Pay TV turns 20

2015-01-26_1650Australia Day marked 20 years since Subscription TV launched in Australia.

The now-defunct Galaxy was founded in 1993, officially launched on Australia Day 1995, with only two channels, the local Premier Sports and international news channel ANBC.

Ironically, the 20th anniversary falls on the same day as a new streaming service, Stan, enters the STV landscape.

Getting an accurate read on the number of initial subscribers for Galaxy was difficult. Journalist Neil Shoebridge (now TEN corporate spokesperson) wrote in BRW in May 1995 that Galaxy installed 720 systems a day in Sydney and Melbourne.

Then Galaxy GM Mark Collier suggested there was then a waiting list of 20,000 people. The initial connection fee was $299, but Galaxy soon dropped that to $99 and reported instant increases in subscriptions.

Foxtel launched later in 1995 and eventually took over the Galaxy service and was in competition with another new player: Optus Vision.

ASTRA CEO Andrew Maiden told TV Tonight, “This week is an opportunity to reflect on the substantial contribution the industry has made to Australia. Subscription television has enriched the lives of millions of viewers, created 6600 jobs, and each year invests more than $600 million in screen production.

“To mark the anniversary this year ASTRA will stage a series of events that celebrate this history, including the biggest ever ASTRA Awards and a conference in September that will celebrate the past and gaze into the crystal ball.”

More than 80 leaders from across the television, entertainment and arts sectors will gather in Sydney this week to judge the 2015 ASTRA Awards.

For the first time, a large number of leaders from the wider creative industries will join subscription television executives on judging panels that determine finalists and winners.

Included on the independent panels will be leading producers, directors, writers, actors, presenters, educators, funders, executives and the leaders of screen agencies from a majority of states and territories.


  1. Pay TV goes back a bit further than Galaxy. Early pioneers started using microwave links, but Australia’s first encrypted subscription satellite TV service started on AUSSAT on 1 December 1990. It was Television Oceania’s Japanese channel for tourists and expats, running 2 hours a day with a mix of content from Japan plus locally produced segments.

  2. I remember at the time of the launch that their first big exclusive was getting the rights of the Australian test tour of the West Indies which was to decid then who was the best cricket team in the world and Channel nine weren’t too please about it and try to stop their coverage under “anti-siphoning” rules and at the last minute channel 10 got the FTA rights to the series.

  3. Yep we had Galaxy and got it installed in Jan 95. I just remember having college baskbetball on in a continuous loop before the official launch of the 2 channels on Aus.Day. Yep no ads, Red Music channel. Great TV1 channel. Then we eventually got Foxtel later on. Currently have Foxtel now but their was something about Satellite Television back then. Now with the Internet and IPTV services very different world. Gees feels like yesterday,

  4. Armchair Analyst

    How about that its been 20 yrs since pay tv, would have entered earlier if not for the FTA lobbying. Anyway the paytv sector is in the same boat as the FTA’s they are both threatened by IPTV and streaming services. Because streaming services use the same business model as pay tv. plus its cheaper, s the future of PayTV as we know or knew it is bleaque at best that’s why Foxtel have invested in Presto and also that’s why they want sports rights and why Network TEN is attractive to Foxtel as a why to bypass antisiphoning rights.

  5. I signed up for Galaxy in Canberra in August 1996. There were 16 channels. When Galaxy was about to go bust a couple of years later Foxtel tried to buy them out but were blocked by the ACCC. Our screen went black except for the message “Searching for signal”. Around two months later Austar stepped in and restored a service but mysteriously abandoned it a few weeks later. Foxtel did manage to step in and restore it with more than double the number of channels. I kept up my Foxtel subscription until April 2009. The sat dish was still on the roof and I had Foxtel put back on for a month or so during the London 2012 Olympics. Memo to Foxtel: If you can broker a deal with Seven and get the next Olympics and provide 8 channels again I’ll put Foxtel back on.

  6. I’ve still got some of the old TV guides from then. I got Galaxy in Dec 1995 (and was on the waiting list since Jan 1995) and enjoyed the variety of whole 8 extra channels although the music channel Red seemed to play seemed to play “Don’t Go Changing Waterfalls” TLC every time I watched it!

    There were no ads during shows for the first few years and my smart card would often overheat during summer – causing the unit to crash!

  7. I was one of the first to have Galaxy. I still have foxtel. I wish there were loyalty points. I used to watch BBC World for hours as it was a novelty and there weren’t many other channels . I loved nick at nite, red music and the variety of programmes on Arena and UKTV (before the corporates took over and made it all about branding ) I remember having a blank screen for a month when Galaxy went bust and foxtel took over my account . Ironically I worked in the old galaxy state office in Perth as it became a medical centre

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