Sky Television (New Zealand)

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Not to be confused with BSkyB.
Sky Television Limited
Type Public
Traded as NZX: SKT, ASXSKT
Industry Subscription Television
DVD Rental
Broadcasting
Founded 1987; 27 years ago (1987)
Headquarters Auckland, New Zealand
Key people John Fellet, CEO
Peter Macourt, Chairman
Products Sky Television
Fatso
Revenue Increase NZ$909 million (2014)
Operating income Increase NZ$379 million (2014)
Profit Increase NZ$165.8 million (2014)
Total assets Decrease NZ$1.9 billion (2013)
Total equity Decrease NZ$1.2 billion (2013)
Website skytv.co.nz

Sky Television is the only New Zealand operated pay television satellite service and wholesale channels to the only New Zealand cable television provider Vodafone and jointly run, government backed terrestrial pay television service Igloo. On 30 June 2014 Sky had 865,100 subscribers, making it the largest pay television platform in New Zealand. Despite the similarity of name and services, such as Sky Go, Sky Movies and my Sky+ shared with its British equivalent, BSkyB, there is no connection between the companies.

History[edit]

Founded by Terry Jarvis, Craig Heatley, Trevor Farmer and Alan Gibbs in 1987 as Sky Media Limited.

Sky Media Limited originally formed to investigate the possibility of beaming sports programming into clubs and pubs using high performance 4 metre satellite dishes by Jarvis and an engineering associate Brian Green but was redirected into pay television following successful bidding in 1990 for four groups of UHF frequencies in the Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga regions.

Initially only operating in the Auckland region Sky contracted Broadcast Communications to provide the broadcast service and transmission from its Panorama Road studios formerly owned by defunct broadcaster Northern Television.

The first Sky subscriber was former Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives Jonathan Hunt, according to Helen Clark, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The concept of a pay television service was new to New Zealand and Sky had early problems. These included viewer acceptance of subscriber television. It faced difficulty in educating retailers and customers on the use of the original decoders. However, this problem was eased with the introduction of easier-to-use decoders that allowed greater viewer flexibility.

UHF Service[edit]

Sky originally launched as an analogue UHF service. Subscribers required UHF set top box and UHF aerial both of which were supplied by Sky Television when joining Sky. The signal was sent with the picture scrambled, the decoder was used to unscramble the picture. The Sky Movies channel was the only channel broadcast in NICAM stereo, all other channels broadcast in mono. The original decoder didn't actually support stereo sound, if a subscriber wanted to watch Sky Movies in stereo the subscriber had to feed the audio from another source such as a NICAM stereo capable VCR.

The original channel lineup consisted of just 3 channels, Sky Movies (later renamed to HBO before reverting to its original name), Sky Sport and Sky News. Sky rapidly won long term rights from US sports network ESPN (which became a 1% shareholder) as well as CNN and HBO providing it with a supply of sports, news and movies for the three channels. Sky News screened a mixture of CNN International and BBC news bulletins and a replay of the TV1 6pm One Network News bulletin. The Sky News channel was later discontinued and became branded as a CNN channel. In 1994 Sky launched two further channels, Discovery and Orange, Orange later became known as Sky 1 and then The Box. The Discovery Channel broadcast on a channel already used by Trackside. The Trackside service was available free to air to anyone who could receive the UHF signal without the need for a Sky decoder, the Discovery Channel screened outside of racing hours and was only available to Sky Subscribers. The Orange channel broadcast from 4 pm onwards each day with Juice TV screening outside of Orange's broadcast hours, Juice TV was available originally free to air. The Cartoon Network shared the same channel as Orange from 1997 to 2000 screening between 6 am and 4 pm with Orange screening after 4 pm. In 2000 The Cartoon Network was replaced with Nickelodeon.

Later, as funding allowed Sky extended its coverage throughout most of New Zealand, in 1994, the company expanded to Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Southland and Otago, follow by the Wairarapa, Taupo and Wanganui regions in 1995. Its final UHF expansion, in 1996, was to Taranaki, Whangarei and eastern Bay of Plenty.

Following the launch of the digital satellite service in 1998, Sky began reducing services on the UHF platform. NICAM stereo was eventually removed from Sky Movies, the CNN channel was discontinued in 2004 with the UHF frequencies issued to Māori Television.

Sky switched off its analogue UHF TV service on 11 March 2010 at midnight.[1]

Sky used a portion of the freed up UHF and radio spectrum to launch its joint venture Igloo in December 2012. The remaining unused spectrum was relinquished back to the Government and will be recycled to support new broadcasting ventures.[2]

Satellite Service[edit]

In April 1997, Sky introduced a nationwide analogue direct broadcasting via satellite (DBS) service over the Optus B1 satellite. The DBS services gave Sky the opportunity to offer its customers more channels and interactive options, as well as nationwide coverage. It upgraded it to a digital service in December 1998.

While some channels on the UHF platform were shared with other channels, Sky Digital screened the same channels 24 hours a day. Sky Orange (later known as Sky 1 and The Box) extended to screening 24 hours a day on Sky Digital but was only available to Sky UHF subscribers between 4pm and midnight. Discovery is available to Sky Digital subscribers 24 hours a day but UHF subscribers could only receive Discovery outside of Trackside's broadcast hours.

Digital versions of free to air channels have always been available on Sky Digital meaning that some Sky subscribers did not need to purchase any equipment to receive digital TV when New Zealand switched off its analogue service. While most free to air channels have been available on Sky Digital, TVNZ channels TV1 and TV2 did not become available until the end of 2001.

A SkyMail email service was featured for a time, but was later pulled due to lack of interest, (including the wireless keyboards they had produced for it).

Satellite upgrade[edit]

The unreliability of the aging Optus B1 satellite was highlighted when the direct broadcasting satellite (DBS) service went offline just before 7p.m. NZST (8 a.m. London, 3 a.m. New York) on 30 March 2006. The interruption affected service to over 550,000 customers and caused many decoders to advise customers of "rain fade." Due to excessive volume of calls to the Sky toll-free help-desk Sky posted update messages on their website advising customers that they were working with Optus to restore service by midnight. Sky credited customers with one day's subscription fees as compensation for the downtime at a cost to the company of NZ$ 1.5 million. Sky switched its DBS service to the Optus D1 satellite on 15 November 2006. It later expanded its transponder capacity on this satellite to allow for extra channels and HD broadcasts.

Igloo[edit]

Main article: Igloo (New Zealand)

On 24 November 2011 Sky announced they had formed a partnership with Television New Zealand to launch a new low-cost pay television service during the first half of 2012. This is called Igloo and Sky has a 51% share in the venture. Details were announced on 8 December via a press release. Sky offers a selection of channels on a pre-pay basis.[3]

The Igloo service is provided through DVB-T and is available in areas of New Zealand where Freeview HD is available. Customers require and Igloo set top box and UHF aerial to use the Igloo service. Unlike Sky Digital and Sky's former UHF service customers purchase their decoder from a retailer and the customer owns the equipment. Sky subscribers do not own their Sky decoders and are required to return the decoder on cancellation of their service. Igloo works on a prepay system where the customer purchases basic channels for 30 days, the customer is able to discontinue their service at any time and will continue to be able to access free to air channels. Customers can also purchase one off shows such as movies or sport events.

Purchase of Prime Television[edit]

In November 2005, Sky announced it had purchased the free-to-air channel Prime Television for NZ$30 million. Sky uses Prime to promote its pay content and to show delayed sports coverage. New Zealand's Commerce Commission issued clearance for the purchase on 8 February 2006.[4]

News Corp sale[edit]

In February 2013, News Corp announced it will be selling its 44 percent stake in Sky TV.[5]

Products and services[edit]

Channels[edit]

Sky defines a virtual channel order that groups channels by their content.[6]

General entertainment basic channels are below channel 30 which includes TVNZ's free-to-air TV One (four regional markets for SD), free-to-air TV2 and TVNZ Heartland, MediaWorks' free-to-air TV3 (four regional markets for SD) and free-to-air Four, Viacom Media Networks channels MTV and Comedy Central, NBCUniversal's E!, Prime (three regional markets), The Box, BBC UKTV, Vibe, Living, Food Television, JONES!, The Shopping Channel, free-to-air Māori Television, Yes Shop, TVSN, Travel Channel and free-to-air ChoiceTV. The Arts Channel and SoHo are available extra channels.

Movie packaged channels are from 30 to 39 which includes Sky Movies Premiere (new releases), Sky Movies Extra (drama, romance and thriller), Sky Movies Greats (modern classics), Sky Movies Classics, Sky Movies Family (During school holidays only), Sky Movies Action, Sky Movies Pop-up, TCM (Time Warner classics) and Rialto (independent). Sky Box Office channels (video store releases) are available as pay-per-view from 120 to 139 with the top three channels also on 40 to 49. Adult pay-per-view movies are from 140 to 159 which includes Playboy TV, Desire TV and Brazzers TV.

Sporting packaged channels are from 50 to 69 which includes Sky Sport 1 to 4, Sky Sport Pop-up, Disney's ESPN & ESPN2, TAB Trackside 1, TAB Trackside 2, The Rugby Channel, free-to-air Sommet Sports and a mosaic of Sky Sport channels. Sky Arena offers one off pay-per-view events.

Informational basic channels are from 70 to 69 which includes targeted scheduling for Discovery Communications' Discovery and Animal Planet, as well as News Corporation's National Geographic, the BBC's BBC Knowledge, and Foxtel Networks versions of A+E Networks' CI and History.

Public service basic channels are from 80 to 85 which includes government funded free-to-air Te Reo and the Auckland regional channel FaceTV. The rural sponsored Country TV is an available extra channel.

News coverage basic channels are from 85 to 99 which includes Australia's Sky News, government provided Parliament TV, Time Warner's CNN, 21st Century Fox's Fox News, Al Jazeera, BBC's BBC World News, NBCUniversal's CNBC, European RT and interactive Weather Channel. The French language France 24 is available as an extra channel.

Children & Family entertainment basic channels are from 100 to 109 which includes the Disney's Disney Channel and Disney Junior, Viacom Media Networks channels Nickelodeon and Nick Jr., and TVNZ Kidzone24. The interactive Playin' TV Games with MindGames puzzles are available extra channels.

Music video basic channels are from 110 to 119 which includes Viacom Media Networks channels MTV Hits and MTV Classic, Auckland operated Juice TV and J2, and MediaWorks' free-to-air The Edge TV.

Religious and regionally funded basic channels are from 200 to 299 which includes Cue TV, Shine TV and Daystar.

Channels of an Asian origin are packaged separately from 300 to 309 which includes a group of state-run channels from China, Korea and Japan provided by World TV as well as the English-speaking CCTV-9. Asian audio only radio channels are from 311 to 314 which includes Real Good Life, New Supremo and FM 104.2. The non-Asian STAR Plus Hindi, a pay TV channel from India is also available on the range from 315 to 319.

A selection of Jukebox radio channels from 400 to 499 are available with the Sky Digital Music package. With free-to-air radio from 420 to 429) which includes The Edge, Radio New Zealand National, Radio New Zealand Concert, Tahu FM and Calvary Chapel Radio.

Timeshifted versions of general entertainment channels are from 501 to 599 for an hour delay of TV One, TV2, TV3 and FOUR..

Channels for special services (system/hidden) are from 800 to 999 which includes Supercheap in-store radio and an auxiliary backup channel.

High definition simulcasts are available to subscribers with a My Sky receiver via three 8PSK frequencies which includes 100% native content for SoHo, SoHo Pop-up, Sky Movies Premiere, Sky Movies Extra, Sky Movies Greats, Sky Movies Family, ESPN and ESPN2. With selected native content for TV One (single regional market), TV2, TV3 (single regional market), Sky Sport 1 to 4, Sky Sport Pop-up and Sky Arena. Due to satellite bandwidth constraints, the quality is lower for TV 1, 2 and 3 than the free-to-air terrestrial versions. As two of the three frequencies provide about eight megabits per video channel and the other is only about six megabits per video channel.

Interactive services are available for SkyBet (TAB sports betting), Upgrade channel (self service package changes), Electronic Programme Guide (iEPG) (programme listing by channel), Ad Track (advertising insertion for Jukebox audio channels), a VCR SCART Input test and an iA Modem Test.

Temporary channels that could pop-up for special marketed events such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the Australian Open are an Olympics Mosaic, Olympic News, and Sky Sport 5 to 8.

Digital video recorders[edit]

My Sky (discontinued)[edit]

In December 2005, Sky released its own Digital Video Recorder (DVR), which essentially is an upgraded set top box similar to Foxtel IQ in Australia or TiVo in the U.S.. Called My Sky, it offers viewers the ability to pause live television, rewind television, record up to two channels at once straight to the set top box and watch the start of a recorded programme while still recording the end. It also gives viewers access to a revamped Guide and the new Planner, used to plan and access recordings at the touch of a button. However the PVR box remains the property of Sky Television.

One of the advertised features of My Sky is the ability of the system to record series of programs using the "Series Link" feature. But this has proven to be somewhat unreliable in that on occasions, intended future recordings are not made. This has occurred since the inception of the service. Sky TV say they are working to determine the cause of the random failures, and to rectify it. Soft rebooting the decoder appears to temporarily overcome the problem.

There was software in My Sky that after an hour of no signal from Sky then the decoder locks playback of pre-recorded programmes. This was discovered after the Optus B1 satellite was unable to broadcast Sky to over 600,000 subscribers.

This generation of box was replaced by My Sky HDi when it launched on 1 July 2008.

My Sky HDi[edit]

The My Sky HDi decoder and remote control

On 1 July 2008, a service called My Sky HDi was launched, and is the successor to the My Sky service released in 2005.

The boxes allow connection of to up to four satellites which can work with its four TV tuner cards in any combination. Two channels can be recorded at once, while another can be watched live and the fourth is for a non-real time pay per view service. The device has a 320GB HDD however only 160GB is available for recording, the remaining is reserved for on-demand downloads. The quality of My Sky HDi is 576i via component and 720/1080i via HDMI.

A new feature was released exclusive to My Sky HDi on 6 July 2010 called Record Me. This feature allows subscribers to press the green button on programme advertisements to record that advertised programme.

Sky On Demand[edit]

Sky announced late 2006 that it will be using the 30% reserved disk space in the PVR to offer a video on demand service to its My Sky customers. This service commenced in 2007 offering 12−15 titles at any one time. New titles are downloaded automatically from the Optus D1 satellite to the PVR and listed only when they are available for purchase and instant playback.

Copy protection[edit]

In May 2009 Sky introduced copy protection on My Sky and My Sky HDi decoders limiting the ability to copy material from My Sky/My Sky HDi to DVD/HDD recorders and to PCs. TV One, Two and Three, Sky Movies, Sky Movies 2, Sky Movies Greats, MGM & TCM have a copy-once encoding meaning movies can be copied however any further copying is prevented. Sky Box Office channels, including Adult channels are copy protected so DVD/HDD recorders & PCs will not record from these channels. Other channels are not copy protected. Copy protection technology is not built into other decoders.

My Sky +[edit]

On 1 July 2011, a new service called My Sky + was launched, and is the successor to the My Sky HDi service released in 2008.

It has a 1Tb hard drive which makes it capable of recording four times the amount of content than its predecessor.

As of 30 June 2014, there are 504,700 My Sky HDi and My Sky + subscribers.

My Sky 3[edit]

In 2015 Sky will replace old standard Sky digital boxes with new My Sky 3 boxes that share the same system software as My Sky HDi and My Sky +. It has the ability to turn the recording features and storage capacity on or off depending on what the type of subscriber it is. These new boxes will allow Sky to cease broadcasting the old MPEG-2 signal in favor of MPEG-4, which means Sky will have double the capacity on satellite for additional channels and Ultra HD broadcasts in the future.

From January 2015, My Sky HDi, My Sky + and My Sky 3 will have internet capability so subscribers can view programs on demand via a broadband connection.

Web[edit]

Remote record[edit]

In August 2009 an online service was launched where customers can log on and set their My Sky or My Sky HDi's to record programmes.[7]

The instruction to record a programme is sent to the set-top boxes via satellite.

Sky TV App[edit]

Sky has released a mobile app which works on iOS devices such as iPhone, iPad and iPod Touches, Android devices & Windows 8.[8] The app contains an electronic program guide, remote record capabilities (for MySky HDi), Facebook & Twitter social functions and automatic programme reminders. The app has been a success, with over 50,000 downloads from the iTunes App Store in just four weeks.[9]

Sky Go[edit]

Sky Go is Sky Television's video on demand streaming service, which launched in was launched in 2011 as iSky. It can be accessed via the Sky Go website on PC or via iPhone or iPad via the Sky Go app.[10] The service is free for Sky basic subscribes and offers a selection of programmes previously screened on Sky's channels based on users' existing Sky subscriptions.

The following Sky channels are streamed live on Sky Go:

  • BBC Knowledge
  • BBC UKTV
  • BBC World News
  • Cartoon Network
  • CNN
  • E!
  • ESPN & ESPN2 (Sky Sport subscribers)
  • National Geographic
  • Sky Movies Premiere & Extra (Sky Movies subscribers)
  • Sky Sport 1,2,3,4 & Pop-Up (Sky Sport subscribers)

Sky Go also offers pay-per-view movies and television programs.

Fatso[edit]

Sky also owns an Online DVD and video game rental service − Fatso.

Publishing[edit]

Skywatch[edit]

Sky also provides a Skywatch monthly magazine to all its customers. The latest readership survey shows that Skywatch has a readership of 965,000 which makes it the largest magazine read in New Zealand, and the largest monthly magazine. The magazine provides monthly listings for Sky channels, as well as highlights and features.

Sky Sport The Magazine[edit]

In January 2007, Sky launched Sky Sport The Magazine, as the published extension of the Sky Sport television package. The magazine features articles by local and international sports writers, as well as sports photography. Sky TV Rugby commentator Scotty Stevenson is the editor for the magazine.

Technical[edit]

Sky Digital subscribers get a standard 60-centimetre satellite dish installed on their home along with set-top boxes including modems for a return path.

Sky switched from the elderly Optus B1 to the Optus D1 satellite for its DBS service on 15 November 2006. Initially, Sky used vertically polarised transponders on Optus D1 (as it had on Optus B1). However, on 31 July 2007 it moved its programming to horizontally polarised transponders with New Zealand-specific beams to be consistent with Freeview and to gain access to more transmission capacity. Sky have also purchased some of the capacity of Optus D3, which was launched mid August 2009, this gives Sky the ability to add more channels and upgrade existing channels to HD in the future. However due the LNB switching that would be required the single D3 transponder lease was later dropped in 2011.

A set-top box (STB) is used to decrypt the satellite signals. Digital broadcasts are in DVB-compliant MPEG-2 (MPEG-4 AVC for HD broadcasts). Interactive services and the EPG use the proprietary OpenTV system.

Equipment ownership[edit]

When a customer subscribes to Sky he or she will have a decoder professionally installed and a satellite dish installed if one isn't already available. Sky maintains ownership of the equipment and part of the customers monthly subscription cost includes the rental of the decoder. Customers who have MySky HD pay an additional cost of NZ$15 a month for the rental of the decoder or an additional NZ$20 for a MySky HD+ decoder. If customers want to discontinue their Sky service on a temporary basis customers can switch to a decoder rental option which allows a customer to receive free to air channels only. When a customers cancels a Sky subscription the customer is required to return the equipment but not the satellite dish, customers can use the satellite dish to receive the Freeview satellite service. When a customer moves to another address the customer is required to leave the satellite dish behind and arrange for a new satellite to be installed at the new address, at the customers expense, if a satellite dish is not available at the new address. UHF aerials installed on a customers home when Sky operated their UHF service may also be used to receive Freeview HD or Igloo.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Scoop: Sky to shut down UHF network
  2. ^ Pullar-Strecker, Tom (23 October 2013). "Sky TV gives up unused spectrum". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Brand Kreft (8 December 2011). "Igloo details confirmed". Throng New Zealand. Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  4. ^ Commerce Commission Website - Sky cleared to acquire Prime Television
  5. ^ "Murdoch to sell stake in Sky TV". 3 News NZ. 4 March 2013. 
  6. ^ http://www.skytv.co.nz/Default.aspx?tabid=1746
  7. ^ Pullar-Stecker, Tom (2009-08-10). "Sky TV to offer Remote Record". The Dominon Post. Retrieved 11 August 2009. "Sky Television's 70,000 MySky subscribers will be able to log on to the internet to programme their set-top boxes to record programmes from Friday next week." 
  8. ^ http://www.skytv.co.nz/Default.aspx?tabid=1506
  9. ^ http://www.skytv.co.nz/Default.aspx?tabid=202&art_id=35590
  10. ^ http://www.skygo.co.nz/

External links[edit]