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RealTime IT News

Channel Ten Braces For Digital TV

[Sydney, AUSTRALIA] Telstra and Fairfax Holdings may be pulling out of upcoming national digital television trial projects, but free-to-air broadcaster Ten Network Holdings has now committed AUD $500 million (US $300 million) to its own implementation.

Ten Holdings, which controls the Ten television network, has secured the funding under a syndicated bank loan facility that chief executive John McAlpine said would allow the broadcaster to develop its digital TV strategy.

Ten also wants to use the so-called 'cash advance' to focus on other key investments in both traditional and new media.

"Planning is well in hand to further boost Ten's core television business with conversion to digital," said McAlpine. He added that the impetus with capital for traditional television to be used to improve programs to particularly increase its appeal to the 16-39 year old demographic, as a move of increasing the network's market share.

The advance to do all of this has comes from a syndicate of banks that include ANZ, Citibank, Commonwealth Bank, IBJ Australia, Royal Bank of Canada and Sakura Finance Australia.

This $500 million unsecured facility will replace a AUD $400 million (US $240 million) secured facility established in 1996.

Digital TV in Australia has already had a rocky beginning even before consumers have had a chance to experience it, with the Federal Government passing legislation last month to limit the genre and duration of content distributed by non free-to-air broadcasters (see story).

Even before its passing, this legislation drew criticism from the federal opposition Labor Party, the Internet Industry Association and potential digital broadcasters.

It was at the beginning of this debate that Telstra and Fairfax Holdings pulled out of digital television trials. Both companies attributed their decisions to the lack of commercial viability of a digital TV framework that worked in the favour of free-to-air broadcasters (see story).