By the early years of the century more than 25% of Australians were watching subscription television, supporting an industry that had grown to more than 4000 employees. In addition, viewing in customers’ homes continued to grow, with paid content achieving more than 50% of television viewing for the first time.
Australian subscribers were watching sport in increasing numbers, but the industry was also building a large audience for general entertainment programs. During the Sydney 2000 Olympics, for instance, FOX8 ran non-stop Simpsons episodes, becoming the only non-Olympics pay or free channel to increase its viewing.
In 2001 Foxtel commissioned its first long-format Australian drama series, Crash Palace. The company also announced co-productions of McLeod’s Daughters with the Nine Network, Headstart with the ABC, and Beauty and the Beast with Network Ten. And in September 2011, subscription television offered unprecedented around-the-clock coverage of the dramatic terrorist attacks in the United States, drawing huge audiences to Sky News, CNN, Fox News and BBC Worldwide News.
Six years after the advent of subscription television, Australians may have been watching in large numbers, but the industry was economically unsustainable. Free-to-air networks had begun to broadcast multiple channels, increasing the competitive threat to the nascent subscription industry. By the end of 2001 the industry was awash with red ink, but a turnaround was about to begin under the leadership of incoming Foxtel CEO Kim Williams.