Rupert Murdoch might not have newspaper interests in New Zealand, but he’s boss of the box.
In this week’s cover story, Ruth Laugesen looks at the increased sway Sky has over our TVs.
Here’s a taste:
The Olympics are just the latest sign of Sky’s slow-rolling conquest of the nation’s TV screens, courtesy of a broadcasting industry that, unusually in world terms, faces no special rules designed to thwart the emergence of outsized players. More and more premium content is disappearing behind Sky’s pay walls. Once upon a time, a BBC show like The Hour would have been prime TVNZ fare. Today, you can only watch it on Sky. Ditto Mildred Pierce, Mad Men and Game of Thrones, which are all behind two Sky pay walls, requiring a basic sub and another $10 a month for the SoHo channel.
A full package of sports, movie and other options costs over $150.
This month, the launch of a SKY-TVNZ joint venture, a cheaper Sky subscription called the Igloo channel, will extend Sky’s reach, tempting some of the half of households that aren’t yet subscribers.
“Sky is overwhelmingly, unhelpfully dominant in New Zealand,” says an international expert on media regulation, Professor Dwayne Winseck of Carleton University in Ottawa …
Last month the Commerce Commission launched an investigation into whether Sky has unfairly shut out competitors in the growing market for entertainment delivered by broadband. At the heart of the commission’s probe is Sky’s confidential contracts with the major internet service providers, which Sky chief executive John Fellet confirms stop the providers entering into relationships with any other entertainment providers without Sky’s approval.
The deals also prevent internet providers seeking their own broadcasting content, instead requiring them to ask Sky to get content for them. The commission is also investigating whether the media giant’s exclusive deals with Hollywood studios will keep newcomers from offering an attractive variety of film and television content to customers.
And behind these concerns is a bigger one that Sky, a privately owned company, might hog the benefits of the taxpayer’s massive investment in broadband by being the player best positioned to deliver internet content. The Government has promised that UFB will be available to 75% of households within 10 years.
Dwayne Winseck again:
In most countries broadcasters are a lot weaker than the telecom providers and the internet companies; they’re a lot smaller. But the situation is upside-down in New Zealand. Sky’s dominance is everywhere, and in particular its influence on the internet service providers.
Elsewhere in the new issue:
» Joanne Black on the “insane” post-earthquake insurance premiums
» High-flying Kiwi expat Peter Watson tells Guyon Espiner that tourism is keeping NZ poor
» Alison Mau on Fair Go’s web-shopping special
» Linda Sanders on investing in those asset shares (listen up, mums and dads!)
» In arts, read reviews of new books by Kate Summerscale, Hilary Mantel, Susan Cain, Angela Wanhalla, Erika Wolf, Theresa Sjoquist, Peter Simpson and Grant Sheehan.