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).

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