News Corp Australia chief executive Peter Tonagh has been appointed CEO of the media group’s 50 per cent-owned pay-tv subsidiary Foxtel, replacing Richard Freudenstein.
Mr Tonagh was chief operating officer at Foxtel before joining News four years ago.
The publishing company’s management team will be led by News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller.
Mr Freudenstein is leaving Foxtel to pursue other interests, but will remain on the board of REA Group, the operator of realestate.com.au.
The move sparked speculation of a possible sale by Telstra of some or all of its 50 per cent stake in the pay-tv company, or a full or partial float.
A Telstra spokesperson made no comment. “We don’t comment on speculation other than to say that Foxtel is a strategic investment asset for Telstra,” they said.
Mr Tonagh said in a message to staff that he was honoured and excited to be given the opportunity to return to Foxtel. “It’s a business that I know and love, and one which represents a critical and very significant part of our News Corp portfolio,” he said.
“I am immensely proud of what we have achieved within the publishing business over the past several years.
“We have a clear sense of vision and direction, strong alignment around that vision, and a clear set of initiatives in place to deliver on it.
“We have an unassailable position as the best creator and aggregator of news content in Australia and we continue to see record levels of engagement with over 85 per cent of Australia’s adult population.”
It is expected Mr Freudenstein will remain at Foxtel until April to work through a handover to Mr Tonagh.
Under Mr Freudenstein’s leadership, Foxtel launched a number of initiatives, including the video streaming service Presto with Seven West Media, Foxtel Go and the repackaging of Foxtel’s content and price structure in preparation for a marketing duel with Netflix and other streaming services
In its recent first-half results, Foxtel announced a 5.5 per cent jump in revenue to $1.66 billion, driven by solid subscriber growth – 8.1 per cent for the six months ended December 31. Churn fell from 11.4 per cent to 10.2 per cent.
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