Subscribers will be offered much more content.

The subscription video-on-demand service Neon is the brightest light in the new Sky TV product lineup announced last week. The new service will offer movies, and TV shows such as Girls, Fargo and True Blood.

Sky wants Neon to outshine Quickflix and Netflix, and Spark's Lightbox, which launched just two months ago. But in the medium term I believe Neon will be eclipsed by the second new initiative announced by Sky TV.

Thanks to a software upgrade of their MySky personal video recorders, Sky subscribers will be hooked up with the internet. They will then have access to hundreds of hours of extra content on demand, downloadable from the net on to the MySky boxes.

So while Neon focuses on the 50 per cent of viewers who do not get Sky, the MySky upgrade will aim to retain the 50 per cent who do subscribe, at a time when there is extra competition.

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There is a lot at stake for a pay television market in transition.

Sky no longer owns that market, the way it did through the nineties and noughties. It's true that it still has numerous advantages, not least in its established relationships with Hollywood studios and the ability to tag on-demand rights on to its existing deals.

But competition is getting tougher.

Aussie TV networks such as Nine are joining the pay TV game and most observers expect US service Netflix - already accessible via back-door subscriptions - to be officially available in New Zealand next year.

Spark is willing to subsidise the growth of its Lightbox service, and that means offering consumers a cheaper deal - $15 a month compared with Neon's $20. Neon may be able to counter Lightbox by offering a better product. Sky is promoting itself as a premium brand, but doesn't intend to increase MySky prices.

Sky could make Neon so appealing that it swamps Lightbox and Quickflix. But it cannot afford to make Neon so appealing that it takes subscribers from its linear channels, cannibalising its main revenue earner. That is where the second aspect of Sky's internet TV strategy comes in - linking MySky to the net, with extra content.

A new high-definition electronic programme guide will provide an improved interface to Sky's vast range of entertainment. If customers can't find something they want to watch on Sky channels, they'll have hundreds of choices at the push of a button or two on their Sky remote. The acronym for this service is EVOD - entitlement video on demand.

DOOR AJAR

The Press Council is pushing ahead with plans to extend its coverage to digital media, including blogs.

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Blogger Cameron Slater. Photo / Doug Sherring
Blogger Cameron Slater. Photo / Doug Sherring

The Newspaper Publishers' Association says the prevailing opinion is that it is time to extend the membership to digital media, including bloggers.

But not all members of the voluntary newspaper body agree with that viewpoint, and some worry that it might diminish papers' reputation.

The book Dirty Politics made allegations about the role of the Whale Oil Beef Hooked blog, its relationship with National and with mainstream media.

"It's fair to say that views on extending our membership are not unanimous - there are differences of opinion," said association editorial adviser Rick Neville. "The weight of opinion believes some digital media are bona fide media.

"There is a caveat - anybody who wishes to be an associate member of the Press Council will have to abide by the standards for integrity and balance.

"The door has been left ajar, not wide open."

Whale Oil owner Cameron Slater has in the past indicated that he might apply to be a member, but he has been a harsh critic of mainstream media.

So it is not clear whether the blogger will allow himself to be vetted by a Press Council committee made up of mainstream media organisations and the Press Council chair.

He did not respond to queries about whether he intended to apply for a place on the council.

The idea of expanding the Press Council's reach has been around for years and was given a boost after the Law Commission suggested digital media should join a combined media standards organisation, in return for receiving legal protections available to journalists. Then Justice Minister Judith Collins - a close friend of Slater - quashed that plan.

However the Press Council has since gone ahead with a scheme to represent digital media and blogs under its own steam, and that was unveiled this week.

But the ethics of bloggers and the media in general have come under deep scrutiny since Dirty Politics was published. Neville said it was clear in Press Council rules that publishers could not be paid for editorial.

"There is a grey area now with so-called native advertising, which is meant to be quality journalism which stacks up on its journalistic merits, even though it is sympathetic to one party."

There were questions about whether the Press Council should have jurisdiction over native content, or if that should be covered by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager said the Press Council was getting into complex waters judging digital media on the basis of individuals rather than articles, and deciding whether they were journalism or not.

"My fear would be what could happen is that unscrupulous blogs could be given credibility but not end up with any accountability.

"Sometimes people are publishing public relations, and sometimes journalism," he said.