Telstra chief wants to plug into more of the media

LUCY BATTERSBY AND KIRSTY SIMPSON
Last updated 14:56 10/07/2012

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Rick Ellis, Telstra's new media chief, has outlined plans to overhaul the company's approach on content to build a stand-alone media company that would eventually spread beyond the telco's fixed and mobile networks.

Six months after assuming the role of Telstra's managing director of digital media, the former head of TVNZ is midway through restructuring the telco's media arm, introducing a new management team and overhauling Sensis from its print past to a digital business.

"We are changing the [digital media] model from a telco model, which is largely one where content and ... investment is justified on the basis of the pull-through benefits of market-share shift and churn reduction to actually positioning that business to a profit-and-loss business in its own right ... We are changing to a media company approach where we are focused on viewers, users, audiences."

And while the group is still examining what new content it will provide, it expects to make a decision "before we go into the summer break". Ellis said he hoped to "have made some acquisition and commissioning decisions" by then.

Telstra Media absorbed the Sensis directories business last year. It also holds the company's half-share in pay TV company Foxtel and Telstra's IPTV and media unit. It has about A$2.5 billion ($3.2 billion) in revenue and employs about 4700 staff.

While Ellis would not comment on whether Telstra would bid for the online rights to the NRL, he said the AFL had been performing "very well for us in all environments, mobile, online and in IPTV [sold through T-Box]".

Ellis said having a Telstra broadband connection or T-Box would not always be necessary to buy its movie, sport and television products - content might be a stand-alone product one day.

"We would certainly be looking very seriously about how we could broaden our distribution beyond a Telstra connection," he said. "That is the way the world is going. Just about every TV these days has an [internet] connection."

He said he expected to announce a new chief executive of Sensis within a month, after the departure of Bruce Akhurst in March.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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