Should TVNZ 6 and 7 be available on Sky and not just Freeview?

Yesterday’s Dominion Post reports that there are currently no plans for TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7 to be made available on Sky and no plans for Prime to be available on Freeview.

Bloggers such as David Farrar at Kiwiblog and Gary at Geekzone are complaining that it’s inconvenient to have to buy and use a separate box just to get TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7 when they (and over half the country’s households) already have Sky. They believe TVNZ should be “slightly more appreciative towards Sky” and feel this decision “screws” over the public.

I asked Eric Kearley, General Manager of Digital Services at TVNZ to respond and to explain their perspective on the issue. We met him for the first time on Saturday night at the excellent Great Blend and had a great talk.

He says he’d love for TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7 to be made available via Sky, but there’s a good reason why they won’t be in the short term:

“Until there is a mechanism which ensures some of the value Sky generates through tax payer funded local content is re-invested into such content, it would be suicidal for TVNZ.

The simplest answer here is: why should the New Zealander taxpayer subsidise Murdochs profits?

Over 50% of viewing on Sky is to Free to air channels. It would be commercially impossible for Sky to exist without including these free to air channels in their packages and then charging hefty subscription fees for the whole package.

Through doing so Sky generates revenues only slightly smaller than the whole free to air industry.

Other channels in these packages – foreign ones – get paid millions for allowing Sky to bundle their channels with others and charge.

But Sky does not generally pay domestic channels, and definitely not free to air ones.

So you have a situation in which:

  • The New Zealand taxpayer funds local content on free to air channels
  • This local content is the most viewed on the most viewed channels on Sky and generates enormous value for Sky.
  • This value if transported to Murdoch or invested in foreign channels which makes it harder for the NZ free to air channels to survive.”

It’s interesting to me – as an outsider – that Sky pays large sums of money for some channels but not for free to air channels (as odd as that sounds).

While it’s a pain in the butt for consumers having to get another box if you want these channels even if they have Sky, I can also see TVNZ’s point of view on this. Is this the sort of situation where the government needs to step in? Do you think Sky should re-invest into local content? How is this handled in other countries?

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Co-founder of Throng. Favourite TV shows recently: Homeland and The Newsroom.
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  • Darren Sharpe

    So what you are saying is people who have Sky don’t pay tax? If not, then why Should I not get these channels, when I already paid for a Digital decoder from Sky?

  • Nehpets

    Lucky you being able to buy the decoder from Sky. A few years ago, when I got sick of snakes and crocodiles on Animal Planet, and all of the never ending repeats on the other Sky channels, I asked Sky if I could buy the box to view the free-to-air channels – I found that the majority of my tv viewing was on them anyway. They said no, so I cancelled Sky.

    I ended up getting a set-top box to view the free channels. It was a pity to miss out on Prime, but it went really down hill after Channel 9 (or whichever ozzie company) bought them out. It has got even worse now Sky runs it, so I’m probably not missing anything.

    I am looking forward to the new channels on Freeview, and they, so far, appear better than I had expected. Perhaps Sky could also offer some of its subscription channels on FreeView for free? I would put up with the poor programming then.

  • Tui

    I didn’t think Sky sold their boxes?

  • bobscoffee

    darren sharpe its simple. it’s because you bought a sky digital decoder.

  • reece_555

    i didnt think you could own a sky box according to the book they own all equipment provided to you and they must be returned when subscription is cancelled.

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, I never said I own the box, But I have a Mysky decoder for which you have to pay for, also once again, I am a tax payer and so part own TVNZ, The channels are advert free so they are being paid from charter funding, my tax Dollars. So I should have a right to that content, from which ever medium I choose, not just from a FreeView box at a cost of $200+. Being from the UK, from my experience Digital TV’s will be sold soon and then it does not matter, well at least for the 70% of us lucky to live in towns. it is a content issue, I, as all tax payers own that content.

  • nanisnap

    I agree with Darren Sharpe. As tax payers we have paid for the content TVNZ is putting on these new channels, therefore we should be able to see it from any medium we choose: Freeview, SKY, online, mobile. This is why Australia’s state-funded ABC network offers its shows for free over broadcast, digital, pay TV and online. It’s not how you receive it, it’s what you’re receiving.

    Because taxpayers pay for it they should be able to watch it.

    Whenever, however they want to.

  • Rachel

    You’re right, but should Sky pay for the rights to have it on their box?

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, I do not understand the Sky vs FreeView involvement, Sky is a commercial content provider and FreeView is a tax payer funded and commercial content provider. Although everyone forgets we are all part owners via a our income tax in TVNZ

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, No because TVNZ is Government owned, as well as Kordia for that matter. May I add everyone keeps mixing TVNZ, TV3 and C4 etc. with FreeView. FreeView is just the consortium, not the end user product. being Tax funded TVNZ, it has to comply with the charter and I am sure, that I and the other 700000 of us Sky customers are not excluded in the charter.

  • stanley

    Darren, you’re not excluded from watching any of the TVNZ programming on the Freeview platform.. You have just as much ability to watch it as the next tax-payer in the street. You have to do the same thing that every other tax payer has to do – purchase you own Freeview-compatible set-top box. Your choice to pay a monthly subscription to another content provider – in this case Sky – in no way impinges on your ability to watch Freeview like everyone else.

    As I understand it, the majority of content on the new TVNZ Freeview channels will not be new. Most programming will be made up of old series, and re-broadcasts of existing TVNZ shows. Very little of the Govt-supplied finances will go on content. It could be argued that this is not a good thing, and I agree. But it is wrong to suggest that the tax-payer has some right to watch channels 6 and 7 on a competitors channel. Why should TVNZ provide more free content to a foreign-owned company? Or the opposite – why shouldn’t TVNZ give it’s content to TV3 to play on their terrestrial FTA channel?

    TVNZ’s commitment to Freeview as a delivery platform will not be enhanced by offering the exact same content to it’s competitor.

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, I’m sorry but once again it is being confused, FreeView is a means of providing content for which I as a tax payer, as all tax payers are subsidising, I have a digibox capable of receiving all transmissions, just that TVNZ has decided it is now a commercial arm of decoder companies. TVNZ does not own FreeView it is just a partner and as such you have to detach the two, I have already paid via tax for TVNZ to by content, being the fact they made a loss, also yes they will be showing a lot of old reruns, for which all tax payers before me paid for. if TVNZ own the digibox companies I could see a point of view, I would still have the same thoughts on the matter but at least they would have an argument. This is why the SOE model does not work because you cannot run a state broadcaster but call it commercial. I own part of the company, I own a DVB-S capable digibox and I am included in the charter. I Guess alot of you have not thought about this but what if TVNZ decides it will not let its broacasts through a certain TV manufacurer with a built in DVB-T? they can’t so why not a Sky digibox.

  • stanley

    That’s the thing Darren. As a taxpayer, you did not pay for a lot of what will play on TVNZ’s Freeview channels. That programming was largely paid for by you as a consumer – that is, the content was made with revenue earned by advertising, not provided by the Government.

  • regan

    For me, there are two main issues. Firstly, should Sky pay a royalty for broadcasting any of the freeview channels? And secondly, which probably overrides the first is TVNZ’s new strategy about inspiring on every screen.

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, so the $79m provided by the government to help TVNZ to advance it’s digital stategy, was not paid from tax payers funds?

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, Also I must apologise I though I read that NZ had a TVNZ Licence Fee, my mistake, then if all funding came only from commercials from day one then I suppose TVNZ does own all content through self funding. This admission still does not change my opinion though.

  • Nehpets

    TVNZ is a Crown Owned Company, but is not Government funded. From my limited understanding, it is essentially supposed to run on its own two feet through advertising revenue. However, where the Government has imposed obligations on TVNZ through its charter (such as no advertising during children’s tv or such like), then the Government will fund such activity through NZ on Air.

    There has never been a TVNZ licence fee, although a few years back there was a licence fee on televisions used to fund the Symphony Orchestra, National and Concert Radio, and various television programmes.The fee was abolished in 1999, as no one paid it anyway.

    NZ on Air is funded through general taxation, and is used as a subsidy to provide NZ content on all national free to air channels when it would otherwise be uneconomic. For instance, NZ on Air have made decisions to fund Prime many millions of dollars for such series as Paradise ($1,083,000), Out of the Question ($842,175), Captain Cook: Obsession & Betrayal in the New World ($1,000,000), and Interrogation ($2,938,300), amongst others, even though the only way to receive this channel nationally is through a subscription service like Sky (as Sky have refused to allow Prime to be broadcast on Freeview).

    I guess if you are a Sky subscriber, then TVNZ6 will not be missed amongst the 100 or so channels you get, and some of the content is material already screened via Sky (on One or Two) anyway. So what is the fuss?

  • Blondie

    I think those channels should be made available on Sky.

  • Tui

    No, they shouldn’t. Freeview needs something exclusive – so there is more of a reason to get it.

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, Just to make the point as simple as possibe from my personnel view, people here seem to be more worried about the carrier than the content, Freeview is just a means of delivering the content, as is Sky, all I want is the content I part own via a shareholding in the Government, SOE or Crown Owned Company which ever term suits. from which ever angle you look at it, TVNZ is. All I want, is the content that I am entitled too via the charter funding, for free. Freeview should be free, not $250+ from Dick Smiths. I own a Digibox able to decode ‘Freeview’. So I should be able to receive it for free.

  • campgrrls

    Freeview isn’t just a platform to receive TVNZ channels, it includes other free to air channels like TV3. It’s as free as free-to-air TV always has been – we always have had to buy the hardware (ie a TV set). Eventually when we buy a new TV, it will be a digital one that will receive all FTA digital channels. In the mean time we need to buy a conversion box we can watch digital TV on our analogue TVs.

  • Nehpets

    The Government owns Air New Zealand. I’d prefer they give me free airfares than give Murdoch more channels to make a profit on. Oh, and Dick Smith has official Freeview boxes for under $200 😉

    Hmm, if TV3 broadcasts some extra channels on its other channel spaces on Freeview, but does not allow it on Sky, you would not be so concerned? TV3 receives a large pool of Government funding also (even more than Sky’s Prime).

    What if they were simulcast on the Internet? Would that be a good compromise?

    TVNZ is Government owned, but over 90% funded through adverts. The charter funding was around $15 million (is that 5 weeks of Shortland Street?). TVNZ has made the first loss in its history last year, and previously was returning a dividend to the Government.

    While they may be getting heaps more funding for TVNZ6 and 7 to make them advert free (and with the express purpose of helping to establish Freeview), why should that be used to prop up Sky’s profits? Why doesn’t Sky just make some of its channels advert free and then everyone would be happy? Why all of the fuss about 2 TV channels when Sky has 15 or so other channels in the standard package?

    Why doesn’t Sky just broadcast all of the free-to-air channels unencrypted for all to see? Then perhaps TVNZ might relent, and let them broadcast TVNZ6, although probably with adverts added.

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, for me it is a simple as, FTA should mean FTA not free to those who pay $200 or on a type of digibox when I have already paid $500 for a box that does the same thing. and I do not care if it a $1 or $15m, my tax paid a small portion of that. Sky does not gain any profit from TVNZ infact Sky pays TVNZ for their schedule for the Guide. Free should mean Free, not Free but only on…….

  • Rachel

    Free to air is never 100% free… you’ve still bought a TV. Newer TVs will have Freeview built in.

  • Nehpets

    I think I have a solution. Sky TV broadcasts all of its free-to-air and regional channels (such as Prime, Juice etc) unencrypted to allow reception via FreeView boxes, and Freeview allows all of its channels to be received by Sky subscribers (i.e. TV1, 2, 3, C4, Maori, Maori2, TVNZ6, TVNZ7, Triangle Stratos, TVNZ Sports, TVWorks8, TVWorks9, Parliament TV (yay), ALT TV, VIBE, and possibly TVWorks10 and TVWorks11).

    All they need to do is display a Freeview logo in the bottom left when Freeview is received via a Sky box, and a Sky logo in the bottom left when the free-to-air Sky channels are received on a Freeview box. In addition, when marketing their packages, they list their own channels and then say ‘plus the Freeview/Sky channels of….’

    Then surely everyone would be happy, and it would result in a win-win for everyone.

  • Richard Principal

    [BUZZ] sky, if you can afford sky then you can afford to buy a freeview box, remember sky subscribers you screwed free to air TV dont be such whingers, pay up for a freeview box.

    ……. ummmmmm Rachel you still have to buy a TV even if you only watch sky. so therefor “free to air” is free (to the viewer) “free to air” means the software or entertainment that is free.

  • bobscoffee

    completely agree. why make a big deal about buying a $200 box (which will probably come down over time) when you have to pay $60 a month or whatever it is for Sky?

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, To Richard, no comment, the Air New Zealand angle was a good try, but they do not tell Air New Zealand that they have to make flight’s on a non commercial route, like ‘Afghanistan’ 3 times daily because they feel it is in the countries best interest, like the charter. also TV3 is purely commercial so I have no influence, except when I was shareholder. Take a look at the BBC, it is fully Licence Fee funded, though can sell it’s programming comercially, it has grown since the UK went Digital, in fact some would say it was the best thing to happen to the BBC. They now have 8 TV channels and countless radio stations, when only 6 years ago they had 2 channels and 6 nationwide radio stations. Sky Digital has 400 channels and it has not hurt the FTA channels at all, to make the point BskyB brought a 17% stake in ITV. and guess what all FTA channels are on Sky UK but in the beginning ITV did not and lost Millions in advertising, so joined very soon after. TV has changed and all the old state broadcasters need to as well, yes Freeview has it’s place but as a complinentary system.

  • campgrrls

    Darren, the point is, the digi-box is a short term measure until we all get digital TVs. freeview is as free as free-to-air TV has always been – we’ve always had to buy a TV to watch it. Now we have to buy a digi-box. In the future we will just have to buy a digital TV. But I’ve already said this before. With freeview, once we have the hardware to watch it on, we don’t have to pay a monthly subscription.

    We pay the electrical shop for the freeview digi-box. We don’t pay TVNZ or TV3 for it.

  • Nehpets

    Well, we don’t want a licence fee here. On a population basis, shouldn’t the BBC have 60 channels to be as successful as TVNZ?

    Besides, it is unfair to compare the BBC with TVNZ. TVNZ and the other NZ channels act ethically and do not make up the news, or indeed manipulate game shows to give prizes to relatives of their employees like the BBC.

    BBC charges a licence fee of $385, TVNZ charges a licence fee of $0 (and can’t legally charge for one). In 2006 they paid the Government a dividend of $M85 and received about 30M in Government funding, in 2005 they paid $48M but got $25M, and in 2004 paid $98M, but got 23. Last year they got $33M in funding (of which the Charter funding was $15M for special interest programmes) but paid no dividend (I think). So, after paying the government a dividend since the Charter was introduced, TVNZ has returned more money to the Government than it has received (and of course, has paid tax as well).

    In the years before that they paid a dividend of $3M, $8M, $17M, $136M, $31M, and $21M, but got an average of $12M in contestable government funding.

    So, far from being a drain, over the last 10 years they have paid almost $450M in dividends to the Government, but received only $183M in funding, the majority of which has been contestable between FTA channels. They, of course, like everyone else, have paid taxes to the government as well.

    In other words, your taxes have not contributed at all, and there is no licence fee 😉

    However, they have been granted an additional $79M over the next 6 years for TVNZ6 and 7 (or about $13M per annum).

    Still no net drain though.

  • Nehpets

    Hi Darren – did you get one of those mySky PVR boxes for $500? If you decide to stop getting Sky, can you keep the box. Also, if you have bought the box, is the subscription less? Can you retune the box to pick up other channels or packages?

  • nanisnap

    I fully support TVNZ and the Freeview consortium. But the only issue I have is over content. I think TVNZ should focus on making and delivering content to all of New Zealand to fulfill it’s public broadcasting objetives. TVNZ should be screening on as many screens as possbile so we can see it: analogue screens, digital screens, SKY screens, TelstraClear InHomeTV screens, mobile screens, computer screens.

    TVNZ focus on content. You are a public broadcaster.

    SKY and TVWorks are private companies and so can do what they like with their content. Also as a note: I DO think TVNZ should charge SKY to carry TVNZ6 and 7.

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, Yes I have a Mysky box, though no you do not own them, they are basically on a lifetime warranty/upgrade for the fee included. When the HD MySky comes out as I understand it, I will be upgraded at no cost, then just pay for the HD channels.

  • Nehpets

    By hokey, New Zealand. Well, I guess after looking at the promos I can see why everyone wants it on Sky. Even the repeats look great. Could do without It’s in the Bag, but the rest looks great.

    Jim Mora has been digging in and created a cartoon about Massey Ferguson! Pity it is on too early in the day.

    All sorts of science series, docos, dramas, and repeats. Looks like a cross between TV One, UKTV, Sky Movies 2, Cartoon Network, and the Documentary Channel.

    I am sure sooner or later it will be available on Sky.

  • poipoi

    Fascinating arguments for/against. At the end of the day, for the average person who doesn’t know too much about TV, it should be as easy to get all the channels at once. Switching between Sky and Freeview gets a bit tricky and confusing. Does anyone have any tips?

  • katiekatie

    If TVNZ loses the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games, there will hardly be any sport left on free-to-air (except the basketball on Maori).

  • katiekatie

    Oh, I meant to add: I support TVNZ6 + 7 *NOT* being on Sky.

  • katipo

    Sounds to me like they are both just being petty.

    Put TVNZ6 & TVNZ7 on Sky and put Prime & Vibe (Sky’s new entertainment channel should could have easily been called sky 2) on freeview.

    Sounds like a fair swap to me!

  • jeff

    Its more than pettiness – theres big money involved and when Sky can out-bid TVNZ every time for sporting just because their budget is so much more, theres a real problem. In many countries, pay channels MUST pay free to air channels to provide them on their pay system. Do we want all the money going to Sky and them having all the control and forcing people to get it in order to see any sport, for example?

  • Darren Sharpe

    Hi, That is not strictly true, most countries have a must carry clause, where all free to Air, have to be shown, the only cost is the FTA has to pay to be added to the EPG of the pay tv provider (who own the EPG). It should be the same here, maybe if National gets in it will, as keeping TVNZ vs Sky suits a left wing Government.

  • katipo

    TVNZ’s concern about Sky not having to put revenue back into making local content is understandable. However I would have thought piping TVNZ 6 & 7 through Sky digital as well, would have been commercially sensible. Especially since they both use the same satellite.

    Buying a freeview box gives people the opprtunity to have digital TV without having to pay Sky’s high monthly fees. However, Sky already has over 400,000 subscribers. I would have thought that being able to access that many potential viewers from day one would be very attractive to would-be advertisers on TVNZ 6 & 7.

  • Rachel

    … except there’s going to be no ads on TVNZ 6 & 7.

  • Tui

    …which is fantastic 🙂

  • katipo

    If these two channels are ad free then how come progams (at least on tv6 are the same length as they were on commercial?

    For example:
    It’s in the bag 6:00 – 6:30
    Mercy Peak 9:30 – 10:30 and so on….

    These are commercial length timeslots.

  • Rachel

    Good point. I guess they’ll be promoting their other shows in the breaks???

  • nanisnap

    Just as a side note, I remember hearing that Vibe might be available on Freeview. Is this true or just a rumour?

  • ell

    Probably a rumour as a lot of the shows on vibe are also shown on FTA’s, so doubtful it would happen.

    Regarding the shows starting on the half hor and hour, I remember reading thatthey had commisioned 5 minute clips about NZ things to play between shows.

  • Rachel

    I asked Sky about this rumor a couple of weeks ago at the Vibe launch (because it was also on Wikipedia) and they said it’s definitely not true at all.

  • nanisnap

    Cool thanks Rachel.

  • Tui

    Oh you never told me Rachel :p

  • SKY is Mean


  • Shane

    I think ALL channels labelled “free-to-air” should be available on ALL platforms.

    However I have another solution. As happened with the two cricket tests, some of the best Prime content (like their sports coverage and Doctor Who for example) should be re-aired on Stratos under some sort of “Prime on Stratos” label so that Prime can reach a wider audience and Freeview viewers don’t have to miss out on the best they have to offer.

  • Teki

    It would be nice if they can swap channel for channel, I would like to see juice tv or some other home grown sky channel plus sky both swapped for 6&7. Then both can have appealing packages and allow a choice. Still, I am not sure that you can’t get freeview on a sky decoder, perhaps someone needs to ask an enterprising installer. After all, sky has new boxes and may only need a firmware upload to decode the MPEG4 content. Then all you would need is an extra $60-70 “horn” on your sky dish.

  • openmedia

    Freeview use MPEG2 on the satellite so in theory the Sky STB can support it.

    Also JuiceTV isn’t owned by Sky, it is an independent channel.

    I’d personally love to see Juice TV and Alt TV to both be on freeview, plus if Sky throw in Prime, I’d feel a lot more comfortable about them carrying TVNZ 6 + 7