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Optus Gets New Thrust with New Products

11/29/1998 7:00 PM Eastern

Sydney, Australia -- Struggling Australian cable-TV
operator Optus Vision is getting aggressive under its new management. Earlier this month,
it announced the expansion of its basic tier, a new marketing campaign and a renewed focus
on local production.

Optus has ditched its "First Choice" expanded
tier, adding the channels that were previously included to its basic package. Its
expanded-basic lineup, priced at $A9.95 ($US6.37) per month, now includes MTV Australia
and Disney Channel, as well as homegrown networks Odyssey and Ovation, said Mike Lattin,
Optus' head of pay TV.

The new package will be on sale until Jan. 31, and it is
backed by a $A3 million ($US1.89 million) TV, print and outdoor advertising campaign that
began Nov. 22 to coincide with the Southern Hemisphere's summer months.

The expanded-basic tier is a prelude to the bundled
offerings of pay TV, telephony and Internet services that Optus will market to customers
beginning early next year.

"The new package will set the tone early for how we'll
compete on price and product early in the new year," Lattin said, acknowledging that
Optus had been "invisible" to consumers. He added that he was
"disappointed" that the original basic package, which also cost A$9.95 ($US6.37)
per month, garnered just 30,000 new subscriptions.

That package was launched under Don Hagans, whom Lattin
replaced two months ago.

The new pricing and products are aimed at boosting Optus'
subscriber base to 300,000 from 200,000 by December 1999, Lattin said.

He added that the company plans to introduce three new
general-entertainment channels targeting men, women and teens, and a business-news channel
in partnership with an undisclosed international partner.

Optus is also holding talks with Hollywood studios The Walt
Disney Co., Warner Bros., Metro Goldwyn Mayer and DreamWorks SKG -- all of which provide
programming for its movie channels -- Lattin said, although he wouldn't disclose the exact
nature of the discussions.

There is also speculation here that Optus may be seeking to
gain some concessions on the high minimum-subscriber guarantees that it currently pays to
the studios for movie product.

 

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