Telstra chairman John Mullen has confirmed that the telco will maintain its access to Australian pay-TV platform Foxtel’s content under a new ownership structure for the pay-TV group, which is expected to see Foxtel retain a significant holding in the company. Interviewed by The Australian, Mullen said Telstra was “very committed” to Foxtel but remained open to selling down its interest as part of a repositioning of the pay-TV group. Telstra has a 50 per cent stake in Foxtel, while the other half of the company is owned by News Corporation, publisher of The Australian.
“We are very committed. And whatever ultimate structural solution ends up being the appropriate one, it will not prejudice our access to content. We will work together on content. That is the key,’’ Mullen asserted.
“You don’t strictly have to own it all. I don’t see Telstra wanting to buy a Time Warner or something like that. But you have to have access to [Foxtel content], whether it is by joint venture, association, or whatever it is. That is going to be increasingly important.” It is understood all the parties have abandoned plans for a float of Foxtel on the Australian Securities Exchange or an outright sale of Telstra’s interest in the pay-TV company.
In 2016, Telstra was thought to be considering a reduction of its interest in an IPO that would have seen Telstra hold on to 19 per cent, News Corp 51 per cent and a free float of 30 per cent, but the plan was held up by adverse market conditions.
Mullen recognised the need for telcos to have access to content in the era of OTT delivery. “It is a really interesting space; every carrier realises you must have access to content and the method of delivery is changing rapidly, describing the relationship with News as “very good”. “We do need to address how we compete jointly in that market going forward and we are working pretty hard on that.”