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First It Was Content Deals, Now Foxtel Adds Management Experience

Foxtel, who is moving to strengthen their position in the Australian entertainment market, as consumer move to invest in multiple streaming and content deals, has expanded their management team with the appointment as a consultant of a seasoned US TV and streaming Company executive.

Randy Freer is a former Fox Networks executive who ran streaming service Hulu for two and a half years until early 2020. According to sources, he will work with Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany to expand Foxtel content offerings, while helping existing management to improve revenue generation.

New Foxtel services will shortly include ViacomCBS-owned streaming service Paramount+ and online video service 10Play on its set-top boxes. Also available next year will be Amazon Prime.

The big benefit to existing Foxtel customers is that the integration of third-party content deals into the Foxtel operating systems delivers a smoother service for subscribers, eliminating clunky fast forwarding and difficult searches often found when apps with these services are loaded onto TVs.

Appointing Free is seen as a smart move, claim observers, especially as it’s well known that Foxtel is testing the waters for a potential float of the company, who recently launched a new iQ5 box for subscribers still on cable.

iQ4 customers are also getting a major software upgrade as Australia’s largest subscription TV service gets set to roll out a Summer of Cricket in Ultra High Definition 4K. This will significantly enhance the viewing experience for Cricket fans over what free-to-air content providers of the same sporting event are able to deliver.

According to sources, Freer is well known to News Corp, the largest shareholder in Foxtel, through his role as president and chief operating officer (COO) at Fox Networks Group, where he oversaw revenue and distribution.

He was also the president and COO of Fox Sports Media Group, where he led negotiations for major broadcast rights deals including the National Football League and Major League Baseball.

“Freer is an appointment that will go down well with potential investors and with content providers who have to make a choice of whether they will go it alone in the Australian market or via a relationship with Foxtel who have access to News Corp marketing resources,” said one observer with knowledge of the Australian market.

His advice to Foxtel management and his existing relationship with international media companies is seen as being “invaluable,” especially as he ran Hula and was there when the business was sold to Disney by News Corp-owned 21st Century Fox.

Foxtel sources have indicated 9Now, owned by archrival Nine Entertainment, is likely to be the next service to be integrated into the Foxtel platform. The sources said the deal is in the final stages, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Commercial broadcasters are increasingly concerned that creators of smart TV devices are making international streaming services easier to access and use than local apps such as 10Play, 9Now and 7Plus.

Local broadcasters are asking government to find a way to ensure they will take precedence over international services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on these devices.

Foxtel boss Patrick Delany said that at a time when prominence and access for local players are concerns, Australian media companies need to come together, and that Foxtel could help address these issues.

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