Monday, 13 August 2007

Freeview NZ claims initial success

New Zealand’s Freeview service seems to be off to a solid if unspectacular start, with figures out today showing more than 21,000 digital set-top boxes have been sold since the launch in May. (Freeview is claiming an estimated audience for about 100,000 people, after adding in the “existing pool of digital receivers”).

Official figures reveal only 55% of digital receivers sold were “official” Freeview boxes, although it’s unclear where the figure for the “unofficial” boxes comes from, and whether that includes the thousands of boxes sold through auction sites like TradeMe. (I bought Mom a “non-certified” receiver for her birthday, and it seems to work fine, plugging straight into the abandoned Sky Digital dish ;-)

The “free to air” digital satellite service launched with just a basic package offering little new for viewers. Freeview’s main selling point so far has been “crystal clear digital quality reception” for those in remote or patchy areas, and that is where the marketing has been targeted so far.

A wider takeup is expected next year, when Freeview’s UHF Digital Terrestrial Television service launches in the main centres. This service will require a different kind of set-top box, or TVs with a built-in DVB-T tuner. (A Freeview Personal Video Recorder – PVR – is also expected sometime next year).

State TV has been allocated $79 million over five years by the Government for two new (initially) advertising-free channels… TVNZ 6 is set to launch in September (featuring pre-school, family, and arts programming), with TVNZ 7 (news, sport, and information) to follow in March 2008.

Access broadcaster Triangle has also announced plans for a nationwide digital channel, Triangle Stratos. MediaWorks (TV3, C4) intends to use at least two of its allocated six channels, but has not yet revealed any firm plans. Auckland-based Alt TV and Christchurch-based CTV are also investigating joining Freeview next year when the DTT service launches.

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