ctrlgo.com's blog

I think (unfortunately) in today’s ‘Ratings’ driven News environment it’s uncommon to get anymore than a 30 Second preview into the workings of our country’s TV Newsrooms. They’re usually plush with shots of presenters inside the studio, and reporters crossing live with either a ridiculous catch-phrase or Toyota Ad theme song. With that in mind I was pretty happy to see ‘Behind the Seen’ a short film put together by TV3 Video Editor Toby Longbottom about the February 22nd Quake. 

Today MTV Networks (Owned by Viacom) announced it
was closing its office in New Zealand. The company is Sky Network Television’s
largest external content contributor representing the MTV, Comedy Central,
Nickelodeon, and Nick Jr Brands.


Upwards of 23 staff will lose their jobs in the decision to
consolidate the company’s New Zealand operations with its Sydney Australia
. This closure is just the latest in a string of offshoreing by Sky
associated Brands. The Discovery Channel’s operations are also to be merged
with Australia in the coming months, and Prime (also owned by Sky) laid-off a
number of employees after sending the majority of its Prime News operation back
to Sydney.


With all these moves to consolidate and migrate
our Kiwi networks to Australia it does raise the question. ‘Can New Zealand
based channels make a profit on the Sky, and Telstra Platforms, and if not,
does pushing jobs overseas have an effect on how kiwis are seen on screen, at
home. And finally, could sending these jobs overseas actually be better for Sky
Subscribers in NZ.


The trouble for NZ pay networks is that most
don’t handle their own advertising and are paid by Sky for how many, or what
percentage of audiences their Channel attracts. Now this was all good back when
Sky had about 5 Channels and most of them were fairly nasty, but with the
proliferation of new channels to the platform (not to mention the different way
of viewing content – iSky is another classic example), audiences have become
more and more fragmented so even if you are fortunate enough to control your
own advertising, advertisers will want to pay less because you have less
eyeballs on your programming.


With Sky running what is largely considered a
monopoly, most non-Sky owned channels operate in an environment of fear, Sky is
their largest source of Revenue, and in some cases their only source. Some
channels like TLC and Bloomberg have survived outside the Sky Nest on Telstra,
but this is somewhat a moot point given they aren’t NZ based anyway, and with
only 40,000ish subscribers TelstraTV is hardly a bread winner
(and let’s not mention with TiVo).


Sky TV’s argument will no doubt be that any job
and Kiwi content losses are negated by the addition of new channels and more
niche content, but they might just be cutting of their nose to spite their
face. By removing more and more of the Kiwi look and feel the Network is
leaving little defining factors to persuade subscribers to pay their monthly
subscription fees when it is becoming more and more easy to download overseas
content for free, and this is before the rollout of ADSL2+ and the National
Broadband Scheme.


Speaking of government, you might argue that with
the Current one in a more harmonious relationship with Sky than any other before
it, Sky is beginning to take the proverbial P($$ a bit.’  Sky it seems has
never been in better shape, with Profits up almost 17% for the year ending June
2010. People are even spending more with average revenue per subscriber up
5.6%. Still it seems like many of the Company’s non-owned and operated content
providers have never been more under the gun. With that in mind you can’t help
but wonder if the likes of Julie Christie and her partners in ‘Food TV’ and
‘The Living Channel’ are looking to offload their interests to Australia’s ‘XYZ
Networks’, particularly given the similarities between the Kiwi offering and
‘LifestyleYou’ and ‘Lifestyle Food’ channels in Aus.


Sky V Hulu? 


There has been a long running discussion (we’re
talking years) of the possibility of Sky New Zealand merging with its
Australian counterpart FOXTEL. FOXTEL is 25% owned by Rupert Murdoch’s ‘News
Corporation’, which also owns over 40% of Sky in New Zealand, if this were to
happen it would no doubt be a serious blow for the New Zealand Television
Industry. Except for the job cuts, and small tidbits of original NZ
programming, the dropping of MTVNZ is probably no huge loss, MTV is if nothing
else, a network that prides itself on its homogeneity of content that can be
beamed into almost any country inexpensively, with a potentially huge financial
return. I’m more interested in the dialogue though. Firstly, do you care that
these channels are being fed in from Sydney, and secondly do you think people
will start asking the question ‘What am I getting here, and is it not better to
cancel my Sky Subscription and upgrade my Broadband connection?’

TiVo FailThere’s more bad news for TVNZ today, the parent company of the TiVo technology it’s purchased in partnership with Kerry Stoke’s ‘7 Media Group’ reported it lost 730,000 consumers during the past year (a 22% decline).

Despite this, shareholders were happy with the company’s profit results because they managed to increase revenue in “Services and Tech” to $45.3 million, this is the revenue sourced from companies like the TVNZ partnership, that license TiVo technology. With speculation TVNZ spent about $19 million for the rights, no doubt this helped TiVo’s bottom line. The Herald says they’ve only managed to sell about 2,000 units (and we know, one of those is at Regan’s place), whatsmore after TVNZ soiled the user experience with its ‘CASPA’ most people who’ve tried them, don’t like them anyway.

With all this in mind, it really comes as no surprise that TVNZ would go ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ on its joint venture Freeview platform and start developing deals with the Sky Network, for its new ‘Heartland’ channel. It’s easy to be critical of this, but TVNZ (unlike TV3) typically keeps its Pay-TV rights to programming so it makes sense that it monetizes this, especially with a new National government that has never been cozier with SkyTV.

These days TVNZ feels like a SEO desperate to regain relevance (thnk txt lang in stn promos) in the digital world by spending hoards of the Taxpayer’s cash on flash-in-the-pan acquisitions and partnership deals that go nowhere. It seems every time it ties its cart to a horse, that horse drops dead. (Bebo, TVNZ Sports Extra, TelstraSaturnDTV, the FAILs feel endless, and it’s all on the taxpayer dime.

Don’t get me wrong TVNZ does some great things… in Television. ‘Shortland St, Marcus Lush’s train show, Go Girls and TVNZ News, are typically things we’re all a little proud of. But it is time they sort out their Digital Strategy, and just for once, stick to it.