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?