Network Ten launches One, Oz DTT

Australia's first stand-alone digital terrestrial channel

SYDNEY -- Network Ten will launch Australia's first stand-alone digital terrestrial channel Thursday in what's expected to be the first of at least five new digital channels to be rolled out by the nation's broadcasters this year.

The new 24-hour high-definition sports channel named One, will be available to more than 62% of Australian 7.2 million TV households who have access to digital television, according to Ten CEO Grant Blackley.

Blackley won't say how much it is costing the channel to mount but says it is part of the network's $65 million capital expenditure on digitization that will add "incremental" revenue to Ten's yearly AUS$820 million ($565 million) in TV ad revenue.

Nevertheless, Ten has some significant exclusive programming for the channel including the National Football League, the National Basketball Assn., Major League Baseball, the U.S. Open and Masters golf tournaments, and ATP and WTA tennis events.

One also will broadcast the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the upcoming Indian Premier League cricket, all Formula One Grand Prix races, Moto GP and NASCAR races and the new feather in Ten's cap, Australian swimming.

While Ten has been quick to launch the new channel, rival commercial networks Seven and Nine have been slower. Nine CEO David Gyngell confirmed this week that Nine will launch a general entertainment digital channel in the coming weeks, while Seven is yet to reveal details of its multichannel plans.

However, all three, alongside Australia's public broadcasters, have signed on as members of the Freeview digital TV consortium, which will endorse digital TV products and market the digital terrestrial channels to viewers beginning May 1.

The new channels are designed to drive viewer adoption of digital TV before the switch off of analoe broadcasting here in 2013.

Kim Williams, CEO of leading paynet Foxtel, said last week that he was unconcerned by the competitive threat posed by the new the free-to-air channels.

"Multichannel television is something we do for a living, so we don't get particularly worried," he said.

The launch of the channel is a bright spot during an otherwise murky few months for Ten, which has been dogged by speculation that Canadian broadcasting group CanWest Global communications may have to sell off some of its 56% stake in Ten to help meet debt obligations, some of which fall due next week.
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