Monday, 18 December 2006

State TV to sell programmes online

New Zealand's State TV broadcaster has announced the launch of a new online division, which will offer some of TVNZ's premium shows for sale on the internet... albeit with a number of catches.

TVNZ ondemand
is scheduled to launch on the 1st of March 2007, featuring a wide range of video content from TV One and TV2. The state broadcaster says most of their premium local shows - including Shortland Street and Eating Media Lunch - will be available for pay-download.

The cost will initially be around $2 for a half hour show, $4 for a one hour programme. Users will need to buy a package of "Play Points", which will be deducted from their account for each download.

Some 15 and 30 second video advertisements will also screen before shows and clips. The site will also make money through traditional internet skyscrapers and banners, and sponsorship packages for some shows.

However, one big stumbling block in attracting regular users could be TVNZ's draconian Digital Rights Management system. All download content will be encrypted, and can only be viewed for 7 days after downloading. After that time, the paid download will simply die, and the video will no longer play (making it more of a rental than a purchase).

The system will also allows TVNZ to track user's viewing habits... letting them analyse which demographics are watching each show. The videos will be in the Windows Media Player 9+ format, meaning its a PC-only affair. TVNZ say "At this stage Macintosh users are not part of this experience".
Downloadable shows will be in VHS quality... around 200MB in size per half hour (they estimate anything from a 7-45 minute download time... depending on your internet connection ;-)

They do play to offer some content free of charge, including News products. TVNZ will also dip into their archives, offering selected items for free... at least initially. A range of show clips and previews will also be available free of charge.

TVNZ say they're hoping to negotiate rights deals with some overseas suppliers for top imported shows. Their ABC/Touchstone Television deal, which includes hits like Lost and Desperate Housewives may be a hopeful target.

State TV's chosen direction is in contract to that of many of the major US and UK networks, who currently offer many of their top TV shows for free online (most through streaming).
Some have created their own Broadband Video channels like CBS's great Innertube online channel, which features recent episodes of top shows, as well as new and unique content created specifically for the web.

Americans can also download episodes from a huge range of Network and Cable TV shows through itunes and Amazon Unbox. These cost (US) $1.99 an episode, and unlike TVNZ, don't self destruct after 7 days. Videos from itunes are "near-DVD quality", and can be downloaded onto video iPods. Amazon's Unbox video downloads can even be backed up onto DVD.

In the UK, state broadcaster BBC offers some shows for free download, and is hoping to allow people to watch anything from the past week for free. Channel 4 lets users download all of its home-grown programming for a charge. But like TVNZ they're only valid for a short rental period... although for just £3.99 a month you can watch everything you want.

* TVNZ: Broadening your viewing horizons
* Primetime downloads are plentiful, but quality's spotty

* BBC: Online TV a reality in the US
* The Inquirer: It's a big week for UK broadband TV

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