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The Sydney Morning Herald

Launch of pay TV like old times for Ron Casey

Date: 27/01/1995
Words: 473
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Page: 3
Pay TV officially arrived in Australia yesterday, and the face to launch a million TV decoders was that of the veteran Melbourne broadcaster Ron Casey - who was also the first sports presenter to appear on Australian television in 1956.

The launch of Galaxy TV's Premier Sports Network, a round-the-clock sports channel which before its 4 pm launch was transmitting bikini-clad Baywatch types thumping volleyballs around a beach, was a Melbourne and Sydney affair.

At the network's Pyrmont studio, cricketer Dean Jones had other things on his mind than today's Shield match at the SCG. "Have all the good ties been pinched?" he complained, sitting with co-presenters John Casey (no relation to Ron), former footballer Ben Elias and former Olympic gymnast Ann-Maree Kerr.

Andy Paschalidis, a former SBS sports presenter now with Premier Sports Network, was in public holiday mode. Padding about in thongs and jeans, he made his way through the cramped studio. "All the best," he said, shaking hands. "Howdy doody, history in the making." Out in the corridor, golfer Ian Stanley rehearsed. "We are going live to the thriller in Manila," he said, waiting for his 5.30 pm debut with a live cross to the Johnnie Walker Classic in the Philippines.

Both Stanley and Jones will commute from Victoria to Sydney. Stanley, who is looking forward to his new role, said: "I'm at the part of my career now where my golf is going down, and there's a few years until I turn 50 and can go on the seniors circuit." Ben Elias bubbles about the job that's allowed him to stay in sport. As far as he can work out, he's the only presenter on the network who lives in an area which can receive the Microwave Distribution System on which Galaxy presently relies.

The English rugby league, he reckons, is not up to the standard of the Aussie game - but it's more entertaining. "They're prepared to throw the ball around, they're innovative in their own territory, they have a rugby union element where they never say die with the ball," he said.

But what he really wants - and it is in the lap of management - is to host a football show which includes codes from both sides of the Victorian-NSW border.

Ann-Maree Kerr, the only woman among the station's 10 presenters, has moved to Sydney from Victoria, where she worked on regional television after finishing her gymnastic career.

Premier Sports Network will not say how many subscribers have signed up, but besides the sports channel, viewers also have immediate access to a business news channel from the American NBC network which covers the Asian, European and US scene.

During the next two months a music, adventure/documentary, children/family and two movie channels will go to air. Subscribers pay a $299 installation fee and a monthly charge of $49.95.

When Channel 9 went to air in 1956, only 3,000 homes had TV sets. Galaxy and the other pay TV operators hope that Australians will embrace the new technology as quickly as they did the TV set, video recorder and mobile phone.

A News Corporation and Telecom pay TV venture is due to start in June, and initially will offer about 12 channels.

Optus Vision, a venture between Optus Communications, Mr Kerry Packer and a United States cable company, is expected to start towards year's end.

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