Free-to-air television is playing catch-up in a year of innovation by internet TV. New apps and a new set-top box are being developed for Freeview, offering better links to on-demand services at Television NZ, MediaWorks and Maori TV.
Freeview says the new digital service will provide "vastly improved" navigation. Details will be announced closer to the launch, possibly in July.
On-demand rights are free-to-air's key asset, as viewing habits change so people watch what they like when they like, on different devices. Free-to-air channels are keeping up with a growing range of internet-based pay TV products such as subscription video on demand (SVOD), advanced MySky recorders and new internet-based sports competition passes from Sky and Coliseum.
And yesterday Netflix gave basic details of its New Zealand subscription service to start next month, competing with Quickflix ($12.99 per month); Spark's Lightbox ($15), launched in August; and the Sky TV SVOD service Neon ($20), launched last week.
SVOD focuses on schedules full of back catalogue material, with some exclusive content to draw customers.
Netflix is a huge company and has apps for media devices such as smart TVs and tablets.
In the local market, Quickflix is the most advanced so far and has built apps for media devices. Lightbox started in August and for 12 months is free to Spark broadband customers. Spark yesterday said it was increasing its investment in Lightbox, from an estimated $20 million previously, to $35 million.
Neon got bad reviews when it launched last week but has exclusive rights to repeat quality HBO content that it uses to justify its higher price.
Piggy in the middle
Advertising clearing house The Radio Bureau (TRB) is caught in the crossfire between MediaWorks and NZME., the two players in the commercial radio duopoly.
Two advertising industry sources said they believed TRB would struggle to survive 2015.
The Radio Bureau is an intermediary between media and advertising agencies, who deliver about a third of commercial stations' revenue. The rest comes from advertisers who deal directly with broadcasters.
MediaWorks and NZME. are integrating their operations and sales packages, and in some cases forming alliances with competitors for content.
Mark Weldon started as chief executive of MediaWorks in August. The company has since been limiting industry co-operation, competition has heated up and relations between the two big groups have soured, say advertising sources.
In the past, the Radio Broadcasters Association and industry-commissioned six-monthly ratings surveys have maintained the notion that there is a wider industry beyond its cutthroat competitors.
But that has changed. In December there was unexpected competition for the auction of the FM100.1 frequency in Christchurch, essential for NZME. to hold together the Newstalk ZB nationwide network. MediaWorks played a brinksman's role in the auction process, adding possibly $7 million to the cost.
Last week the two radio groups were battling over the radio ratings, with MediaWorks leading a decision to cancel the ratings survey due now.
Both groups argued that the existing system was archaic and needed change, but the withdrawal of the survey was haphazard and annoyed advertisers who rely on the ratings to make buying decisions.
NZME. then commissioned its own radio survey, infuriating MediaWorks. The future of the September survey is unclear.
Barry double act
I'm not the biggest Hilary Barry fan, but she is a good newsreader on 3News, and showed her mettle with TV3's Christchurch earthquake coverage in 2011. It makes perfect sense for her to be appointed as newsreader for Paul Henry's show on TV3 and RadioLive.
It's an expensive show and Barry is the consummate professional. But you'd hope she will not be turned into a "foil" for Henry as Mediaworks has indicated, required to spout objections to Henry's manufactured-to-outrage comments. You'd hate to see her brand diminished.
Like MediaWorks with RadioLive and TV3, NZME. is getting news teams at Newstalk ZB and the Herald to work together. There are already crossovers between the two, most notably featuring Mike Hosking, giving him a massive footprint.
Michael Miller, the chief executive of NZME.'s parent company APN News & Media, is confident there had been no resulting reduction in the number of voices in the media.
"You have to put the consumer first," he said. "If you start to compromise the message then you compromise the relationship you have with people you have spent 150 years to build."