A conversation with...
Deanne Weir, Former Group Director, Corporate Development, AUSTAR
As the industry embarks on the transition resulting from the FOXTEL-AUSTAR merger, ASTRA talks with Deanne Weir about past innovations and hopes for the future national subscription TV company FOXTEL.
Deanne joined AUSTAR in 2002 and was responsible for Corporate and Product Strategy, Programming, Corporate Affairs, Growth Initiatives, and Legal Affairs, including acting as General Counsel and Company Secretary. Deanne announced her departure from AUSTAR in April saying “the timing is right to explore new avenues.” Deanne was a member of the ASTRA Board (link to Board page) and her departure is just one of the changes for the Board which welcomed new members in June. Here Deanne reflects on her time at AUSTAR and AUSTAR’s impact on the industry.
Watch: The AUSTAR Way
you reflect on the evolution of AUSTAR, what were some of the early milestones
and more recent catalysts that led to the merger?
AUSTAR began life in the mid 90's and rode the wave of the dotcom boom, only to have to recut its business dramatically in light of the dotcom crash. The challenges of 2001 and 2002 were a true reality check, that if you wanted to be a business dedicated to servicing regional Australia, you needed to accept some of the realities that go with the vast geography and lack of scale in that market. This led us to focus on simplifying our business and building very strong industry partnerships with our channel providers, our installers, and of course FOXTEL. The AUSTAR - FOXTEL merger is really the next logical step in that progression, one that will create a great media company and deliver lots of advantages to consumers.
AUSTAR was a pioneer for many of the technologies which have contributed to industry innovation, can you tell us about those that have had the most impact?
We were the first to deliver digital satellite television services, so as early as 2001 we were delivering interactive services such as a local weather service, interactive banking, T-mail, sports information, news and games. The re-launch of our digital service in 2004 saw us partner with FOXTEL to take many such services to their next level. Perhaps the most impactful of our technological developments was the MyStar, which was a world first personal digital recorder that incorporated digital free-to-air tuners with the satellite tuners. This was critical for regional audiences, as there was no practical way that the various local free-to-air signals could all go up on the satellite. The MyStar meant that regional customers could have the best of both the subscription and the FTA worlds, and that they could apply all of the MyStar functionality to their FTA channels. Customers don't really care about the difference between FTA and subscription channels, it is all TV to them, so giving them the MyStar convenience across all of their favourite channels was critical.
How would you sum up “the AUSTAR way?”
Many companies try and sum up their culture in a shorthand way, I think 'the AUSTAR Way' is one of the most successful examples of this. Our vision was to be the favourite provider of entertainment and communications for regional Australians, and the message of the AUSTAR way was that regardless of their role in the company, any person could contribute to achieving that vision in a meaningful way if their behaviour reflected our culture. It was all about giving our staff a roadmap to create lasting relationships with customers and other staff, so that we would be able to say 'AUSTAR gets it right.'
We do what we say: We look for ways to improve: We
take responsibility as if it were our own business: We challenge and respect
each other: We act as one voice
Do you have any advice to offer FOXTEL teams as they move to absorb regional customers?
I have no doubt that everyone at the new FOXTEL, whether they are from FOXTEL or AUSTAR, will be embracing the opportunity that a national platform delivers to provide even better services to all subscribers. Regional customers have a great deal in common with their metropolitan cousins, but they also want their interests and challenges considered. Despite not having regional offices for many years, AUSTAR was able to achieve a real connection with many of its communities through programs such as AUSTAR for Schools, and through extensive work with regional radio stations and local newspapers, and I think it will be very important to keep up that kind of community contact.
Over your ten year tenure, what would you say was your biggest moment at AUSTAR?
I really don't think that I could pick just one, I have so many fantastic memories of so many great people. From a customer perspective, launching the MyStar was a great day, as was the re-launch of AUSTAR Digital in 2004, customers absolutely loved it; but my personal favourite was the launch of showcase. From a strategic perspective, there are 3 deals that stick out, our 2002 deal with FOXTEL and Optus which allowed us to recalibrate our business, then the sale of our spectrum licences to NBN Co. for $120m, and finally of course, the sale to FOXTEL.
Can you share your plans for the immediate future?
An exciting new life awaits! In addition to watching lots of FOXTEL, I am going to focus on a number of board roles in media related businesses, including Ai-Media, Screen Australia and Girlosophy.
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