Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

AUSTAR Next Generation television product to launch 15 November; Regional Australia gets ready for a High Definition revolution

Austar United Communications Limited (“AUSTAR”, ASX: AUN) announced today that its Next Generation television product will be launched to customers on November 15.

Speaking at a briefing this morning, Mr John Porter, AUSTAR’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “On November 15, television in regional Australia will fundamentally change for the better. After more than 18 months of product development, the new AUSTAR television product will be launched to existing and new customers alike. It will deliver outstanding new content, greater choice and compelling value, and a comprehensive High Definition (HD) offering with 13 of our best subscription channels plus local free-to-air channels available in beautiful HD picture quality”.

Mr Porter continued: “MyStar HD will be the ultimate solution for digital television, allowing customers to access not only all of their local channels, but the best that AUSTAR has to offer, with an expanded 320GB hard drive for more recording and a future proof design that allows us to add more services in the future. From 15 November, sport and movie lovers in particular will simply have to have AUSTAR: 6 HD movie channels and 4 HD sports channels will revolutionise the way regional Australians watch movies and sports.”

Also speaking at the launch, FOX SPORTS Chief Executive Officer, Mr David Malone, said: “We are delighted to be delivering all three of our FOX SPORTS channels in HD to AUSTAR customers. FOX SPORTS has been at the forefront of delivering the most comprehensive sports coverage in the country for some time and from November 15 our new channel offering will set the benchmark for HD sports broadcasting in Australia”.

Mr Malone continued: “Sport and HD television is a powerful union. The improved picture quality makes the viewer truly feel like they are part of the action. Not only will FOX SPORTS continue to deliver the best range of Australia’s most popular and relevant sports, but now all of those sports will be presented in the highest quality possible.”

Movie Network Chief Executive Officer, Mr Tony Forrest, added: “Not only are the movie services on AUSTAR going to deliver even more choice in quality movie options, but the HD signal and Dolby 5.1 surround sound will mean that viewers have a Blu-ray quality viewing experience for a the cost of their monthly subscription. AUSTAR customers can have all of the choice of the cinema, with upwards of 20 movie viewing options at any point in time as part of their service, but with all the comforts of home”.

Mr Porter noted that the new product would be launched in two stages, with 15 new SD channels, 8 new timeshift channels and the 13 HD channels available in November, while further new channels and product enhancements would be available early 2010, including:

  • AUSTAR On Demand for MyStar customers;
  • an AUSTAR catch-up TV service available via broadband;
  • further SD and HD channels;
  • significant interactive service enhancements;
  • the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in February; and
  • the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games in October.

Mr Porter continued, “We believe that AUSTAR HD is a world class product, not only in terms of the quality of the channels being broadcast in HD, but also in terms of our value for money pricing approach. For only an incremental $5 per month, MyStar HD customers will be able to access whatever HD channels are available in the tiers they already purchase.”

Mr Porter noted that such value and innovation does not come without substantial investment on AUSTAR’s part, but that the Company’s focus has been on continuing to provide a true value for money product. “As far as possible we have taken a fixed cost approach to HD, which incentivises us to ensure as many customers as possible take the HD service. We believe that this new offering will be the driver we are looking for to deliver above plan growth and take us to forty percent penetration and beyond.”

Mr Porter discussed the investment required to deliver the new SD and HD services, noting that incremental platform and HD related costs for what will be launched in November will be approximately $22 million per annum, some two thirds of which is fixed cost.

Mr Porter concluded, “We believe that the new AUSTAR product offering will be a huge step forward in delivering on the promise of providing customers with what they want, when they want it. With some of our best channels available in HD, new quality programming and a number of enhanced services, television has never looked better, and AUSTAR ‘s growth prospects have never looked brighter.”

More: Presentation (5.9MB .pdf)