Foxtel is counting on new entertainment streaming service Binge to help arrest the slide in the platform’s subscribers, revenues and profitability.
Offering more than 10,000 hours of local and international drama and movies, the sibling to Kayo Sports will launch on May 25.
Foxtel Group CEO Patrick Delany says the service, codenamed Project Ares, is aimed at a younger demographic and the 70 per cent of the population who “either don’t want to pay for our premium product or who have decided Foxtel is not for them.”
It will draw on the extensive content, including exclusive rights to HBO Max Originals programming, from its new long-term licensing deal with WarnerMedia companies, plus programming from Sony, NBCUniversal, FX and the BBC.
That agreement, which covers content from Warner Bros, HBO, HBO Max and WarnerMedia networks, includes pay and SVoD rights to library series including Friends and The Big Bang Theory, which had been carried by Stan.
Foxtel, which outbid Stan for the HBO content, has long been the exclusive Australian home of HBO and was always in the box seat as its current licensing contract runs until December 31, 2021.
The brand, pricing packages and content will be revealed later this week by Julian Ogrin, CEO of Kayo Sports and Binge.
Brian Walsh, Foxtel executive director of TV, has said the service is looking to commission an Australian young adult drama.
Delany said: “We have been beta-testing the service for a few weeks and we are sure Australians will love everything about it. It brings an exciting new brand to younger streaming audiences with a very different and compelling product experience and a distinctly curated mix of the best drama and movies from the world’s best entertainment brands.
“The launch will be another milestone in the Foxtel Group’s strategy to transform ourselves and bring our unparalleled catalogue of entertainment and sports to even more viewers in Australia. Our goal is to consolidate our position as Australia’s preeminent subscription television and streaming provider.”
That position is under threat from Netflix, Stan, Disney+, Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms, while the loss of live sport has wounded Kayo Sports, whose customer base slumped from 408,000 at the end of March to 272,000 on May 1.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns 65 per cent of Foxtel, and Telstra, which has the other 35 per cent, have slashed the value of their stakes.
Last month Foxtel laid off 270 staffers at Fox Sports and in creative and marketing areas and stood down 140 employees until June 30.
Earlier this month the company announced it will can its owned-and-operated music channels as part of a new licensing agreement with ViacomCBS Networks International, resulting in the loss of 10 jobs.
Delany added: “We are making progress in right-sizing and modernising our cost base. For example, through continuing centralisation and technologies that allow us to drive greater automation and digitisation in the business.
“These changes have been painful at times but necessary to ensure we are ahead of the curve on costs to weather the significant impacts of COVID-19 and be better placed to compete in the future.”