Momentum gathers: 1998-99

By the late 1990s nearly four million Australians were watching subscription television on more than 30 channels including the newly launched History channel.  Ratings data showed for the first time that 46% of viewing in subscription homes was of subscription channels, a level considered high by world standards.

The maturing of the sector was accompanied by platform consolidation, with Foxtel acquiring subscribers from Galaxy and Austar buying East Coast Television.  At the same time advances in technology enabled Foxtel to reach new customers with the launch a satellite service.

The young industry now employed 3500 Australians with an average age of just 25 years.

In 1999 the Government made a one-off exception to the anti-siphoning regime to allow Fox Sports to broadcast the Australia-West Indies cricket tour live, providing Australians with live coverage of fixtures for the first time.  As the decade closed ASTRA lobbied for the removal of other free-to-air television privileges, as well as stronger laws against theft of subscription television signals.  

In November 1999 Optus Television’s Mike Lattin took the reigns from Austar chief John Porter as chairman of the industry body.