NZ: Sky gets Prime position on Freeview

Rose Major

Prime Television, the New Zealand free-to-air commercial channel owned by News Corp-backed Sky Television, has signed up to appear on that country’s version of the Freeview platform, despite holding out against such a move for over two years.

Launched today (Monday August 17), the channel joins both the digital-satellite and the digital-terrestrial (Freeview HD) versions of the platform and means that New Zealand’s major broadcasters are all now represented on Freeview New Zealand.

Prime’s reason for holding out so long has been fairly straightforward: Freeview is in competition with Prime’s owner, Sky TV (albeit indirectly, as a non-pay platform). The company itself says that it is “not economic” to join the platform, which is currently in around a quarter of a million New Zealand homes.

With both Freeview and the New Zealand government keen to have the full complement of free-to-air channels on the platform, reports out of New Zealand suggested it was they, rather than Sky, which blinked first.

Prime has reportedly been offered highly preferential terms for its presence on the platform. National Business Review quoted Sky chief executive John Fellett as saying earlier in the month that he had offered to pay transmission group Kordia only any extra advertising revenue Prime made from being on the platform, rather than the standard charges (reportedly NZ$1.8 million for an HD channel on DTT and NZ$500,000 for a satellite service, plus a NZ$100,000 admin fee). While that may just have been Sky’s starting point for discussions, it still suggests that the broadcaster would have been unlikely to have paid full whack for the slot.

And the political will has been firmly behind a full line-up of channels on the platform, in order to push the country towards analogue switch-off and the possible riches a spectrum sell-off could bring. Broadcasting Minister Jonathon Coleman has in the past urged the parties to come to an agreement, a move which seems now to have paid off.

Sky New Zealand is backed 44% by a News Corporation subsidiary.