Sky

Sky and TVNZ announced yesterday that they were partnering up to deliver a new budget pay tv service, entrenching TVNZ’s desire to move towards subscription based revenue and driving the wedge deeper into their position with Freeview despite them saying otherwise.

Freeview wouldn’t comment on the announcement other than to say they currently have compatible products agreements with TCL, TiVo and Sony PlayTV but not this new venture so they aren’t licensed to use Freeview’s trademarks.

We also posed some questions to Eric Kearley, TVNZ’s head of digital services who will also sit on the new venture’s board.

Throng: Firstly, with the announcement today that TVNZ and Sky are launching a new Pay TV offering, does this secure the future of TVNZ7 and or TVNZU?

EK: The venture does not change the status of TVNZ7 or TVNZU in any way. The venture will launch a new platform, there is no effect on the content or plans for any individual TVNZ channels that we can currently predict.

Throng: What implications do you see with TVNZ being a stakeholder in Freeview?  

EK: TVNZ is committed to supporting Freeview and FTA television, which will remain at the core of TVNZ. Freeview has been very successful in getting New Zealanders to convert to digital television in preparation for for Digital Switch Over, and will continue to be so. This venture provides consumers with more choice to convert to digital as we approach DSO.

TVNZ is committed to supporting the governments timetable to achieving DSO through multiple initiatives including support for Freeview, participation in the Digital Switch Over group, “Going Digital” communication initiatives, and now the participation and support for this joint venture.

Throng: What will TiVo’s involvement be with this new service, if any?

EK: None.

While TVNZ can, on the surface, state that they support Freeview, surely there are conflicts of interest.  I can’t imagine that the other seats at the Freeview table will be happy knowing that any commercially sensitive information will be readily available to a competitor.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out…

There have been a number of stories recently about a new joint venture between Sky, TVNZ and Telecom with the special code name Igloo.  It’s rumoured to be a Sky-Lite package with 10-14 channels for the low cost of $25 per month.  

That would put it right in the middle of the basic Sky digital package at $47.66 per month and Freeview with no monthly subscription fees.  However, of the 52 channels, how many of those would Sky want to put on to a slimmed down version?  Of those 10-14 channels, how many would be new channels created by TVNZ?

The main question though is do we need a cheaper, slimmed down version of Sky or do we need competition in that space?

Around the world, the Pay TV landscape is littered with companies vying for their piece of the market.  In doing so, that competition drives down the prices and ultimately creates better packages of channels.  Just check out these Dish Network Packages

It may be American but check out that list of channels and plans.  Here, there is only one option.  Too bad if you want the SyFy channel or the Oprah Winfrey Network.  It’s not as if you can go to another provider to subscribe.  Everything hinges on what Sky wants to offer.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could select which channels you wanted at a competitive price as opposed to what a single organisation wanted to price it at.  At the moment, the market does not decide.  Only one single company does.  Doesn’t that need to change?

Last night, Mils Muliaina became the second All Black to play 100 tests.  1.8 million people tuned in to watch the All Blacks beat Argentina 33 to 10 in an exciting match but when it came to the presentation, none of the networks aired it, instead, running their own commentary, dissecting the game.

Outrage has erupted online with many fans angry and disappointed at the broadcasters disrespect to one of New Zealand rugby’s champions.  On the All Blacks official site, fans were fuming over the decision to ignore the presentation.  And, of course, a Facebook page has been started.

Sky Television has responded saying the broadcaster had other obligations which forced them to cut away from the speech.

Head of corporate communications, Kirsty Way, said:

”Unfortunately we had other filming obligations as part of our host broadcast obligations for post-match interviews,” she said this morning.

”We were not able to show Mils’ speech at that time. The post-match interviews were to take place at the same time and that’s what we were set up to do.”

Now that we’re at the knockout stages of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Sky Sport, One, 3 and Maori Television are all screening the games.  The only other time this tends to happen is party political broadcasts or some cunning commercial.

Given this is the case, it is interesting to flick between the channels to check what the quality is like.

We’re watching the games on a 103″ screen which really shows up the quality when it’s blown up this big.  We had been watching on Sky until we decided to have a flick between the channels only to find how poor the broadcast quality on Sky Sports HD is.  Considering subscribers pay a premium for Sky Sports and another premium for HD, it is somewhat surprising to find how inferior it is to both TV One and TV 3.  

Of TV One and TV 3, TV One’s picture quality is much sharper.  Unfortunately for Maori Television, they’re the only broadcaster who isn’t showing the games in HD.  

Based on what we’ve observed, we rank the picture quality in the following order:

1. TV One
2. TV 3
3. Sky Sport 1
4. Maori Television

What observations have you made about the broadcast quality? 

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.

FRANCE 24 – AVAILABLE IN NEW ZEALAND FROM JULY 1ST 2011 ONLY ON SKY CHANNELS 100 & 101

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

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.  

GOLF

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.  

RUGBY LEAGUE

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.  

RUGBY

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.  

TENNIS

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
listings.

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
popular.

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