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Foxtel-BBC channel deal ‘disappoints ABC’

Australian pay TV provider Foxtel is to launch a premium BBC content channel on its platform. The move has reportedly upset BBC Worldwide’s long-term partner in the territory, the ABC.

Yesterday, Foxtel unveiled what it described as a “significant multi-platform deal” with the BBC’s commercial arm BBCWW to create an ad-free subscription channel offering premieres of BBC drama and comedy soon after their UK debuts “that will not be available on terrestrial television for at least 12 months”.

The channel will launch in mid-2014. Titles confirmed so far include upcoming BBC1 10-part drama The Musketeers, which comes from BBC Worldwide and BBC America.

The deal also will also see BBCWW-owned nets UKTV, BBC Knowledge, CBeebies and BBC World News remaining on the Foxtel platform, plus gives Foxtel a first look at BBCWW lifestyle programming.

“This deal represents a strategic opportunity for BBC Worldwide to further expand our opportunities to showcase outstanding British creativity in Australia,” said BBCWW Australia MD Jon Penn. “We have a strong relationship with Foxtel and their viewers through our existing four channels, and were delighted to be given the chance to launch a premium channel that could offer the best BBC and British premiere television shortly after UK transmission.”

However, local media reports suggest the deal has upset Australian pubcaster the ABC – a longtime content partner of BBCWW. It claimed to have only have been informed of the decision this week.

“In the past, the ABC has been able to point to our audience share, distinctive reach and the unique relationship between the two organisations, which has lasted 50 years,” the ABC spokesman told AAP. “The ABC is disappointed that this decision was taken without any consultation.”

However, they said the move has “no impact on the ABC’s ability to acquire content from other British production houses and television networks like ITV and Channel 4″. They also noted ABC would keep rights to key shows such as Doctor Who.

Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein said: “I want to congratulate BBC Worldwide on this initiative that will greatly enhance their presence in the Australian market.”