DFAT eyes IPTV for Asian relations

$223 million competitive tender released for operation of international network

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) intends to include internet protocol television (IPTV) as a core requirement of the Australia Network as the international-facing channel goes to competitive tender for a new operator.

Australia Network, which has been in operation since 1993, has been broadcast by the ABC since 2001 and is currently available in 44 Asian countries via free-to-air satellite, rebroadcasters, through some cable networks as well as online, on-demand.

ABC’s current five-year contract to 44 countries across Asia is set to end in August, after which the winning bidder will broadcast the network internationally under a ten-year contract worth up to $223 million. Speculation surrounds Sky News and ABC as likely bidders for the channel.

However, DFAT has called for bidders to plan for inclusion of digital media services accompanying the network, including a “sophisticated companion website” which would have to provide on-demand video and audio streaming and downloads for the broadcast.

“DFAT anticipates that the rapid evolution of digital media services and  technologies will continue over the Term, and will require the Australia Network Services to be delivered as a modern, up-to-date Service, keeping pace with industry trends and approaches over the Term,” the documents state.

Though the winning bidder would not necessary be required to operate an IPTV network themselves, tender documents state those interested would be required to plan for IPTV providers in individual countries and be able to negotiate for rebroadcast over those networks, in an effort to grow the channel’s audience.

“DFAT views these platforms as potentially attractive and cost-effective ways of both enhancing the Service’s relationship with existing television audiences and in developing new audience relationships for the Service,” documents state, referring to IPTV as well as social media platforms.

According to DFAT, the network’s core focus is to present “an Australian perspective on the world”.

The department’s new requirements for the network come in the face of a growing number of IPTV providers internationally as well as in Australia, with the introduction of products like FetchTV locally.

Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull recently flagged IPTV as a source of growing competition for traditional broadcasters in the local market.

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