April 12th, 2012
If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times: easy, affordable content, probably delivered via internet-enabled TV, is the major factor in take-up of fast broadband services almost everywhere in the world. If what experts were saying at the recent CommerceCommissionconference is anything to go by, New Zealand will be no exception. So, with 2012 a crucial time in both Ultra-Fast Broadband and Internet Protocol TV, here are some key things to look out for in New Zealand when you put the two together.
From “linear” to “pool” programming: For many TV viewers, one of the best features of the new broadcasting era is the move from linear content (shows being on at a particular time and you choose to watch or not) to pool content (watch what you like, when you like). It’s already here – personal video recorders and YouTube have seen to that. Catch-up TV services from TVNZ, Mediaworks and SkyTV (iSky) already allow viewers to watch what they like, when they like it, but most do so via their PC or tablet, not on their TV. IPTV will improve this. Igloo, a joint venture between Sky and TVNZ, due to launch in the middle of the year, will bring a cheaper, pre-pay, on-demand offering into the mix, including the TVNZ programme archive. It can only get better from here.
Video on demand: Movies via the internet is huge in the US. The 23 million or so customers of streaming service Netflix account for 24.71% of aggregated traffic in North America, according to a 2011 report by Canadian networking equipment company Sandvine. In New Zealand, the launch of Australian video and programme streaming service Quickflix in late March gave a dramatic boost to previous content offerings. Quickflix’s monthly subscription is $16.99 (with a $9.99/month introductory offer), although there’s a limited movie pool so far. Sky may decide to take its DVD mail-out service Fatso digital. And Netflix? Vice President of Product Innovation, Brent Ayrey, says the company has no plans to come to New Zealand until demand, UFB, and issues around data caps and content rights are sorted out, though at the ComCom conference, Sky Chief Executive John Fellet said he expects Netflix to be in New Zealand sooner rather than later.
Local content: As “Smart”, or internet-enabled TVs gain more traction in New Zealand this year, manufacturers (companies like Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, or LG) are keen to do deals with content providers for local (as well as international) content for their sets. This saw Fairfax New Zealand (publishers of newspapers like the Sunday Star Times and the internet news site Stuff) do a deal with Sony in February for Fairfax’sStuffIPTV news app to feature on Sony’s Bravia internet TV models. Initially focused on short (1-3 minute) national, international and sports news videos, Stuff IPTV will later branch out into lifestyle pieces (travel, motoring, food etc) and feature-style pieces, according to Fairfax’s Digital Advertising Manager, Charlotte Ring. The company is also in negotiation with other TV manufacturers and ISPs.
Niche content: The other main local content deal for Sony so far is with New Zealand internet TV network Ziln. Set up in 2009, Zilnalready has 30 niche, enthusiast-targetted New Zealand channels including FishnHunt, aviation channel Airside TV, Ponsonby TV (for those trendy Aucklanders), Pet TV, and Cool Science. The channels are all non-linear, made up of a collection of videos – 35 new videos get added each day, says founder and General Manager, Paul Brennan. He says the traditional linear TV structure doesn’t allow for specialist TV channels – there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything on TVNZ or TV3. But this model will change with the internet and the Cloud, he says.
“The definition of a TV channel will shift in the new environment to be a collection of niche offerings. If there’s a niche that justifies a magazine, it probably justifies a TV channel.” Ziln has recently negotiated an unmetered deal with TelstraClear.
The Fairfax and Ziln deals are tiny parts of a bigger global movement called “Over the Top” or OTT content, where hardware manufacturers bypass the traditional channels (broadcasters, pay TV operators and more recently telcos) to offer content straight from producer to fans.
“People will be saying: ‘Why am I paying $60 a month for TV when I only watch six shows?’” says Paul Brislen, Chief Executive of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand. “We’ll see the legacy model disappearing – content makers will be selling directly to you and me.”
TV fans watch this space.