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.

41 Responses

  1. Austar doesn`t listen so please forward your concerns to Stephen Conroy (minister for communications), maybe if everybody does this we might be able to have Foxtel in the country,he can be contacted at the following address [email protected]
    Come on everybody, lets fight to get Foxtel into regional areas.

  2. Enough is enough, why can`t we have a choice in the country like we do with internet,phone,mobiles and electricity etc, I would choose foxtel over austar any day. When speaking to the people at austar it is like talking to robots and they do not care at all in how there customers feel.
    I sent a email to the accc weeks ago regarding country people having a choice with subscription television but their response was that austar are not doing any thing wrong and pay tv operators are always being monitored closly,I also sent a email to my local MP and got a response stating that the email was going to be passed onto the appropriate department in the federal government and they will send me a response email,guess what, I still haven`t heard a thing back.
    Lets keep on the governments back until we get a choice.
    From one very annoyed austar customer.

  3. They don’t want to add the additional channels because they don’t want to pass on the charges to their customers.

    Well do we get a discount since they have removed a pile of shows from channels such as TV1 and etc??

  4. “In the US there are literally dozens of channels that certain cable companies do not carry. One cable system / company may carry 20 extra channels that one 2 cities over does not carry. In LA we have been waiting for certain HD channels on Time Warner cable (CNN, MTV, The Weather Channel, USA, Bravo, Nat Geo, ESPN2, Starz) etc for months and years after they were launched! It’s the same the country over.”

    Yes, however in the US you’ve the option for satellite from TWO distinctly different companies, as well as cable or IPTV in certain markets. In the US the channels are mostly independently owned and each satellite/cable merely provides the distribution content, whilst in Australia a vast amount of channels are programmed/owned by Foxtel/Austar.

    If this were truely like the US, both Foxtel and Austar would be able to sell everywhere their signal was available. Strangely I don’t think Austar would last all that long.

  5. The complaints from us regional viewers of Austar are not new, from the terrible Personal video recorder known as ‘mystar’ which is ridden with bugs and cannot do what Austar claims to the lack of High definition channels or being short changed on channels which are broadcast from the same satellite that Foxtel subscribers also receive their channels from.

    You can see how unhappy folk are with Austar by visiting the Digital TV forum _ Austar section: http://www.dtvforum.info/index.php?showforum=105

    With regards Stephen Conroy the Minister responsible Broadcasting in Australia his office doesn’t even acknowledge emails.

  6. “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”

    That’s not comparing apples with oranges. Seven, Nine and Ten have a station in each ADL, BNE, MEL, PER & SYD. That is 25 local channels Foxtel has to carry.

    Austar has 98 “organisations”? I don’t think that is right. ABC and SBS are statewide. And there are then a few Seven Nine and Ten local stations in each state. I don’t think it would be 98 total

  7. Guys not every Pay TV company is going to have the exact same channel line up as the other. I think Austar and Foxtel have about 98% of the same channels.

    In the US there are literally dozens of channels that certain cable companies do not carry. One cable system / company may carry 20 extra channels that one 2 cities over does not carry. In LA we have been waiting for certain HD channels on Time Warner cable (CNN, MTV, The Weather Channel, USA, Bravo, Nat Geo, ESPN2, Starz) etc for months and years after they were launched! It’s the same the country over.

    It’s not a bush v city thing. It’s a company V company thing. Not every single channel is going to be carried by Austar Optus and Foxtel. They will pick & choose.

    You don’t have 3 channels? Big deal. On my cable system in LA there are about 50 channels other parts of the US get that I don’t!

    111 Hits has wide appeal but I would say with 5 or so other Kids channels and about 5 doco channels – CBeebies and Knowledge are not in that high a demand.

  8. Not once did I see a disclaimer saying “not available to austar subscribers”on the 111 promos before the channel launched,i am sick of austars bulls*it and have complained to them about not receiving the new channels and got a useless automated message.thanks so much austar-if i wasn’t locked in to a contract i would not be handing over my hard earned money every month-i have better use for it,(by the way my account is overdue and i dont care)

  9. Just saw an advert a little while ago for 111 Hits – there was a tiny, tiny little note on the bottom of the screen stating not available to Austar subscribers. A blink and you miss it kind of thing. Not exactly what I’d call making it clear.

  10. Austar is going to release a HD unit by 2009 what a crock, they have not even got the Mystar up to a working standard I have had 9 boxes and none have worked like they advertise. And still being billed for them, Where is the justice in that. Shear robbery and free to do as they like and rip us in the Bush off and get away scott free. Austar Sucks and Mystar and the channel options is a great joke played on us. How does the Law let them get away with such a thing. And to ad am so sick of the adverts we are paying for on pay television as if they dont make enough from subscriptions anyway. We need help and someone to stand up for us and make them do the right thing not that we have any hope at all. We should have the choice of Austar or Foxtel and Austar would no longer exist. A Tip find a friend in a Foxtel area and get them to sign up for a second box and bring the 2nd box back home to your Austar area dont have to adjust your dish and cancel Austar and plug into Austar wall socket and Bingo you have Foxtel in the Bush Enjoy as I am doing now.

  11. When I spoke to an Austar rep’ on the phone, we were told that once the system went “Digital” we could make better choices of the channels we want to see.

    It did not happen, and we are stuck with channels such as Sky Racing, Religion, sports channels and to get the SciFi we had to take the whole, so called “Fun” package.
    It’s time for more competition!

  12. I am sick of Austar’s attitude when it comes to subscribers and what we want or dont want. I want 111 I want ceebees I will pay extra, I have preschoolers, I love the old shows like ALF, my kids wanted to see ALF. As for the adds saying not available to Austar I have to agree they were never there before Nov 1 and I still have not seen that disclaimer. I wish there was a disclaimer saying you in a regional area well now you too can get Foxtel and get rid of your second rate service Austar, sigh, time to stop smelling the roses, aint gonna happen

  13. I used to live in a foxtel area and was loving the service they provided then 12 months ago moved to the north coast of NSW and thought Austar would be pretty much the same and how wrong was i. The service is pretty average and the mystar box i want to throw out the window you cant do anything i reset it at least once a day because of freezing or black screens. I think that it is time we start some sort of petition because us Austar users are fed up with all the crap we have to put up with. I am a horse racing fan and have a tab account and i started hearing about sky active and thought yes finally and then at the very end of the ad in the small print not available to Austar. I am fed up and now still getting these 111 ads and for over 2 weeks i thought i was going to get it then nov 1 came around and thats the first time i saw the ad saying not available to Austar viewers and it would be on screen for a second in one of the smallest fonts so if you blinked you would miss it. I want Austar axed and foxtel australia wide. Its time we stand up to this corporation and take a stand. They put up prices mid year but nothing was added to the basic package and i thought why? All we want is the service foxtel gives their customers how damn hard is that and dont get me started on their customer service it is like talking to a robot

  14. Austar should have the choice on what new channels they add, it’s their company. But we should have the choice of pay TV provider. Just like a telephone or internet provider, if we are unhappy with a company’s service, we have the freedom to choose another provider, that provides what we want. Yet with Pay TV, its Austar or nothing. (SelecTV not even in the same league)

    Austar and Foxtel (Satellite) should be available everywhere in Australia, and people should have the choice on the provider they want.

    Technically there is nothing stopping this as both companies share the same satellite (Optus C1).

    Give us the choice..!

  15. I’m sorry, but when did they add a disclaimer stating 111 Hits was only available to Foxtel subscribers? I saw adverts for weeks with no such disclaimer, not just for 2 days.

    @ Martin – is it not worth upgrading to MyStar then? I’ve been thinking about it, but now I’m not so sure.

  16. A couple of points that the article didn’t seem to address. The new channels have taken existing programming away from those channels that are already available to Austar viewers. So, Austar customers are getting a “degraded” service. ie. less value for the same money.

    Second, the free to air tuners in the Mystar is overkill. For starters the unit cannot record more than two shows at once regardless of whether it’s on FTA or Austar. ie the best that you can do is to record one show off say, WIN or Prime and one show on a pay television channel. And you have the choice of watching either one of those two channels live or you can play a recorded show. However, the Mystar often locks up when trying to navigate between shows when recording FTA.

    So, it’s a waste of resources, really, to implement this feature. Austar would have been better off concentrating on refining the Mystar. Viewers, if they want can source digital PVRs off Eba for around $100. Topfield’s TF4400pvrt is a standard defiinition true twin tuner PVR that is an excellent product for what it can cost.

  17. A lot of Austar subscribers have complained to the ACCC, mainly about the faults with the Mystar in a desire to switch to Foxtel. The ACCC replies with a form letter stating that it doesn’t believe there is a lack of competition because the packages are quite similar between the companies. This in no way addresses the subject of the complaint that the Mystar hardware is vastly inferior to the Foxtel IQ and IQ2 (which receives HD). The ACCC also seems to avoid the concern that the Austar regional customer base is a geographical monopoly. There is a growing swell of very unhappy Austar customers and if not quelled, Austar will experience a very high churn rate.

  18. why don’t they get rid of rubbish channels like the Italian channel RAI and Antenna. do people actually pay for these channels? I’m over my kids asking when they can watch cbeebies because its still advertised on Austar if they are 2 different companies why are they advertising Foxtel on Austar. Isnt that like Channel 9 advertising on 10?

  19. they hold the country folk to ransome as we are unable to get foxtel here. I think austar is really shafting us those new channels should be free if they are free to foxtel customers. It’s a joke, they put new channels on like sci fi and then want you to pay even more for them, the service for the $79 a month i pay is rubish, no movies, no sci fi no decent music channel, i have to pay for santana sports, which ain’t worth the money and now they won’t give us anything for free? even when foxtel customers get it. Way to screw the bush big business!

  20. My rubbish from Austar, you got it wrong, fix it. All the shows that were on Austar disappeared from Austar and appeared on TV111, Austar screwing regional viewers Australia wide. Thanks. We want Free to Air channels through Austar and our favourite shows back or TV111 shown.

  21. “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.”

    Errr what? BBC Knowledge is not HD – BBC HD is HD.

    BBC KNowledge is Channel 619 on Foxtel next to other Foxtel/Austar offerings like CI and Discovery Science.

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