Petition to get Sky TV to put PRIME on Freeview

Via email today:

“I’m new here, but was advised to sign up by Lars at the Freeviewshop to tell you about my petition to get Sky TV to put Prime on FreeView.

I set up the petition less than 24 hours ago and already well over 100 people have signed it.  I think if we all get behind this, we have a real chance of bending Sky’s ear.

If you think you’d like to support this idea, you are welcome to sign the petition here.

If you’d like to share this with friends and family, the link is

I’m committed to getting support for this any way possible and will personally be seeing this through, even if it means actually knocking on Sky’s door myself.

Best regards,
Bill Ruys.”

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About the author

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

    Up to 349 signatures now.

  • ockel

    At 350 people that makes ~$5,700 per person per year contribution to make it breakeven for Sky to do it (National Business Review have published the incremental costs for Sky to put Prime on Freeview).

    And how many of those 350 people will be reaching into their pocket to make it economically feasible?  I’m gonna guess none – else they’d watch Prime by subscribing to Sky’s satellite service, or tune in their UHF aerial if they had Freeview DTT already…..

  • regan

    What does economically feasible mean?  And why, if it’s a FTA channel should any viewer have to fork out when it’s supposed to be advertiser driven?

    What if that number was 35,000?  350,000?  At what point does Sky say, actually, those numbers could be worth something to an advertiser and therefore our bottom line?

  • ockel

    When the number of viewers translates into advertising dollars then its worth something to the bottom line. Economically feasible means that the return on invested capital exceeds the firms cost of capital for undertaking a risky project.

    Essentially you’re saying that a business should incur an increase in costs because a minority of people (bearing in mind Prime only gets an average audience share of 6% – so thats a minority) want to see it on a platform that a minority (albeit growing) of households receive.  ie build it and they will come?  If we build it then maybe the 90,000 households that do watch will suddenly grow to significantly more to make it worth our while.  Obviously if Sky thought that the business case justified that then it would do so.

    Either those viewers stump up extra cash (I think Sky does this now for its subscription channels) or that business should carry the losses until the advertisers are attracted to the incremental audience or that business waits until Freeview reaches a critical mass and the 6% of Freeview viewers that want to watch Prime are big enough to offset the incremental cost of broadcasting on that platform.

    Why doesnt Kordia offer to carry Prime on Freeview for free?  Why doesnt the Government contribute $$$ to Prime on an equivalent basis that it did for TVNZ and TV3 to launch their channels on Freeview?  How is it that only the broadcaster gets the criticism rather than the other players in the value chain?

    Lets get realistic and either let Sky make its own economically based decisions here or level the playing field and stop subsidising some Freeview participants at the expense of others.

  • regan

    I’m all for it being an economically feasible decision for Sky but what determines that is arguable.

    Perhaps someone could enlighten me but I don’t understand how Te Reo, Cue, CTV8 or Stratos can afford to be on there based on the same arguments Sky has for Prime not being on there.  Combined, do they even scrape together a fraction of the ratings that Prime gets?

    I agree that there needs to be a level playing field but that means bigger changes which goes well beyond this freeview debate.

    The real solution though is for all parties to sit down and sort this out to make it a reality.  It will be beneficial for everyone so those who need to make concessions should just get on with it so that the public can be served!

  • ockel

    None of Te Reo, Cue, CTV or Stratos are HD so we need to contrast an apples with apples. Why would Prime move from UHF SD to Freeview SD?

    Without being on the Freeview platform they cant reach a wide audience without being on a satellite platform (of which Sky will carry the transponder cost but not the linking cost? I seem to recall something like this happens but could be wrong hence AltTV ceasing on Sky?).  Other than Te Reo those channels rely on local UHF spectrum to reach a local audience hence access to homes via Freeview is an easier business case to consider.  If Stratos only reaches Wellington UHF homes (c 10% of total NZ homes) and has say a 1% audience share (say $640,000 revenue) then the cost of going on Freeview and reaching 75% of homes with a 1% audience share (say $4.8m revenue) is somewhat more palatable – providing the cost of linking and transmission (and Freeview fees) is less than the incremental revenue.

    Contrast that to Prime.  It has UHF spectrum and reaches 75% of homes already.  Moving from UHF to Freeview DTT adds no further reach.  And there is no real benefit to viewers unless Prime goes to HD.  So no incremental reach (and hence no additional advertising dollars) but the cost of broadcasting in HD.

  • Purple Tentacle

    I haven’t watched a lick of Prime since getting Freeview about a year ago because I can’t be arsed changing inputs just for the sake of one channel (which has always had terrible reception on UHF). In fact, with my current TV (which has Freeview HD built in) I’m not even sure I can tune in to FTA Prime…

    And I’m sure I’m not the only one in this camp…

  • Rachel

    620 signatures now.

    I wonder how many people get good PRIME TV reception without Sky, even if they’re listed as getting PRIME reception?

  • regan

    75%?  Does that mean three out of four houses has a UHF antenna on the roof though?  And even then, is that signal acceptable viewing?

    Everyone knows that the UHF signal for Prime is generally poor no matter how you phrase the stats.  

    Analog is going to get switched off sooner or later so why keep messing the population around when people are keen to watch it in digital?  As I’ve said before, everyone needs to be made to sit around a table and sort out their issues so that this can happen.

  • openmedia

    I’ve got excellent line of sight to Waiatarua and I’ve never had acceptable prime reception. Even after a number of aerial changes etc it doesn’t come close to the other 4 main channels.

    On UHF I get much better reception of JuiceTV and Maori than Prime.

    I’m still amazed at the levels of poor reception that most Kiwis are happy to put up with.

  • regan

    People live with what they know.  It’s only when people experience what is actually possible that they demand change.  That’s how this whole broadband thing came around wasn’t it?  The former PM was enlightened after experiencing true high speed internet in Korea and decided she wanted that in New Zealand.

  • B-Ruys

    Hey guys, Bill Ruys here, the author of the petition.  According to the FreeView web site, more than 226,000 house holds in NZ now have FreeView.  This number is generated from sales reports, but in talking to people at FreeView, it doesn’t capture data from sources such as TradeMe, so that number could be tens of thousands higher than the official one.  I firmly believe that, given the choice, most of those FreeView users would want Prime.  Imagine if we could get the word out to all of them and tell them that their voices can count!

    My other thought is this…  If we stick with the official numbers and assume there are two people in every household that have disposable income, that means well over half a million kiwi consumers may not be generating revenue for Prime TV’s advertisers.  If I was one of those advertisers, I would be demanding that Prime goes over to FreeView.

    I am hearing from people all over the country who can’t get Prime on UHF (Take the entire far-north of NZ for example).  Do they have to pay Sky for the privilege of watching Prime?  Will they be able to watch the 2012 Olympics?  I hope so.

    We ordinary New Zealanders can and will make this happen – I firmly believe it.

    Bill in Whangarei.

  • ockel

    Bill, can I check that your main issue is that Prime is not on Freeview Sat?

    Prime is available to households outside its UHF footprint via the Sky satellite service for $145 install (ie no ongoing monthly fee) or as part of the FTA broadcast package which is $99 install plus $18/mth (which covers the STB box rental).

    Given where you live, and the poor coverage of Freeview DTT (, I would have thought you should be petitioning the Government to extend Freeview from the “urban” 75% coverage it currently has to reach more of NZ’s households.

    It seems pretty poor that towns as small as Oamaru will get high-speed fibre-based broadband but cant get a decent digital FTA signal.

  • regan

    Hang on a sec… one minute you’re complaining about it costing Sky too much to go on Freeview and the next you’re advocating someone forking out $99 and then another $216 a year to get one channel?  And you wonder why the Freeview option doesn’t sound appealing to a growing number of people.

  • B-Ruys

    Many, many people outside the UHF footprint for Prime are also in poor reception areas for receiving all terrestrial channels.  Sure, Sky will do a “Prime Only Install” for about $150 with no ongoing costs, but they don’t offer a service that allows a consumer to get all the FTA channels without burdening them with a contract that must be paid monthly.

    Therefore, a person in a poor coverage area has only one choice if they want only FTA channels and no ongoing contract to pay – FreeView.

    Now, if they have paid for FreeView to solve the problems of TV1, TV2, TV3, C4 (and got TVNZ 6 & 7 etc as a bonus), why should they have to pay for yet another set top box?

    If Prime is to be free-to-air, it should be on New Zealand’s ONLY fully free-to-air digital broadcast system.  Prime is conspicuous by it’s absence on the FreeView platform.


  • ockel

    Of course you’d realise that it doesnt cost $99 plus $216 for one channel.  It only costs $149 with no ongoing cost.  But good on your detective work.

    Lets go another step.  Why should the Chinese community not be able to get CTV8 except in the UHF footprint?  Surely they should make that available on Freeview Satellite?  No different than Prime.  Or should they be excluded cos the Chinese are only 3% of the population.  Oddly not much more than those that watch Prime.

    And why cant I get Stratos, Cue and Te Reo without having to shell out for a satellite dish?  Shouldnt these channels be on Freeview DTT so I can watch them with my IDTV?  Seems a bit rich that I have to get another device and pay for another install given I’v already paid for my UHF aerial and my DTT box.

  • blinkyoureyes

    i get prime on fta analog and its same quality as my other fta channels. I think all you have to do is just get a antennae professionaly installed (which we did) and it only cost us 75 bucks.

    yes i think prime should be on freeview 🙂

  • Rachel

    1252 signatures now.

  • TuiKiwi

    Wow that’s rocketing.

  • openmedia

    I have a professionally installed aerial, plus we have tried various combinations of signal boosters etc. I get really good picture on One 2 3 and C4 along with Maori and JuiceTV, and Triangle is OK, but Prime is about the worst of the bunch.

    On freeview|HD I get all channels with no reception issues, plus I have freeview over DVB-S with no issues.

    The sooner Prime goes FTA on digital the better.

  • B-Ruys

    @ockel – Any terrestrial broadcast system (including FreeView HD) will have coverage limits and it would be phenomenally expensive to try to cover 99% of the country, because it’s all based on terrain and NZ is not very flat :).  That’s why getting channels onto a free satellite system is important, where terrain problems are mitigated and virtually 100% of citizens have access.

    I’m well aware of the $149 flat rate Prime Only install, but many outside good reception areas have already invested in FreeView for all the other channels.  Another $150 to get one extra channel is a big ask when many of these areas are low socio-economic zones.

  • ockel

    Bill, I understand the cost issues with extending a terrestrial system.  Especially in the UHF bands.  And I applaud your efforts to lobby Sky to put Prime on Freeview.  My issue is that there are cost issues associated with doing this and you’re asking one company to make an uneconomic decision without lobbying the other players in the value chain to do likewise.

    Case in point when you consider the low socio-economic areas of urban Auckland that would like to receive Te-Reo on their iDTV.  But have to spend $150 for a satellite dish and buy a Freeview DTH STB.  Thats a big ask for one extra channel that they cant get on Freeview DTT.  And Te Reo is publically funded.  Thats appalling.

    What happens at DSO?  Those people that are beyond the DTT reach but happily receiving TV1/2/3 on VHF will have to reach into their pockets for a satellite connection too?

    BTW the Prime Only install info was for Regan’s edification.  I know that you’re well informed given you’re discussions previous.  😉


  • James Blackman

    The question is “who pays?”.
    If Government is expected to pay for Prime to transition to Freeview, then why shouldn’t ALSO pay for Cue, Stratos and the other independent broadcasters to be there as well?
    Remember Sky makes huge profits – and to pay, or even subsidise them sets a precedent. And if you set a precedent where do you draw the line?

  • B-Ruys

    Ockel, I’d like to pick up on a couple of points from your last couple of posts.

    You mentioned that Chinese TV is only available on FreeViewHD, I would strongly suspect that if you were to examine the census data, you’d find that the overwhelming majority of Chinese immigrants to NZ have settled in the main centres.  So, in fact, putting Chinese TV on FreeViewHD was actually a smart way to target the bulk of the Chinese population.

    Regarding you comment about Te Reo not being available in FreeViewHD.  Currently a Satellite set top box is quite a bit cheaper than a terrestrial HD box and most houses in Auckland already have dishes.  So if your argument is that people wanting to view Te Reo are in low socio-economic zones, it seems right that the cheaper platform would be the one to use.  Maori TV is currently on both platforms and Te Reo is a “sometimes” channel anyway, so doesn’t have full-time coverage.  It seems to me that the handling of this has been fair and reasonable considering the somewhat limited resources & funds available.

    You ask why I’m not lobbying these other channels?  Well, really, I’m not lobbying Sky – hundreds (soon to be thousands) of ordinary kiwis are lobbying Sky by signing the petition.  I have made the call and chosen my cause.  I knew that most FreeView users wanted Prime, but there was no way for those people to direct their feelings.

    I have no idea how many kiwis want Te Reo on FreeView HD.  But I’m pretty sure a couple of hundred thousand kiwis want Prime on FreeView.  I’m not doing this just to satisfy my own personal agenda and wants.  I would never have started this if I didn’t believe that many, many kiwis felt strongly about this.

    I’m no hero.  I just connected a few pipes and turned a few valves to allow all that energy out there to flow and do something constructive.  That’s what’s so exciting about this.

    I’ll just finish by saying that when Sky purchased Prime, they got into the Public Service business.  Free to air channels form part of New Zealand’s social infrastructure.  That means they need to spend a little money for the public good.  I live in Northland and thousands of people in the far north who can’t afford Sky would dearly love to see a few delayed coverage sports events that are exclusive to Prime.  Sky can only bid on the rights to some of these events because they have a “free-to-air” channel.  Well, it’s not truly free to air for a great number of kiwis.


  • ockel

    You contend that putting CTV on Freeview HD “was actually a smart way to target the bulk of the Chinese population.” I only contend that putting Prime on UHF is a smart way to target the bulk of the NZ population.  I dont see any difference in the argument.

    As for Te Reo I’m merely asking you to consider other low socio-economic areas when you say that $149 is a lot to pay.  For a satellite dish and a Freeview STB I’m shelling out $169 for the STB and $199 for the dish (both from Dick Smith).  I was comparing this cost to an iDTV (ie one with Freeview DTT built in) which I could get Te Reo IF it was available terrestrially.

    I could argue that Sky didnt get into the “Public Broadcast Service” by buying Prime anymore than Prime Television Australia and Nine Network were in the Public Broadcast Service game when they owned it.  You can bet your bottom dollar if they still owned it right now that it wouldnt be on Freeview.

    And I could argue that if not for Sky you wouldnt even have a Prime to consider.  Its losses were unsustainable and it would have been closed or sold to some else that would close it.  Anyone remember Horizon?  Or MaxTV?  Look what happened to them when they were purchased by someone else.

    And I can definitely argue that under Sky the losses that Prime makes have increased substantially due to programming investments – the same programs that Throng users rave about.  If I was running Sky I would have pulled the plug on Prime long before now cos it just doesnt justify the losses.  For those that think that Sky makes huge profits, I think they are paltry returns for the risk incurred in establishing that business.  Its profits would be much higher without Prime.

    If every Prime viewer joins your petition then you’ll get 230,000 votes.  Thats assuming that those that have Sky and watch Prime via Sky vote.  And those that get a UHF signal and bother to tune in also vote.   Good luck.  Some 2,000 people signed a petition to get the SciFi channel on Sky – no cigar as yet.

  • B-Ruys

    Ockel, are you seriously suggesting that low socio-economic communities are awash with Full HD Plasma & LCD televisions?  Because in my observation, only the more expensive full HD models are iDTV.  Most of the TVs in these communities are going to be ageing CRTs which will not even have component inputs – composite at best.  I could drive a truck through that part of your argument.

    The Far North is a massive geographic area where Prime’s UHF broadcast doesn’t reach.  I know they are there, because I am in touch with a number of them regarding this issue.  If I could find a community of tens of thousands of Chinese people deprived of CTV I might consider your comparison between CTV and Prime targeting their respective markets.  Go ahead and read some of the comments on the petition.  There are many of them in so called “Prime UHF Reception Areas” that can’t get decent reception regardless of how much they spend on a shiny new UHF antenna.

    Look, it’s a numbers game.  I’m the old fashioned type of person who believes in putting the resources in the area of greatest need.  If you can demonstrate a sizeable slice of the population are aggrieved by the limited availability of CTV and feel compelled, go ahead and do what your heart tells you.

    Sky does have a moral obligation to play their part – why, because Sky’s business would be seriously damaged if they were not able to offer all of the taxpayer funded TVNZ channels.  You and I have paid for those channels and yet Sky TV uses them to their financial advantage.  And as I have said before, they would have a much smaller pool of sporting events to bid on if they didn’t have Prime touted as a FTA channel.  They can’t close Prime like Horizon or MaxTV as you suggest, because they are contractually obligated to offer some of the content on FTA, so I don’t accept that part of your argument either.

    Unless I pay for a marketing campaign, I’m not going to get 230,000 votes, because it’s only the geeky forum surfers like us that I can afford to target.  And, can I ask how long it took the SciFi petition to get 2000 votes?  We’ve got more than 1,500 in just over 3 days.  That’s not bad for a word-of-mouth campaign IMHO.

    Barrack Obama said it well when he said that world leaders would “not be measured by what they tear down, but what they build”.  I have little time to argue all the reasons that I shouldn’t be doing this or why it’s a bad idea.  My eyes are forward facing and I fully intend to achieve what I have set out to do.  Maybe I’m one-eyed and ignorant, but I intend to use that to my advantage 🙂

    Thanks for the debate and all the points you have raised.


  • tvnewser

    @B-Ruys; You would be suprised how full the lower socio-economic group is of HD and LCD TV’s.. and other things like that.

    If you drive though what are classed as lower socio-ecomonic areas you will still see Sky dishes on almost every house despite other things on the property falling into disrepair.

  • Rolly

    Line of Site doesnt really come into it steve.
    Get up on your roof with a good Feild Strength meter and you might be surprised.. You’ll Peak Primes UHF separately from Juice Tv.. Only because there TX Antennas are from different levels on the Mast at Waitarua..

  • hampete

    Signed. Any promotion of prime is a good thing, love their programming and would love to see them on HD!

    @tvnewser: Of course there’s that; generally when you’re poor, there’s a reason, like that you spend all your money on HD Tvs and Sky television when you have 4 kids. Ya know?