Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Four U.S. studios have agreed to sell their Australian movie channels to Foxtel, the dominant pay-TV platform, and three other studios are soon expected to follow suit. Foxtel will gain control of the Showtime channels owned by Sony, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Fox and Liberty Media, on October 31. That deal is in line with Foxtel’s desire to own, produce and manage the movie channels on its platform. Foxtel had been negotiating with those studios for months to buy out their contract to supply the Showtime channels via their jointly-owned Premium Movie Partnership, which was due to expire at the end of 2013. A Foxtel spokesman tells Deadline negotiations are continuing with Warner Bros., Disney, MGM and Australia’s Roadshow, which own the other major movie platform The Movie Network. TMN’s contract with Foxtel runs out December 31. The majority of PMP staff will be offered positions at Foxtel. The spokesman declined to say when or if the Showtime channels will be rebranded.
Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein said the deal with PMP “drives synergies and savings that enable us to offer a better movie and premium drama product to our subscribers.” In July Freudenstein told the Australian Financial Review the two packages were too expensive for consumers, and the two businesses spent marketing budgets trying to pinch customers from each other. “It’s just not the most efficient way to run the movie services,” he said. The Showtime channels include Showcase, which airs first-run series Dexter, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. It also commissions original Australian dramas such as Cloudstreet and Tangled. When Foxtel acquired regional pay service Austar, Foxtel gained the right to do exclusive movie deals with four of the eight majors. Early termination of the PMP contract suggests those four studios will get the preferential terms.