About a month ago there was an article in The Sunday Star Times entitled “How broadcasters lost control of screens”. I spent about half an hour talking to a journalist about television, the new SkyNet law and the current and future states of television in New Zealand.

There were a number of things from my discussion that never made that story and there were some other points raised by others quoted in the article that I wanted to address.

The article highlighted the arrival of Sky’s new premium content channel SoHo: a fast-tracked smorgasboard of the latest shows from US cable channel HBO.  For an extra $9.99 on top of your existing monthly Sky TV bill, you’ll be able to watch shows within days, if not hours, of their US premier. 

This is a bit of a coup for Sky as typically HBO haven’t allowed their series to be broadcast outside of the US until their season is complete.  However, I’m not really that enamoured by this new channel in the same way Sky’s head of programming Travis Dunbar is.

HBO and other cable channels typically produce shows with cult followings.  They exist for the passionate fans who love to watch and talk about every aspect of the story and characters.  If they can’t watch an episode live, they avoid the internet until they’ve managed to catch up with their PVR or on-demand service so that nothing gets spoiled.  That’s a fairly easy thing to do for a few hours but not for much longer.  Delays just don’t work for hardcore fans.

TVNZ’s Rick Ellis doesn’t seem to care about hardcore fans though.  His comment was rather telling:

Rick Ellis, chief executive of state broadcaster TVNZ, agrees there’s a trend toward getting foreign shows here faster, but although “a small number” of TV aficionados will download out of impatience, the “vast majority” of viewers are still happy with “linear” viewing – a fancy word for switching on a telly and watching shows in the order a programmer ordained.

That “small number” of people are the early adopters, advocates and evangelists for shows his network holds the rights to, talked about in The Tipping Point.

Our fast tracked record is appalling. Running Throng in a number of countries we get to see just how quickly shows are being sped to viewers.  Australia broadcasts a number of shows within hours of their US debut.

The best example is that of American Idol.  Pay channel Fox 8 broadcast the grand finale of the show this year live at 10am and then repeated it that evening in prime time.  For those fans who wanted to see who would win the most watched TV show in America, they could do it live.  Outstanding. For those who were at work or couldn’t watch it live, they could get home and watch it straight away if they’d recorded it or wait for the delayed broadcast. Either way, good news.

In New Zealand, you could have watched it live via one of the many online streaming sites. Sure, the quality isn’t HD but it’s about being there and watching history unfold.

Why can’t broadcasters do something similar here with streaming? For those who want to watch an episode now, why not let them if you own the rights to it?  If someone wanted to watch the season finale of the final season of Desperate Housewives or Grey’s Anatomy, why couldn’t TVNZ provide a service where you could live stream the episode for those fans who would otherwise download or watch it elsewhere?  Isn’t there some money to be made off such fans?  Is it too difficult or just laziness that something like this couldn’t be done?

Perhaps TVNZ could provide a new premium channel on Sky (since that seems to be what they’re into these days) that provides live broadcasts of US shows so that those who want to, can watch them without having to “break the law”.  Too hard or just don’t care?

It seems to me that TVNZ and broadcasters in general are completely complacent when it comes to providing viewers what they want.  They’ll spout off about increased viewer numbers and more people watching shows on demand while ignoring all the global publicity and news about the latest hit shows. I find that incredible.

Thankfully, TV3 have caught a glimpse of the light and are screening The X Factor USA within a few hours.  But what about everything else?  The final season of House has just started.  How long must we wait for that?

There are real solutions that would prove to their viewers that these companies respect and value them.  However, how long we have to wait to see which off them will actually grow a pair is anyone’s guess.

FRANCE 24 has signed a new distribution agreement with SKY NEW ZEALAND, the leading satellite operator in New Zealand.

FRANCE 24 is an international news channel broadcast 24/7 in English and French and will bring you the latest news every half hour.  FRANCE 24 will give viewers in-depth analysis of current affairs across the globe through interviews and debates. The economy, investigative reports, technology, culture and weather forecasts complete the programme schedule.

Starting July 1st, FRANCE 24, French and English versions, will be available throughout New Zealand on channels 100 (English language) and 101 (French language).

With 800 000 subscribers and a penetration rate of 50% across New Zealand, SKY will distribute FRANCE 24 English version as part of the Basic SKY package on channel 100, whilst the French version will be available on channel 101 as part of a premium offer for 7 NZD per month.

“This agreement with SKY confirms our ambition to ensure that all countries in the Asia Pacific zone can get FRANCE 24 as easily and as widely as possible. What is more, it means that all those who are going to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup will be able to follow FRANCE 24 in two languages,” said Brice Bertrand, Distribution Director Asia Pacific.

“We are delighted to be able to expand SKY’s already extensive news channels to include France 24. Having the Francais version of the channel will certainly appeal to those fluent or aspiring French language speakers.  With ten news channels now on offer SKY has a news offering with the perspective for all tastes’, said Kirsty Way, Corporate Communications, SKY Television.


Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman today announced details of the analogue switch-off set to begin in October next year.

The switch to fully digital TV will take place in four phases, beginning in the Hawke’s Bay and West Coast on Sunday September 20, 2012.

The other three phases will be: 

* Rest of the South Island at 2am on Sunday April 28, 2013

* Lower North Island, Taranaki and Gisborne at 2am on Sunday September 29, 2013

* Rest of the North Island at 2am on Sunday December 1, 2013. 

The switch to digital TV will require households to use a set-top box through Freeview, Sky or TelstraClear to receive the signal.

”I’m encouraging those who are not to plan and prepare now,” Coleman said. 

”We’re planning for the start of a fully digital TV age where New Zealanders can enjoy better pictures and sound, more choice and benefits such as onscreen television guides.” 

Source: Stuff

Telecom and SKY have today announced a new commercial agreement that will enable Telecom to sell all of SKY’s television services to its customers alongside their home line, mobile and broadband products.

Alan Gourdie, Chief Executive of Telecom Retail said the new agreement with SKY will further strengthen the company’s bundle products with new triple and quadruple play offerings.

“We are pleased to renew our relationship with SKY and customers can expect to see some exciting packages that will deliver a greater range of SKY Direct-To-Home channels alongside their landline, mobile and broadband services.

“We currently have a number of customers receiving their SKY Basic package through Telecom and we are very pleased to be extending that SKY offering, so all SKY products and services can be made available to our home customers.

“With television services becoming more widely accessible through faster broadband speeds, continuing our partnership with premium content providers like SKY makes sense,” said Mr Gourdie.

SKY Television Chief Executive, John Fellet, endorsed the new deal saying “Telecom and SKY have worked together with bundled products for a number of years, accessing SKY services through Telecom has proven very popular in the past. The new agreement gives Telecom the ability to bill for the whole suite of SKY services, something I’m sure customers will find both convenient and good value.”

Announcements about the pricing and timing of Telecom’s new SKY packages will be made available closer to launch and Telecom customers with existing SKY packages will be contacted to discuss their options.

Telecom customers will have an expanded choice of TV services with new SKY packages to be offered in addition to Telecom’s existing TiVo product.

FRIDAY 27 May 


CRICKET: ENGLAND V SRI LANKA: 1ST TEST DAY 1 AFTERNOON SESSION, SKY Sport 1 (HD), 12.35am Join SKY Sport for coverage of the first test match between England and Sri Lanka. We take you to Swalec Stadium in Cardiff for the morning session on day one.

ENGLAND V SRI LANKA: 1ST TEST DAY 2 MORNING SESSION, SKY Sport 1 (HD), 9.30pm Join SKY Sport for coverage of the first test match between England and Sri Lanka. We take you to Swalec Stadium in Cardiff for the morning session on day two.  


EUROPEAN PGA TOUR: BMW PGA CHAMPIONSHIP, 1ST ROUND, SKY Sport 2, 1.35am SKY Sport brings you coverage of the European PGA Tour with the first round of the BMW PGA Championship from Wentworth Club in Surrey. 

US PGA TOUR: HP BYRON NELSON CHAMPIONSHIP, 1ST ROUND, SKY Sport 1 (HD), 7.00am SKY Sport brings you coverage of round 1 in the HP Byron Nelson Championship from TPC Four Seasons Resort, Irving in Texas.  


NRL TELSTRA PREMIERSHIP: SEA EAGLES V BRONCOS, SKY Sport 2 (HD), 9.00pm Join SKY Sport for coverage of the NRL Telstra Premiership as the Sea Eagles take on the Broncos from Brookvale Oval in Sydney.

NRL TELSTRA PREMIERSHIP: BULLDOGS V TITANS: SKY Sport 2 (HD), 10.45pm Join SKY Sport for coverage of the NRL Telstra Premiership as the Broncos take on the Titans from ANZ Stadium in Sydney.  


INVESTEC SUPER RUGBY: HURRICANES V FORCE, SKY Sport 1 (HD), 7.30pm SKY Sport brings you coverage of the Investec Super Rugby competition as the Hurricanes take on the Force from FMG Stadium in Palmerston North.  


ROLAND GARROS: DAY 6, SKY Sport 3 (HD), 9.00pm The second grand slam of the 2011 tennis calendar, Roland Garros, comes to you from the clay courts of Stade Roland Garros in Paris. Join SKY Sport for coverage from day six.

The new app, packed with great features around SKY’s
electronic programme guide is a one stop shop for listings for more than
111 channels including all SKY’s channels plus all the free-to-air

The portable access provided to this extensive listing information
will benefit not only SKY’s 808,000 plus subscribers but any TV viewer
in NZ.

The SKY TV app delivers many useful features to make TV viewing even
more convenient. After downloading the app users can remote record shows
to their MY SKY decoders, set reminder alerts for their favourite
programmes, create their own personal guide with favourite channels or
share what they like through Facebook, Twitter, SMS or email. SKY
subscribers can even book a recording of SKY Box Office movies or SKY
ARENA events, like the upcoming Sonny Bill Williams fight, through their
iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

SKY believes the most used feature will be the search functionality.
The ability to search for a programme on every channel through a
portable device without interrupting television viewing should be hugely

John Fellet, SKY Chief Executive said, “I’m so impressed with this
new app I can’t wait for all New Zealand TV viewers to experience it.
The app is so easy to use and brings so much convenience to television
viewing being both portable and available 24/7. We’re sure it will be
well used and we certainly plan to release more functionality in the
near future”.

New features are already under development and will be released at a
later date. They are planned to include the ability to add services and
channel packages to SKY subscriptions and a recommendations feature.

The SKY Television app is in the Apple store today. 

SKY TV NZ - Sky Network Television Limited

Sky’s brand new iphone app is just about perfect.  

It’s free, has a nice easy-to-use interface for checking out TV listings (and it includes the free-to-air channels too), searchable and can be configured to your viewing preferences by just showing the channels you like to watch.

The best feature for me though would have to be the remote recording and alerts on our MySky.  I know they’ve had this feature on their website for quite a while, but I’m usually out and about when I want to record something and logging in on their website never really seemed an easy thing to do on my phone (plus this way, I only need to enter my login information once). 

Thanks Sky!  

SKY TV NZ - Sky Network Television Limited

A huge thanks to all the TV reporters, cameramen, presenters and others working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring news to us around the country during this difficult time.  We appreciate you.

Please leave your messages of thanks to those in the TV industry here – they will be reading.  

When ordering WWE Elimination Chamber today I noticed that Sky is moving Sky Box Office Events to Channel 038 from March 1 and changing it’s name to ARENA.

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?’