ASTRA Conference: What about the audience?

Today is the annual conference of the Pay TV industry at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre where executives and decision-makers from across the sector will gather to talk, listen and brainstorm.

It begins with the Women In Television breakfast at 7:15am headed up by Sandra Levy from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Former Victorian Premier, and ASTRA Chairman, welcomes the delegates at 9:45, ahead of Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries keynote address. Survivor creator Mark Burnett’s Plenary Address at 11:30am via videolink after he was unable to attend.

Afternoon sessions include such topics as “If Content is King Who Are the Future Rulers?”, “The Power of the PVR,” “Striving to Be Different: STV’s Customer Service Focus”, “Winning the Hearts and Minds of Consumers” and “New Media: Disruptive or Advantage?” The day ends with the ASTRA Industry Excellence Awards and drinks (of course).

But while the heads of the Pay TV industry are gathering, what are the issues that are pressing to the audience?

Last August in TV Tonight’s ‘Audience Inventory’, readers identified a number of issues that needed addressing including:

– Adding all Free to Air Channels (Seven, 7TWO and GO! have since been added but some cities and regionals are still without,  while ONE is only available to select subscribers depending on their package).

– More Diverse Packaging Options (These have had a shake-up but like Pay TV’s “Use it or Lose It” campaign, many subscribers would prefer to pay just for the channels they actually view).

– Widescreen for All Channels (this is still an outstanding issue, although the Comedy Channel will change on April 1).

– Less Ads (Viewers are unhappy about paying for television while still copping ads).

– Adding New Channels (Foxtel added new channels in November).

– An Improved EPG (also upgraded in November).

– iPhone Application (added in December).

Since that time a number of other issues have become prevalent with ongoing complaints or questions.

– Search Function (pictured). In January Foxtel advised TV Tonight this inoperative function would be rectified “in coming weeks.” So far it isn’t.

– iQ Series Link. Readers are continually asking why their Series Link function has been dropping out causing them to miss episodes of favourite shows.

– Content. Too many repeats, particularly on the movie channels (despite that fact extra movie channels were added).

– Customer Service. Outsourcing a Call Centre always has its limitations.

– Ovation Channel. Longtime viewers of the channel aren’t taken with the idea of losing the channel, even with STVDIO to replace it, or with the ‘option’ of paying extra every month to access it.

– OPTUS TV Magazine. Last edition was published in February. Subscribers are unhappy there is no magazine Guide anymore.

– Monopolies. Regional viewers have long protested that in the bush they have the choice of one provider, Austar.

– Fastracking. While American Idol gets a same day turnaround, other shows still take their time in arriving. Dexter and True Blood are just two shows viewers want to see sooner rather than later.

– Adding first run Australian drama to channels that attract higher subscription fees. None of Tangle, 30 Seconds or The Jesters were available on the basic package and Spirited will similarly be seen on W.

– Some confusion over which subscribers were lucky enough to receive the Winter Olympics channels free when other long-term subscribers felt overlooked.

On a positive note, viewers were complimentary about Foxtel’s Winter Olympics coverage, there have been no significant complaints about the new Download offering and IQ subscribers like it so much they couldn’t live without the thing.

If you have any other issues you would like directed to Pay TV execs, let’s hear it.


  1. Time to market needs to be addressed. I quite like Saturday Night Live, but showing new episodes six months late, especially on such a topical show is pathetic. Leno and Letterman are next day, SNL should be too or at worst the next Saturday.

  2. In this day and age of technology and sites like this one,you are always going to get complaints no matter what the subject………My response will be positive Here It Goes
    1.People saying to many repeats particularly on the movie channels.You have got to remember that this will always happen as there are so many movie channels available but not enough movies available simple.You could change your Foxtel package around from time to time instead of having all the movie channels on all the time.Something i would like to see though is The Box Office Movies be scraped and those movies go directly onto the movie channels straight away.I think this move would be great idea for the future

    2.iQ-Series link that’s not a problem there are ways around this
    3.Too Many ads.Well depends what your watching Fox 8,Arena have always been this way.But then if your watching a movie you have no ads.Watching sport apart from ESPN are generally not to bad when it comes to ads.Watching The AFL Football only has ads at quarter time half time etc,no interuption whatsoever.
    4.Customer service-Have never had a problem
    5.Ovation Channel well at least it’s still available to the ones that want it.STVDIO will cover alot of the programs anyway.
    Thanks for reading

  3. AA says:
    March 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Would like to know when Nickelodeon Australia will adopt the logo used by Nick in the US.

    Answer – very, very, very soon! As will Nick Jr.

  4. The Foxtel service that frustrates me the most is the fact you can only purchase the HD channels if you purchase the SD channels first… Why! it makes no sense, if you purchase the HD channels, your not going to watch the SD version of the channel anymore, so i ask again Why?

  5. This thread is greatly admired Mr. Knox, but unless they sent you a well deserved invitation to attend the conference and represent the viewing audience, will they even care less to read people’s complaints. Can you get an interview with ASTRA’s chairman. Nevertheless I agree with these :

    1) iQ Series Link drop outs, plus the fact that Series Link doesn’t even work a lot of the time. Like I’ve wanted to Series Link things on GO and SBS HD and it won’t do it, so I had to do a custom Series Link, that one can access via the Active section. I set the Oscars to record (using iQ2) from Nine HD and it only stupidly recorded the first 30 minutes. It thought the part where Richard Wilkins is outside at the start was it. I believe TiVo also had the same problem with the Oscars.

    2) Fixing this : Cancellation Code [6], as someone mentioned already. For those that don’t know, Foxtel’s iQ platform has a major flaw that’s largely been
    ignored – it’s handling of power interruptions.

    3) The need to make all of Foxtel’s channels available in HD. If it’d mean an increase in all their fees, so be it. Ads I don’t care about, as most viewers record everything from Foxtel and fast forward them.

    4) The need (sooner, rather than later) for the Rudd government to force Telstra to sell out of their Foxtel stake. Murdoch has already said he’d gladly buy up their stake, ahead of others like Kerry Stokes who’d love to take it.

  6. I’m not too fussed about the ads. There are still less than free to air and those we do have aren’t that annoying.

    iQ Series Link – I’ve had this drop out twice in the last couple of weeks, once with Xena and again today with Sanctuary. Fortunately, the next issue solves that.

    “Content. Too many repeats, particularly on the movie channels (despite that fact extra movie channels were added).”

    I’d add “particularly on the scifi channel” to that. Some of the shows on scifi are repeated three or four times a day, on both scifi stations.

  7. Less Ads would be good, especially when such a large quantity of the ad break time on Foxtel are for the same in house ads we see over and over and over.
    A major concern for my Dad and brother during the Winter Olympics was Viewer’s Choice being taken away from the English Premier League for the Winter Olympics coverage. This, especially the lack of advertising about the move made them very angry as EPL coverage is the only reason they got Foxtel in the first place.

  8. great summary david. Good to see my whining hasnt gone astray. They have to get IQ fixed imo – too many glitches. adds and repeats dont worry me. I would like to just buy the sports HD channels though – nothing else.

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