A&E to Launch in Australia In February

The home of "Storage Wars," "Dog The Bounty Hunter" and "Pawn Stars" will launch alongside fX and Fox Footy as new channels for paynet Foxtel in 2012.

SYDNEY -- Foxtel will launch young male-skewing channel A&E on Feb. 16, one of three new high profile channels to join the largest Australian pay TV platform in 2012.

Under a partnership with with A&E’s U.S. parent, A&E Networks, the channel will be programmed and managed here as part of the Foxtel Channels Group's factual channels that also include Bio, History and Crime and Investigation. A&E Australia will launch with premiere seasons of unscripted franchises including Storage Wars, Storage Wars Texas, Dog The Bounty Hunter, Billy The Exterminator,  Pawn Stars and American Pickers.

A&E has also commissioned Cordell Jigsaw, creators of Bondi Rescue, to produce a one-hour special, MegaTruckers, for the launch, which will then be developed as a series to premiere later in 2012. MegaTruckers follows blue-collar hero Jon Kelly, the founder of Heavy Haulage Australia, and his “hard as nails” drivers hauling some of the world’s largest and heaviest loads across treacherous Australian terrain.

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“A&E will be the one-stop destination for heart-stopping unscripted, authentic and real entertainment series’ combined to create an intense, immediate and inspiring environment that is relevant to its audience. This channel further strengthens our relationship with global media company, A+E Networks, producer and distributor of some of the world's leading television channels and content,” Foxtel executive director of television Brian Walsh said.

The launch of A&E comes at a pivotal time for the paynet, with new CEO Richard Freudenstein taking the reins in December as Foxtel seeks to boost stagnant subscription numbers. Pay TV penetration here sits at 33%, in the face of increased competition from digital multichannels launched by the free to air networks in the last 18 months.

Also set to be launched in early 2012 are Fox International Channels’ fX and the new Fox Footy channel – a channel dedicated to coverage of the Australia’s most popular sports competition, the Australian Football League. Foxtel, in partnership with free to air broadcaster the Seven Network, paid a record $1.235 billion for a five-year broadcast deal with the AFL last year under which it will broadcast every game in every round in HD, including five live games a week. Foxtel is hoping that will provide a fillip to boost subscriber numbers.  

At the same time Foxtel and its rural counterpart, Austar United Communications, majority owned by Liberty Global Inc. are awaiting approval from the local anti trust regulator for their planned $2.5 billion merger.