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Info Tens One launches Aus DTT into new era - 28-March-2009, 11:50

Tens One launches Aus DTT into new era

Rose Major

Ten Networks new digital terrestrial-only sports channel, One, launches today (March 26), the first standard-definition multichannel from one of Australias commercial networks.

Six foundation partners have joined the channels roster of advertisers, including retailer Harvey Norman, fast food outlet Hungry Jacks, confectionary company Mars, electronics goods manufacturer Panasonic, and gambling company Sportsbet. Ten also claims it has secured a range of sponsors for individual sporting events as well as concluding some group deals with media buying agencies.

The channel is the first real test of the DTT waters for Australias free-to-air sector. While public broadcasters ABC and SBS have digital-only channels, ABC2 and SBS World News, commercial networks have only been allowed to multichannel in standard definition since the start of the year. All three already have high definition multichannels, although Tens has been slowing morphing into One in readiness for its launch.

One starts ahead of the commercial launch of Australias version of the Freeview platform, expected in the next few weeks. Really just a marketing and branding exercise, the Freeview project has received much criticism for promising much 15 channels but delivering little, as most of those channels are already available on DTT, and 5 available on analogue. One, together with multichannels from Networks Seven and Nine likely to launch later this year, are needed to bump up the content exclusive to Freeview.

But pay-TV platform Foxtel seems relaxed about the new channel launch, even though it challenges Fox Sports monopoly of sports-only broadcasting. CEO Kim Williams recently told a pay-TV industry conference: We love competition: bring it on.

The only previous attempt by a broadcaster to launch a sports channel to compete with Fox Sports ended in disaster, with Seven Networks C7 pay-TV channel closing, unable to afford the rights it had purchased. That venture is still the subject of litigation, with Seven appealing a federal court decision that said Fox Sports and Foxtels shareholders, among others, were not guilty of anti-competitive practice.

One differs from C7 in that it will be available from launch in around half of Australia homes. There are currently no precise uptake figures for DTT while the government puts its Digital Tracker survey out to tender, but a year ago, 42% of homes had at least one digital TV. That figure is now thought to be at least 50% of the 7 million-plus homes in the country.

Broadcasting 24 hours a day, One will be available in high definition as well as standard definition.

Network Ten CEO Grant Blackley said: "Even before it has commenced broadcasting, ONE has attracted some of the best known and most-loved brands across a range of advertising segments as foundation sponsors. We expect ONE will very quickly become a regular part of Australians' TV viewing habits. We are thrilled that these innovative and far-sighted companies not only share that view, but have moved quickly to ensure they are well placed to take advantage of this unique opportunity in the Australian TV market.

"We know that, as ONE rapidly establishes itself as an integral part of the Australian TV market, additional sponsors and advertisers will join these early supporters. Importantly, this investment is providing incremental advertising spend for Network Ten. In fact, two of our foundation partners are new advertisers to the Network as a result of the opportunity with ONE.

Sportsbet CEO, Matthew Tripp, said: "As a 24-hour free-to-air sports channel, One has now provided us with the right opportunity to make our first major investment in television. One offers Sportsbet a highly effective opportunity to communicate our offering to a large and diverse audience of Australian sports fans."
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