#211 – Foxtel

31 01 2011

For some time now, the bogan has been convinced that it has deserved more. More more-ishness, to the point of immense maxocity. As the size of its television screen expanded during the 1990s, it realised that it not only wanted more screen, but more things on its screen. On Australia Day 1995, Australia’s first pay television service was launched. While Galaxy initially only had two channels, it contained the letter X, and bogans began to sign up. Soon Galaxy was joined by Optus Vision, which had a bigger budget, but fewer Xs. But in October 1995, the key player entered the fray. Foxtel had an even bigger budget, 20 channels, AND the letter X. From this point onwards, the story of pay television in Australia effectively became the story of the bogan’s love for Foxtel.

Foxtel was bound to succeed. It was initially a 50:50 joint venture between Telstra and bogan svengali News Corporation, but 25% was subsequently transferred to PBL, then owner of such bogan treasures as Crown Casino, Burswood Casino and Richard Wilkins. Like numerous other truly clever bogan cash harvesting undertakings, Foxtel has never really given the bogan something it didn’t already have. Instead, Foxtel has mainly just offered more of the same, reinforcing to the bogan that more is better, and therefore worth paying more for.  Or, in this case, worth paying something for, instead of nothing. Indeed, pay television can be seen as the bottled water of home entertainment.

This is not to say that the bogan doesn’t derive an enormous amount of value from having Foxtel. The mere act signing up for channels such as National Geographic and Discovery Channel serves as a big boost to the bogan’s estimation of itself as a sophisticate, even if its occasional encounters with those two channels are largely confined to watching large animals killing things, and seeing tribal boobs, respectively. A recently watched documentary allows the bogan to proudly recite a couple of obscure factual details from the program, before they permanently exit its memory 48 hours later.

The other channels in the package allow the bogan to view movies it would never have paid money for at a video store, or spend hours per week watching obscure sports that it has little actual interest in. Foxtel has recently lifted its average revenue per user to $92 per month, a shining tribute to the company’s ability to sell the bogan ever more add-on packages that it didn’t know it wanted.

The recent advent of digital television in Australia has allowed the free to air networks to finally strike back, offering the bogan more. More things that were too dismal to screen when each network only had one channel. Now the bogan is torn between watching the thrills of a Bhutan v Senegal test match on Fox Sports 3, or another exciting rerun of Murder She Wrote, on Gem. While this choice can be confusing, one thing that does not confuse the bogan is its ongoing need to be a Foxtel subscriber. Because television would be shit otherwise.