PBL On A Roll Off The Back Of Foxtel Ten Deal
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An updraft of investor interest swept shares in Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL) up nearly four percent to $17.90 yesterday, as Foxtel and Network Ten inked a digital retransmission agreement.

The move catapults Ten into the electronic program guide (EPG) market it had previously refused to consider – and sets the stage for a marketplace battle with the TiVO personal video recorder to be marketed by Seven and Engin.

Under the new arrangement, Ten will allow its signal to be retransmitted on the Foxtel digital platform, meaning viewers will be able to access Ten’s programming details using Foxtel’s electronic program guide. Previously Ten and Seven have declined to have anything to do with Foxtel’s EPG, which allows Foxtel subscribers to pre-program TV recordings.

“For the first time,” Foxtel and Ten said in a joint statement, “Ten’s signal will be available to Foxtel satellite subscribers in Brisbane,
Melbourne and Geelong, Sydney and the NSW Central Coast.”

Foxtel already has cable and satellite retransmission arrangements with SBS, the ABC and Nine, and analogue transmission of 10 to cable customers, but yesterday was the first time Ten has agreed to the EPG.

Along with Seven, it has held back, and now Seven stands alone, presumably banking on the future success of its TiVo deal. TiVo has been a huge hit in the US, where the maker has deals with major cable companies, but take-up in
Australia could be more problematic.

The PVR is to be launched early in 2008 by Seven Media Group, a joint venture between Kerry Stokes’ Seven Network and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
VoIP outfit Engin, 34pc owned by Seven, will be retail distributor.

Whether or not SBS, the ABC, and Nine are now free to also participate in Seven’s TiVo model, was not clear yesterday. Viewers of Ten on Foxtel were promised access to the full range of Foxtel digital services including Foxtel iQ personal digital recorder functions. Foxtel and Ten expect to launch the offering next month. PBL holds a 25 percent stake in Foxtel, News
Corp holds a further 25 percent, and Telstra holds the remaining 50 percent.

Yesterday’s statement also said Ten’s high definition (HD) service will also be retransmitted via cable when FoxTel launches its own HD offering in 2008.

After the announcement was made on the ASX yesterday, PBL shares rose 68 cents to $17.90. Shares in Telstra inched up by six cents to $4.66 and News fell 13 cents to $26.15. Ten was down one cent to $2.37.