• Foxtel’s Brian Walsh reviews content strategy: Increasing on-demand content plus more high-end drama commissions
A leaked Foxtel email to staff last week triggered more media commentary about the disappearance of Channel [V] than the channel probably ever received from a single achievement over the course of its life.
Foxtel’s executive director of television Brian Walsh told Mediaweek the broadcaster was looking to invest its funds with content that resonates best with its subscribers. In the music genre that is with the music channels V Hits, Max and Smooth.
Walsh noted another key focus over the next 12 months would be to increase the amount of content available on demand. “Our Anytime offering now boasts 1,000 movies, thousands of television shows and we acknowledge that now more than ever before customers want to watch television on their own terms. Many want to binge watch their dramas and they want to watch their favourite programs when it suits them. We are following the trend of how consumer behaviour is moving and consumer behaviour is moving to the on-demand world.
“It is not our intention to add any more linear channels. We rationalised our channel lineup with Bio last year and we have rationalised with Channel [V] last week. There are no plans to cut any other channels, but there is an absolute focus to increase the marketing and promotion of our on-demand capabilities.”
Walsh said the change of strategy also means that Foxtel wants to invest in Australian content that it will own all the rights to. “We have to look at what differentiates us. Foxtel’s future is imbedded in what makes us different from other players in the market.
“The pillars for Foxtel in the future are an absolutely comprehensive sports offering with our investments in AFL, NRL, Formula One, V8 Supercars and the A-League soccer. If you are in Australia and you follow sport you simply have to have Foxtel.
“Foxtel is also the home of HBO and we have an increased slate of local productions with particular emphasis on lifestyle and drama. They will ensure that Foxtel remains the first choice in Australian home entertainment.
“Foxtel has to be famous for making great Australian television and that is our ambition. We will be increasing our local production slate significantly and we can only do that by finding efficiencies. That is part of any modern organisation – you have to constantly review your operating model and that is what we are doing to make sure we are match fit for the changing landscape.”
“It is not our intention to add any more linear channels.”
Drama is key to the Foxtel local offer. “We have seven dramas in development,” Walsh revealed to Mediaweek. “We will start announcing the commissions in the next three to four weeks. I am excited about what we have coming and we have some very bold ideas.”
Asked how he felt about the recent success of programs like Molly and Wanted on Seven, Walsh said: “It continues to show that Australians continue to love Australian stories. The Seven Network in particular does biopics very well and they strike a chord with their audience.
“Our drama commissions won’t necessarily be that style of drama, because that is what free-to-air does really well. For us it is about telling bold Australian stories through high-end drama that is provocative.
“For any broadcaster to boast two ongoing drama series like Wentworth and A Place To Call Home is an important achievement. We are very happy those shows are doing so well for us. They remain our ongoing series and they will be supported by event series. We hope to be presenting four or five event series a year in 2016, 2017 and beyond.”
Walsh said he and his team have been happy with what drama production houses have been presenting to them. As to why they have so many shows in the development stage presently, Wash noted: “For us the development stage is crucial. The writing has to be sharp and the talent attached is very important for us.”
One of the first of the new announcements is expected to be a Foxtel contemporary drama production jointly produced with the BBC which will be announced soon. The production is expected to star one of Australia’s biggest stars.