Foxtel have moved to spark subscriber-growth and combat internet piracy with a new output deal with premium US content producer HBO that will deliver new shows to Australian screens sooner but prevent free-to-air networks from broadcasting older episodes.
The new agreement gives Foxtel exclusive first run of all HBO content as well as access to the impressive library of HBO's past programs. While Foxtel currently have the first-run of HBO's major new shows in Australia such as True Blood, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, the deal is designed to combat internet piracy by allowing for increased fast-tracking of shows to Australian screens within hours of broadcast in North America.
Richard Freudenstein, Foxtel CEO suggested that vast majority of illegal downloads occur due to the delays between the first broadcast overseas and in Australia. He said in a statement: “This deal will ensure our customers will always see these compelling HBO shows exclusively first-run, with many of the key dramas broadcast express from the US as soon as the day after their original air-date.”
The biggest impact for Australian viewers will be to remove HBO programming from free-to-air television even on a second-run basis, a move that counters SBS's current broadcast of season one of Boardwalk Empire.
"You won't see programs like Boardwalk Empire end up on SBS in a couple of years," Freudenstein said. "It removes [HBO's] ability to sell in a second window to free-to-air television. That won't happen any more. You won't see those programs on free-to-air."
"HBO content will premiere on Foxtel’s premium drama channel, showcase, which will become Australia’s ‘home of HBO’. In addition, subscribers will be able to rediscover a library of classic HBO shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under on our newest channel, SoHo which successfully launched to all subscribers in August with the premiere of HBO’s latest hit series, The Newsroom."
The ShowCase channel is part of the Showtime group, recently purchased outright by Foxtel. It is not currently part of Foxtel's basic package of channels, unlike SoHo which is available to all subscribers.
The deal will be christened with HBO’s forthcoming police drama True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
Foxtel will also launch a new app, Foxtel Go, next month. This will initially provide 21 channels plus on-demand content to Foxtel subscribers free of charge for iPads. The app goes ahead after it was tested succesffuly during the London Olympics.
The HBO gives Foxtel the exclusive right to deliver their content via linear channels as well as on demand and IP delivered services.