Freeview expects boost with Prime

BY CLAIRE MCENTEE
Last updated 05:00 17/08/2009
Flight of the Conchords
CRAIG SIMCOX/The Dominion Post
STRIKING A CORD: Freeview subscribers will be able to watch shows such as Flight of the Conchords.

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Freeview subscribers can tune in to Prime Television from today following a breakthrough deal between Prime broadcaster Sky, Freeview and Kordia.

The deal means Freeview satellite and HD subscribers can watch popular TV shows including Flight of the Conchords and Top Gear, as well as delayed broadcasts of sports matches such as All Blacks games.

Freeview has been pushing for the inclusion of Prime in its line-up for some time, arguing Prime's absence had limited the take-up of the free-to-air service.

Sky has resisted a deal until now, claiming it would not be economic to put Prime on Freeview.

Freeview general manager Sam Irvine said the news should entice more people on to Freeview and digital television.

"A number of people out there have been waiting for Prime to join Freeview. There's also still a large number of people on analogue TV it's still about 40 per cent of people so now is a great time for them to move, all the major channels are on digital for free."

More than 250,000 homes have already switched to Freeview.

Sky would benefit from the arrangement, Mr Irvine said.

"We've always believed that Prime should be there as Freeview is a free-to-air digital platform they're missing out on viewers by not being there."

Sky would help Freeview cover its administration and marketing costs as part of the deal, but he would not confirm this would cost Sky $350,000 over three years, as previously reported by The Dominion Post.

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said Prime's move on to Freeview would increase uptake of Freeview and drive New Zealand's transition to digital television. He arranged a meeting between Sky, Freeview and transmission company Kordia earlier this year to encourage a deal.

"The Government is pleased a positive outcome has been achieved," Mr Coleman said. "However, it should be emphasised this was always a commercial decision for the parties involved to reach of their own accord."

The Government will make a final decision on the switchoff date of analogue television transmissions once digital television take-up reaches 75 per cent, or in 2012, whichever comes first.

Sky could not be reached for comment. Spokesman Tony O'Brien has previously said the costs of putting Prime on Freeview would exceed the gains Sky would receive from extra advertising revenues.

Forsyth Barr analyst Rob Mercer suggested in March that Sky might make Prime available on Freeview if Kordia reduced the transmission fees it must pay. But Kordia chief executive Geoff Hunt said it had made no concessions to Sky. "This is a standard commercial deal. We've had an offer in front of Sky for Prime for quite a long time. It's good to see Prime there now. They were one of the missing pieces."  DIGITAL DANGER C6

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- The Dominion Post

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