Subscription TV ad revenue grew by almost 4% in the second half of last year, driven by interactive programming according to the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA).

Compiled by Ernst & Young, the report found net advertising revenue of $213 million for the period 1 July to 31 December 2011, with ad revenue for the full calendar year from January to December 2011 at $393 million.

In comparison, free TV raked in $3.6 billion in ad spend during 2011, according to figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

ASTRA’s CEO Petra Buchanan says subscription TV enables advertisers to target relevant audiences and deliver engaging communication via interactive tools.

“Greater premium quality content and a strong commitment to innovation enable STV to continue to satisfy consumer demand and evolve with viewing habits,” Buchanan says.

“Despite current economic conditions and continued caution in the market, the STV industry continues to attract increased advertising expenditure, up 3.75% from 2010 to 2011.”

Subscription TV reaches over seven million people on a weekly basis, with 200 genre specific channels ranging from documentary to lifestyle to sport.

FOXTEL subscription revenue increased 5.1% revenues for the six months to 31 December 2011 “reflecting solid improvements in the take-up of FOXTEL products by FOXTEL customers including FOXTEL’s iQ, multiroom and high definition digital offerings”, according an announcement.

The pay TV provider’s direct subscriber base now totals 1.58 million households.