John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Choice TV in Freeview fight for choosy audience

Choice TV's line-up includes submarine thriller 'The Deep', starring Minnie Driver and James Nesbitt. Photo / Supplied
Choice TV's line-up includes submarine thriller 'The Deep', starring Minnie Driver and James Nesbitt. Photo / Supplied

Newcomer Choice TV began fighting for a place in the crowded television market on Saturday with a low-key launch on Freeview that was probably barely noticed by viewers.

The arrival of the free channel aimed at a commercial audience comes at an important time for Freeview.

The free-to-air platform is being squeezed by its key member TVNZ focusing on closer ties with Sky TV and has been slow to add new mainstream content.

Weekend fare for the digital channel will focus on entertainment, including shows such as submarine thriller The Deep, with stars including Minnie Driver and James Nesbitt. Elsewhere the advertising-funded channel will focus on "lifestyle" programming, with different genres each weeknight.

Monday features programming on travel and nature, Tuesday is property and design, Wednesday "The Great Outdoors", Thursday is food and Friday focuses on home and garden.

Choice TV will operate 24 hours a day, broadcasting three eight-hour loops of programming.

The channel provides added value to the Freeview free-to-air platform and hopes to make it a more attractive option for people who are reluctant to pay for Sky.

However Choice TV's owners will have a challenge establishing it in an already crowded television market dominated by Sky TV.

The advertising market is under pressure with heavy discounting and a new range of pay-TV options such as Igloo and internet-based Quickflix.

Choice TV is owned by television production industry veterans Vincent Burke and Laurie Clarke, the principals of Top Shelf - producer of programmes such as Target for TV3 and Media7 for TVNZ 7.

TVNZ 7 is about to close because taxpayer funding has been dropped, but Choice TV general manager Alex Breingan said it would not be taking over the mantle of public TV.

Advertising consultant Martin Gillman said the programming line-up announced so far was relatively good.

Gillman said audiences for small digital channels such as Choice TV - like Prime TV and Four - were a tough sell because they were "below the radar" for bigger advertising agencies.

- NZ Herald

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