John Drinnan

John Drinnan is the Media writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Sky TV adds nostalgia in bid to keep viewers

The Jones! channel will feature shows such as  Charlie's Angels  which ran from 1976 to 1981. Photo / Dean Purcell
The Jones! channel will feature shows such as Charlie's Angels which ran from 1976 to 1981. Photo / Dean Purcell

Nostalgia channel Jones! starts on May 13, one of Sky Television's regular additions to the basic package to discourage subscribers from opting out.

Such channels - offering shows like Star Trek, Bonanza, Charlie's Angels and Twin Peaks - are good value for pay-television systems.

A similar channel on Foxtel is one of its most watched. Owned and programmed by Sky TV, Jones! features "classic" shows whose rights are not held by global channels such as UKTV or Comedy Central.

So inevitably it is limited by which "classics" it will be able to source.

Sky chief executive John Fellet has proposals for 30 new channels.

Some - like the Biography Channel owned by the History Channel - are offshoots of existing channels.

Others - like the Food and Living channels owned by Julie Christie and documentary channels developed by New Zealand entrepreneurs have been highly popular.

And when those channels are sold - such as when the Documentary channel was sold to the BBC in 2011 - Sky has the right to say whether the sale goes ahead or not.

Fellet said it was important to have local channels, and to have local people with expertise running them.

Experienced producer Richard Driver is back in New Zealand serving out the last days of a restraint of trade that prevents him getting back into the pay television market.

But he said he would like to get back with Sky, and said it provided the only practical options for independent channels in this country.

Indeed, there are signs the Documentary channel concept - discarded by the BBC for its own BBC Knowledge - may be resurrected.

Fellet said last week that he was toying with the idea.

"There is no question BBC Knowledge draws a bigger audience. There is still room for the documentary channel format," he said.

Sky's power over the sale of independent channels illustrates its central role in the entertainment business.

And Sky has the right to to continue with a channel if the independent owner withdraws, as happened with the Arts Channel in 2005.

The owner David Ross wanted to close it as he was not making a profit, said Sky chief executive John Fellet.

"We were able to take some of the costs out, but it still loses money under our direction," said Fellet.

Driver said independent channels on a pay platform had to maintain a tight niche and avoid clashes.

Driver said that in New Zealand's unregulated broadcasting market Sky would continue to erode free television ratings and had the power and profitability to out-buy and out-manoeuvre them.

- NZ Herald

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