VOD Heats Up Down Under

"Star Trek: Into Darkness" will be one of the launch titles for Foxtel's Australian SVOD services, Presto

Pay TV giant Foxtel will launch its SVOD movie service, Presto, in Australia on Thursday as a variety of local and international players eye the market.

SYDNEY - Australian pay TV giant Foxtel launches its subscription video-on demand service Thursday, providing new releases and library movies, for a flat rate of $17.90 (AUS$19.99) per month.

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The service, named Presto, will be available to all consumers regardless of whether they subscribe to Foxtel, which currently has a penetration of over 30 percent of Australian homes for its pay TV service, and will be available via Internet  streaming on a variety of devices and platforms.

Foxtel, jointly owned by News Corp and telco Telstra Ltd, has secured agreements with all the major studios and local independent distributors for films for the service and announced that its new Foxtel Movies Disney channel will also be part of Presto, when it launches on April 10.

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Presto's movie lineup includes recent blockbuster titles such as A Good Day to Die Hard, Iron Man 3, Identity Thief and Oz the Great and Powerful along with a host of others and a huge collection of library product, while films including Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Lone Ranger and This is the End, will come online later this month, followed in April and May by The Great Gatsby, Fast & Furious 6, Monsters University, World War Z and Elysium

All of those titles are currently available for physical rental on DVD in Australia.

Foxtel's film suppliers include major studios and key independents MGM, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Roadshow Films, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Hopscotch Entertainment One, Icon, Studiocanal and Transmission Films.  

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New Foxtel customers will be able to trial the service for AUS$4.99 for the first month.

Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein described Presto as "a game changing new way to experience great movies, when and where you want, for a price per week equivalent to what you'll pay for just one standard iTunes movie rental."

At the same time Foxtel announced that Shaun James, currently general manager of its music channels, has been appointed as director, Presto & VOD.

Presto is one of a suite of IPTV services that Foxtel is developing as the video-on-demand and streaming media space heats up down under, with broadcasters and cinema operators revealing plans to enter the space in recent weeks, aiming to stave off the threat of international players like Netflix entering the market.

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Netflix already has an Australian customer base, albeit illegal, who use international servers to circumvent Netflix's geo-blocks.

Presto is separate to the Foxtel Play streaming service which offers Internet access to a variety of Foxtel channels  and on which Game Of Thrones will be offered for the first time streamed as its broadcast to non-Foxtel subscribers.

Presto and Foxtel Play compete with incumbent Quickflix, in which HBO has a shareholding and which offers both physical DVD rental by post and a SVOD service for over 60,000 movies and TV shows. Quickflix currently has 120,000 customers.

Meanwhile Nine Entertainment Co CEO, David Gyngell, told shareholders last month that its Nine broadcast network has started trialing a SVOD service priced at $9.95 a month, which aims to have 300,000-400,000 customers within five years of its yet-to-be scheduled launch, while talking to its competitors Seven and Ten about being involved in a joint service. Media reports here have speculated that Richard Branson's Virgin Group could also become involved.

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Speaking about Nine's SVOD plans and whether the company goes it alone or tries something with industry rivals, Gyngell said: "We're moving ahead because we believe you can't keep your head in the sand. We're talking to people definitely, studios and the like. I’m one that has to be pragmatic... but I don’t want to leave Channel 9 without a defensive strategy to Netflix," Gyngell explained.

Make sense?And cinema operator, the Hoyts Group. is also looking at launching SVOD services. Recently appointed CEO Damian Keogh said: "We will evaluate the best business model to maximize the benefits, whether that is going solo or in collaboration with other parties."