ABC managing director Mark Scott says it is likely some of the network’s secondary television stations will eventually only be available online as part of a long-term plan to cut costs.
If implemented, the move would mirror the BBC, which announced it would stop broadcasting its BBC 3 channel by mid-2015 and stream the content via its on-demand internet player.
Mr Scott said a similar plan to move content to its iView Player would need to be considered, however no definitive timeline had been set.
“Between SBS and the ABC we spend about $100 million a year beaming the signals from the top of Mount Coot-tha to your home and to do that all around the country, that’s a very big cost,” he said at an Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Brisbane on Thursday.
“One of the questions at some time in the future will be, 'can savings be made by turning off some of those services and delivering that content in other ways?' The big question is when.
“Would you bet that within 13 years that some of that switch would happen? I think you probably could.”
Mr Scott said about 18 million programs were watched on its online iView service each month.
Earlier this year the BBC announced its plan to shift its youth-focused BBC 3 channel online, a move that would save the public broadcaster about $91 million each year.
The ABC currently has four local digital television stations, including a 24-hour news channel launched in 2010.
Following last week’s budget announcement that $120 million would be cut from the ABC over the next four years, Mr Scott said management was yet to determine the number of redundancies or if Australian regional bureaus would close.
Mr Scott said the biggest impact would be felt by staff in the ABC’s Melbourne Asia-Pacific news centre, following the government’s decision to cut all funding to the Australia Network.
Mr Scott said the ABC had previously used efficiencies it found to create new content and options for viewers, such as its iView player and the ABC News 24 station.
“If we don’t have money to re-invest we’ll be diminished. We’ll be smaller. We won’t be able to innovate the way we’ve innovated, we won’t be able to create new services,” he said.