In addition to its four radio channels, the ORF operates two generalist television channels and two special-interest channels, in line with its legal mission. Its headquarters are located in Vienna. In all other eight provinces the ORF runs a regional studio to produce content for radio and television.
In 2001, the Austrian parliament adopted a new law on private television in Austria together with a revision of the law governing the ORF. Since then, private operators are eligible for licenses at a national, regional and local level. In 2003, the only national terrestrial television frequency for private broadcasters was granted to ATV, a private broadcaster based in Vienna and controlled by several banks in Austria along with the German film trader Herbert Kloiber. A variety of small broadcasters were granted terrestrial and cable licences at the regional and local level. The largest among them is Puls4 in Vienna, which was acquired by the German ProSiebenSat.1 group in 2007. Two years later, in 2009, the Austrian owner of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, acquired a small regional television station in Salzburg and rebranded it as ServusTV, which is distributed in Austrian, Swiss and German cable networks.
These Austrian television channels compete with other German-language channels redistributed in Austria by the cable networks or via satellite. Foreign channels dominate the television viewing market. In 2015, some 59 percent of all television viewing was dedicated to foreign programmes. The market share of all ORF television programmes decreased from 54 percent in 2002 to 42 percent in 2008 and 33 percent in 2015. The private national channels are much smaller: Puls4 reached a market share of 3 percent in 2015, ATV 2.7 percent and ServusTV 1,7 percent. The most popular foreign television channels were ProSieben and RTL (5 percent each), and SAT.1 (4.6 percent), all from Germany.
The task of the digital switchover was officially launched by the Federal Law on Private Television (2001), which established the Digital Platform Austria, governed by the radio and television regulatory authority. This platform has elaborated a multiannual concept to manage the digital switchover. One strategic key element was the creation of a Fund for Digitalisation financed by parts of the revenue from radio and television licence fees .
This fund received €7.5m in 2004 and some €6.7m annually thereafter to support projects and research in digital television and radio. The establishment of the necessary technical infrastructure for terrestrial digital television (DVB-T) has progressed rapidly. In 2005, the technical operations were separated from the ORF’s programme activities and relocated to a company named ORS (100 percent ORF-owned). The first ORS multiplex covered 91 percent of Austria with the DVB-T signal. Another multiplex is in place to cover urban areas and a third multiplex is designed for local areas. By the end of 2015, some 91 percent of all television households used digital receiving equipment.