Foxtel turns 25

"The first night on air was electric... because we almost never made it," recalls Brian Walsh.

Today marks 25 years since Foxtel was switched on in Australia.

In that time it has brought an array of international drama, Australian originals, major sporting events, movies, news, music and helped cement a long list of stars and creatives.

TV Tonight asked one of Foxtel’s very first employees, Brian Walsh, to reflect on launch night on October 23rd 1995.

Here is what he wrote:

“I was asked to come on board the Foxtel magic carpet ride by the legendary TV figure, Sam Chisholm, whom I’d worked for at Sky in the U.K.

“Sam gave me the ask of staging the launch event at our then brand new state of the art studios in Pyrmont, by Sydney Harbour and create some stunts to launch the business.

“I was also tasked with finding the company’s first Director Of Programming.

“We were showbiz right from the start; it’s embedded in our brand, FOX.

“The first night on air was electric and hairy and it lives long in my memory, because we almost never made it, thanks to a last minute technical glitch.

“Miraculously though and with minutes to spare, the signal was restored and at exactly 1900 hours (7.00pm) on October 23, 1995, Foxtel was launched.

“The first show we put to air was then and remains today, one of the most iconic television series of all time, The Simpsons – on our flagship channel, FOX.

“Over on FX (which was late to become Fox Classics) Bill Collins made history as the first local talent on air, when he introduced the Marilyn Monroe movie classic, The Seven Year Itch.

First Foxtel magazine Nov. 1995

“The roll call of Foxtel talent over those 25 years is an impressive list of television stars, sports personalities, actors and journalists, who have carved their name in the history books. Some of them, such as Hugh Jackman and Heath Ledger, went on to bigger things, but they were all part of the Foxtel journey.

“For all of us involved, whether it be veterans like myself or the many hundreds of employees who have proudly joined the company since, it’s been an absolute honour and privilege to be part of something special.

“In 1995, Foxtel gave Australians real choice for the first time – watch what you want, when you want. We have kept evolving , re-inventing and innovating ever since.

“At Foxtel, we thrive on competition. It brings out our best ….and proud as we’ve ever been.

“Our journey continues, with that same spirit of endeavour that marked our start 25 years ago today.”

14 Responses

  1. Loved the old Foxtel days (subscriber since 1997), when you could listen only to main event shows and concerts on the channel without paying for it. Who needed to see the show when you could hear it for free 🙂
    Also have a special release box from them, for when they launched digital.
    Whatever happened to Naked News on the Comedy Channel LOL

  2. I had Galaxy prior to Foxtel. When they went bust Foxtel took over. I only got it for UKTV shows which in the beginning was on Arena eg coronation st & heartbeat. Arena was a great channel when it started. I still have Foxtel but it’s 2nd choice now mainly for Coronation St & Eastenders and BBC drama, and only if I have nothing else to watch. Free to air being last choice .

  3. I remember being so excited when it first came out and the giant satellite was installed, being able to have a choice of channels and watch movies without ads. And I agree with others, one of the highlights has been Channel V live with Osher (Andrew G back then). However I dropped Foxtel around two years ago and honestly haven’t missed it.

  4. It’s also 25 years since the launch of World Movies. Initially a stand-alone channel on Foxtel it was an instant success. By far one of the most critically acclaimed channels with a take-up way ahead of expectations. The idea came from SBS. Whereas the ABC received a significant funding grant from the government to allow it to join the move to Pay-TV, SBS got nothing. However, a room full of tapes containing the subtitled version of thousands of foreign films allowed the creation of the world’s first subscription channel screening movies exclusively from the non-English speaking world. Credit for the establishment of the channel goes to then SBS chair, the late Sir Nicholas Shehadie, who convinced Tony O’Reilly (who owned the Australian Radio Network) and Kerry Stokes to fund the start-up. Also of great significance was the willingness of a couple of local film distributors who…

  5. I think most Foxtel users have a love hate relationship with them. Many pros and cons. I have it to watch soaps that used we used to get for free on free to air. I love their iQ, and prefer it over Netflix any day. But for so many channels, there is a certain lack of variety in most all of them. I too wish they would return to the days of TV1 and Nick at Nite, their only current classic channel, does not show enough classic shows for my liking and the one’s they show, it’s over and over again, instead of swapping them up, to keep them fresh.

  6. It might be difficult and too large to nail it down to one moment or series David, but some kind of poll celebrating this anniversary could be an idea.

    It might be a bit nostalgic, but I still think the best thing they’ve ever done is the Channel V weekend morning show with the revolving cast of Yumi, Osher, Jabba & James Mathison, where they often had the biggest acts in the world play live music.

  7. If I’m not mistaken Christopher Reeve was going to attend the opening of Foxtel but as we know he was crippled in May 1995 with the horse jumping accident ,my favourite Superman.RIP

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