of tuners.
“The Austar EPG absolutely has all of the information for the local channels. That’s a huge amount of work. That’s all of the local stations providing us with information to put on the EPG.”
But while our cities have five metropolitan channels there are 98 regional organisations which would be involved in the re-transmission of local channels, creating a capacity issue as well as an accordance minefield.
No doubt regional viewers will be lobbying the new Minister for Communications on the shortcomings of being a country TV viewer, and how they are being whipped by a significant lack of competition.
Austar can be contacted on [email protected] or calling 132 342.