The Pay-TV sector invested more than $578 million into Australian content last year, an Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) study shows.

This is an increase of 7 per cent on 2009’s investment of $541.4 million across all genres, including light entertainment, drama, films, children’s programming, music, news, sport, documentaries and lifestyle.

“The 7 per cent increase in Australian content investment by subscription television demonstrates an industry commitment to growth, providing opportunity, employment and satisfying Australian consumer demand for local programs,” ASTRA’s chief executive, Petra Buchanan, said in a statement.

Foxtel and Austar subscription TV platforms are received by 34 per cent of Australians through their homes and more than one million through hotels, clubs and other entertainment/business venues.

The study also revealed that the pay-TV sector employed 7410 people, noting a 6 per cent increase in people directly employed by STV platforms and channels (4920 in 2010 from 4643 in 2009).

The sector is about to receive a shakeup with Austar and Foxtel expected to merge either late-2011 or early-2012. The Australian Competition Consumer Commission is still currently assessing the “competition implications” of the transaction, according to a statement by Foxtel yesterday on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). The Foreign Investment Review Board has extended its review period of the proposed transaction by a further 90 days in light of this.

The ACCC has previously raised concerns about the proposal, saying the merger between the subscription TV providers would give Telstra an unfair advantage in the telecommunications market while increasing the barrier to entry for prospective competitors.

“Austar remains committed to bringing the transaction with Foxtel to a successful close as soon as possible and will continue to cooperate fully with all relevant government authorities and regulators,” the company said yesterday.

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