As reported earlier in the week, Australia's Foxtel Group (which runs traditional pay TV service Foxtel along with streaming service Binge) has re-upped its deal with Warner Bros Discovery for exclusive rights to HBO content. WBD were long-believed to be planning a local launch for HBO Max in Australia and were not expected to sign an extension.
The deal is hugely important for Foxtel - HBO has been the foundation for its scripted content and marketing. Long gone are the days of Bart Simpson as the face of Foxtel (heck, I believe The Simpsons are now only found on Disney+), and instead in recent years we have seen the Game of Thrones dragons, Mare of Easttown's Kate Winslet, and Last of Us's Pedro Pascal driving the marketing. The loss of HBO would leave a huge programming gap in Foxtel that would be difficult to fill with all of the other major content output deals from the US tied up elsewhere.
Plus it means preventing another competitor from entering the relatively conjested Australian streaming market. The economics are tight enough for a streaming service that is only operating down under and doesn't have a global footprint.
Here's a Foxtel brand ad from 6 years ago which highlights the embrace of HBO:
Interesting was this comment by Foxtel's Amanda Laing to Variety, which suggests that Warner Bros Discovery have an exit clause written into what is described as a multi-year deal.
“The beauty of this deal is that it provides optionality for both companies,” Foxtel Group chief content and commercial officer, Amanda Laing told Variety. “No matter what options Warner Discovery wish to pursue in Australia our relationship will evolve with them.”
This gives WBD the option to launch its own streaming product into the market at a time that suits the company and not just timed to the expiration of the output deal.
Right now WBD is focused on building and supporting a portfolio of valuable digital assets (HBO Max, Discovery+, and the new FAST platform in development), reducing production expenditure, and building a successful theatrical content pipeline built off Warner Bros IP (which can't be replicated easily elsewhere). All of this is believed to be in support of preparing WBD for a sale to a larger player, such as the likes of Comcast.
Now, none of that is contingent on an Australian deal for its HBO content. But as WBD considers the timing of rolling out in international territories, this extension and ability to terminate the deal, gives the company greater strategic flexibility. It is a win for all involved - just maybe not local Aussies who are apprehensive about paying for a Rupert Murdoch-owned service.
- Pluto TV in the US is launching dedicated channels to the Rocky movies and Sailor Moon. Read: The Verge
- RIP Australian TV presenter Jeff Watson. Read: TV Tonight
- Returning Neighbours cast members will include: Annie Jones, Rebekah Elmaloglou, Georgie Stone, and Tim Kano. Not revealed yet by Amazon Prime Video is what format the Aussie soap will take when it returns later this year.
- Documents released in the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News show that Rupert Murdoch acknowledged hosts Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro “endorsed” the false narrative promoted by Trump. Read: The Guardian
- BBC/Stan/ZDF series The Tourist has been commissioned for a second season. The new season will take the Jamie Dornan show away from Australia and to Ireland. Read: THR
- Peacock has signed a content deal to bring Reelz to its streaming service. Notable is the inclusion of the Reelz linear channel which carries the show On Patrol: Live, which is effectively a rebadged Live: PD - the show cancelled in the wake of the George Flloyd protests that glorified police harassing poor black people in real time, broadcast nation-wide. Read: THR
Jude Law stars in Disney+ original film Peter Pan & Wendy (he will play neither titular character, FYI). It debuts April 28.
1999-set romantic comedy musical series Up Here debuts on Hulu March 24.
That's it for today. Onwards and upwards.