There has been a lot of reporting in the New Zealand press over the last week over calls by a number of our local broadcasters for additional controls on Sky TV, including some calls for the break up of Sky TV.
- Digital dust-up looming
- Call to split up Sky TV
- TVNZ tells Govt to split up Sky sports
- More call for Sky TV split
- Sky on offensive after TVNZ criticism
- Dismiss TVNZ’s Sky break-up call
- Regulators unlikely to reach for the Sky
Most of this media interest has been driven by the recent submissions to the review of Digital Broadcasting Regulation, and in particular the submissions from local broadcasters TVNZ and MediaWorks. A great many of the articles and submissions make interesting reading, but still don’t adequately cover the different positions in the market held by Sky TV, freeview, TVNZ and MediaWorks.
Sky is in a unique position as both a broadcaster and a platform. They have their own platform transmitting subscription digital television from Optus D1 on behalf of other broadcasters, as well as being a broadcaster in their own right, with the rights to a great deal of content.
- Analogue UHF and VHF
- Sky TV’s digital pay platform
- freeview’s digital FTA platform
On the other hand freeview exists purely as a platform for FTA (free to air) content, and are not a broadcaster or content owner.
In many respects Sky is a competitor to both the broadcasters and freeview. They compete with other broadcasters for advertising revenue, and also provide a platform for delivery. This gives them incredible power in the market, and is one of the drivers for the creation of freeview. In the digital market NZ needs a viable platform for free to air content delivery. All of this discussion has prompted the following response from freeview -
It is our position that for a vibrant and dynamic market we need competition between in both sectors. We need a diverse range of broadcasters and platforms, otherwise Sky’s power will continue to grow to the detriment of the New Zealand consumer. Care should be taken to not ignore the two additional and rapidly growing delivery platforms
- Mobile phones/devices
Due to Sky’s currently position as our dominant pay tv platform and digital platform we do need to take some steps encourage the growth of freeview, and promote FTA television. Whilst placing some controls on Sky’s access to selected sports events has been discussed, rules around NZ On Air funding might be another avenue.
OpenMedia proposes that NZ On Air funding should be restricted to free to air broadcasters that make their content available on both analogue (UHF/VHF) and digital (freeview) platforms. This would immediately exclude Prime from NZ On Air funding, as well as block Sky’s recent requests to NZ On Air to fund local programs for their children’s pay tv services.
A second proposal is that any sports that are provided with considerable government funding, for example via Sparc, should also have a provision for availability to FTA TV broadcasters that are available on both analogue and digital platforms.
The combined affect of these proposals might see Prime joining freeview as then Sky’s channel would qualify on both levels.
Our wish is for there to be an increased level of content on the freeview platform, and a growing diverse range of FTA programming that is available to all New Zealanders, plus a appropriate reduction of Sky’s stranglehold on sports content.
“We want consumers to know what their choices are for digital television and radio access. The name we’ve chosen clearly does that. It’ll enable consumers to clearly identify the consumer electronics devises that include a freeview HD capable receiver and provides broadcasters with a platform to showcase high definition programming. The freeview|HDTM platform will be operating at the cutting edge of broadcasting innovation,” says Steve Browning, General Manager, freeview.
This won’t be much of a surprise for anyone who read Anthony Doesburg’s article in Fridays Business Herald. His article covers a number of the major changes this coming year for Digital TV in New Zealand, in particular the expected launch of freeview’s terrestrial UHF based service this April will encourage a lot more consumers to make the switch to Digital TV.
Whilst it might be argued that a great many NZ consumers have had DTV for a number of years thanks to Sky Digital, the launch of the freeview service provides DTV with no ongoing costs, and with a number of new advertising-free channels. As of the DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) launch there is expected to be over 12 TV and 2 Radio channels available via freeview. Most of these channels will be available on the existing DTH (satellite) based services as well as on the new DTT (terrestrial) service. For more details on the channels, some of which are shown below, take a look at the channel information page on freeview’s website.
Maori TV have now announced that their second digital only service will be called “Te Reo”, and will launch on ch 24 from the 28th March, plus TV Central will be available via DTT in the Hamilton and Tauranga areas on ch 30.
The new DTT platform will offer a combination of HD (high definition) and SD (standard definition) TV services, whilst for the moment the DTH platform can only provide an SD service. As I mentioned in Anthony’s Herald article TV One, TV 2 and TV 3 are expected to be available in HD, with most of the other channels transmitting in SD. You might notice that for some programs your HD picture might look a little soft. This is because not all of their material can be HD sourced, so you are probably watching SD material upscaled to HD resolution. This is perfectly normal practice elsewhere in the world as it reduces the risk of confusing consumers by constantly switching channels between HD and SD.
So how do you get the new DTT service? Like the existing DTH satellite service you will initially need to purchase a new STB (set top box). Existing DTH STBs are only designed for the satellite services, and aren’t compatible with the HD encoding DTT will be using. New STBs for the DTT services are expected to hit the market shortly. These can be connected to your existing TV aerial providing you are within the coverage area for DTT. If you currently get good Prime or Maori reception it is likely you will get the new DTT service, but it might be worth upgrading older aerials.
Initially the DTT service will be available to 75% of the population. If you live outside the area, or have borderline reception, then you can still get freeview via the DTH satellite service.
About 3-9 months after launch you will start to see IDTVs to appear. These Integrated Digital TVs will have the features of a DTT STB built-in, removing the need for a stand alone STB. PVR units that can utilise freeview’s electronic program guide to record your favorite programs in digital quality should also start to appear. There is even expected to be an add-on for Playstation 3 called PlayTV that will allow you to record and watch the freeview DTT service.
As for OpenMedia’s own myPVR product; sadly we won’t be able to offer full support for the DTT service initially, but we do still offer full support for the satellite based DTH service. Should you be interested in a DTT compatible version of myPVR please contact OpenMedia sales.
There are plans for two addtiions to the freeview line up this month
- March 28th – M?ori Television’s 100% Te Reo channel
- March 30th – TVNZ 7
The name of M?ori Television’s new channel is to be announced on March 10th, and it will appear on freeview channel 24 as well as Sky Digital. This advertising-free channel will broadcast initially during peak hours from 8pm to 11pm, and be 100 per cent te reo M?ori.
TVNZ 7 will also be advertising-free, and will screen a broad range of news, current affairs, documentary and commentary shows. Initially its schedule will run from 6am to midnight, and will be exclusive to the freeview platform.
Both of these channels will also be available via the terrestrial DTT network when it launches this April.
We are very please to hear that Stratos have completed negotiations with Australia Network, which is part of ABC, to provide a late afternoon news feed direct from Australia.
This will commence as of this coming Monday (January 21) at 5:30 and will run against the Prime news service. Initially this will be a Monday to Friday service, but depending on interest and audience they may time shift it to a 7 day a week service.
This is an excellent addition to their lineup, and provides an additional news perspective for New Zealand viewers.
As we approach the end of the year we see yet more major changes for viewers of Digital TV here in New Zealand. First up CUE TV joined freeview on Thursday 29th November. A key feature of their schedule is education programming from the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT).
Then at the weekend the NZ Herald featured an article by Chris Barton on some additional satellite services currently available, or shortly to be launched into New Zealand. Of particular interest was the availability of three Australian channels via the Optus D1 satellite.
Lastly is the news that DTT (Digital Terrestrial TV) tests have now started in most major cities. The Wellington and Christchurch tests have been running for several weeks, and the Auckland tests started last Thursday. This service is expected to bring HDTV to New Zealand consumers. OpenMedia has started a series at http://mythtv.co.nz on the DTT tests and support for NZ MythTV and Linux users.
Today it all really begins with the launch of TVNZ6, and by this time next year TV in NZ will have changed dramatically. First of all we want to congratulate TVNZ on the launch of their new freeview channel.
Next up on the 9th of October is Parliament TV, making 3 new channels in under 2 weeks. We are very pleased to say that all of these are available to myPVR customers who have purchased the freeview support.
Also some big news came earlier this week when TVNZ announced that they would be showing the 2008 Olympics in HD on terrestrial freeview. Hopefully we will hear something from TV3 on their HD plans in the near future.
Some program details have now been released for the first of TVNZ’s new digital channels TVNZ 6, which will launch on the 30th September. The channel will be broken down into three different branded areas.
For more details take a look at the new TVNZ 6 website.
Their additional channel TVNZ 7 is currently due for launch in March 2008, and both of these new channels will be advertising free.
TVNZ have now officially announced the date at which their channels will go widescreen on freeview and Sky Digital. This follows TVWorks who’s channels TV 3 and C4 already transmit in widescreen. To look for widescreen information at www.tvnz.co.nz use the keyword ‘widescreen’.