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The Age

Handful of households switch on to cable

Date: 19/09/1995
Words: 410
          Publication: The Age
Page: 6
At seven o'clock tonight, a handful of families in Melbourne and Sydney will switch on their Optus Vision cable TV services and get the first hint of why Optus Vision and Telstra are betting $7 billion on the cabling of Australia.

Earlier, a cast of luminaries, including the Communications Minister, Mr Lee, Australia's richest man, Mr Kerry Packer, his son, James, and the 60 Minutes presenter Ms Jana Wendt are to gather at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Sydney's Circular Quay to toast the service as it is switched on.

But it is the response of the households that have forked out $30 for their connection and $25-$40 a month for the service that will determine whether Optus Vision's $3 billion gamble pays off. What will they tell their friends?

The Optus Vision service that comes down the cable tonight will be an incomplete one.

The cut-price local telephone service, which Optus Vision expects to provide about half its revenue after 10 years, will not be available until early next year.

Optus Vision's ``12-channel service" will include four movie channels (one of them repeated on time delay), two sports channels, Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network and CNN international news, Country Music Television, an education channel (Horizon Learning), a 24-hour weather channel and an electronic program guide.

It has the edge in sports, with domestic sports such as AFL, Sheffield Shield, domestic cricket internationals, Rugby Union tests and official Rugby League on Sports Australia, and the world's biggest sports networks, ESPN, for international sports such as English Premier League soccer, NFL football, major league baseball and NBA basketball.

But its rival, Foxtel, a partnership of Telstra and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp that launches more than 20 channels on 23 October, has a slight edge in movie programming, with its Showtime premium and Encore classics movie channels, plus TNT and SBS's World Movie Channel.

And in general entertainment, Optus Vision is hardly showing the flag, while Foxtel lines up Red (a locally produced music channel), Arena and TV1 (general entertainment), Max (children's) and FOX and fX! (Fox shows like The Simpsons, Baywatch, Melrose Place, plus News's rebel Super League and Super Union rugby).

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