Foxtel confirms closure of Channel [V]

With a number of current and past On-Air and programming radio talents involved with  Channel [V], Foxtel has confirmed it will close its 21-year-old music platform on Friday.

A Foxtel spokesperson said: “We are making some changes to our music channels on Foxtel. Starting from this Saturday, February 27 you will begin to see some changes to Channel [V]. Following on from that, from March 25 we will no longer use the Channel [V] brand, which will change to V Hits and V Hits +2. V Hits features a line-up of music videos and countdowns, including the latest hits from Australia and around the world.”

The media company’s Executive Director of Television, Brian Walsh and Head of Channels & Operations for the Foxtel Networks, Stephen Baldwin sent an all-office email to its staff last night.

The email, leaked by Pedestrian, cites the “competitive landscape” as a reason behind the closure, and the ubiquity of “services like YouTube”, which continue to apply pressure to the traditional music television model.

“Over the past several years music clips have become ubiquitous with availability on services like YouTube, whilst linear broadcast audiences for music channels have been in steady decline,” reads the email. “In order to run the Foxtel music services more efficiently we have decided to merge Channel [V] and [V] Hits.”

The pair also hinted at staff cuts with the closing sentiment: “I would also like to thank those team members leaving us today. You leave with our best wishes for your onward journey.”

Speaking to TMN, past presenter and current Triple M presenter Jane Gazzo said she was made aware of Foxtel’s decision last night.

“It was shocking but not surprising. I kind of heard that the leadership at Channel [V] hadn’t been great over the last 18 months and the direction was going all over the place as far as the brand was concerned.”

Gazzo said although she was concerned about her former colleagues, she didn’t think the channel’s shuttering would happen so soon.

“I feel really awful for a lot of my work colleagues because they’re such a talented bunch. The wonderful thing about working at Channel [V] when I was there was that we made incredible music television that cost next to nothing, we managed to make some incredible stuff with no money […] if there’s anything that can be taken from it is that these all these wonderful creatives now that in North Ryde and can go freelance and go into other avenues.”

Channel [V] launched the careers of past presenters Yumi Stynes, Fuzzy, Andrew G (now Osher Gunsburg) and James Mathison. But while its hosts form part of the channel’s legacy, its fans and groundbreaking content will place it at the forefront of youth broadcasting’s most exciting epoch.

“In 2007 we did Live Earth for the global warming situation that happened,” said Gazzo. “We did the Sound Relief concert for the fire and flood victims – Coldplay played and Midnight Oil got back together – we did countless ARIA Awards, countless Homebakes and Big Day Outs… There’s just so many legacies that this channel leaves behind.”

TMN reached out to past Channel [V] presenter Osher Günsberg, who said:

“I owe my career to Channel [V], a platform that celebrated Australian music and the fans that keep the industry alive. It must have been a hard call for management, my thoughts are with the team there – but I know that having worked there myself – every employee is now over qualified for their next job in television.”

Longtime Channel [V] presenter Danny Clayton, who started out doing photography for the channel as a 16-year-old, confirmed the news on Twitter, prior to media reports.

In a statement to TMN, Clayton said: “Channel [V] has been a huge part of my life and I will always look back on it fondly. You will still see me on Foxtel doing interviews with asorted musicans/actors and celebrities.

“Channel [V] will be remembered as a friend of the festivals and the bands. Most importantly, it documented a generation of Australian live music.”

In December last year, [V] Hits was the leading music channel on Foxtel, Max was second and MTV Music and Channel [V] were a joint third.

While the channel’s closure sees Foxtel cut costs on production, marketing and talent, it’s yet to announce plans for its other music channels CMC, Max and Smooth.

Foxtel’s two owned-and-operated channels that currently seem the most ‘safe’ are the company’s joint venture with Nova, Smooth, and its country music channel (CMC). The CMC Music Awards next month are close to selling out and its sister event CMC Rocks completely sold out with 13,500 tickets sold.

As TMN reported last year, ratings for Channel [V] were at their worst in 2015. Its total audience figures were down 28% between May and November last year, compared to the same period last year (Source: OzTAM).

The obvious shift in how music fans are consuming video has brought the longterm security of Foxtel’s music channels into question. Social media is the main driver for Foxtel channel MTV with 3.3m social media connections in Australia alone.

In an interview with TMN, Vice President, Head of MTV & Comedy Central ANZ Simon Bates discussed the shift in behaviour in how we consume audio and video.

“There’s no doubt music videos are really popular on YouTube, every year some of the most popular videos watched are music videos,” Bates said. “I think if you hear that Adele’s new video is out, you’re less likely to turn on Channel [V] or MTV and wait for us to play it […] you’re going to just search for it and watch it.”

Bates told TMN Foxtel’s announcement does not impact MTV’s channels.

“We tip our hat to the people at Channel [V] for their contribution in making Australian music television vibrant, exciting and ground breaking for over 20 years. Change is never easy, but it always fosters creativity. The changes announced by Foxtel today do not impact MTV, MTV Music or MTV Dance.  All three will continue to be available in every Foxtel home.”

The news follows TMN’s exclusive announcement last November that a dispute between Foxtel and the world’s leading record label, Universal Music, meant no Universal artists were being played on the media company’s five music channels. With the new format being rolled out over the next few weeks, the dispute between Universal and Foxtel will most likely continue to affect programming.

Read more in The Music Network here.

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