Tag Archives: Television

Will the iPad Reinvent Television?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. is [reportedly] in discussions with television networks to lower the price of downloaded TV shows when the company begins selling its new iPad tablet computer.

Apple has already been testing a price of 99 cents—half the price of standard-definition TV episodes—for certain shows on its iTunes service and [again, reportedly] wants to finalize a deal to offer that price more broadly along with the iPad, which is expected to go on sale in late March.

All that speculation makes for a great story, probably with at least a grain of truth. And selective leaking might well put more pressure on TV programme producers to do a deal.

But the underlying subtext is even more interesting — and potentially game-changing. When the iPod came out, it (more than any other device) turned music listening from a shared experience to a predominantly single-user moment. Whatever your musical taste, you were no longer obliged to negotiate with other members of your household before firing up the stereo. You could dance to the beat of a different drummer in the privacy of your own earbuds.

Now the iPad threatens to unleash the same single-user phenomenon with television. YouTube already brought us part of the way — the iPad will complete the circuit with quality television available in a one-person device. Content comes in through WiFi or Mobile, and exits through one pair of eyes.

As marketers, are we ready for a new generation of massively-multi-set households?

TV Challenges for 2010

What lies ahead for NZ television networks in 2010?

More of the same, with occasional disruptions and a few hints of trouble yet to come. 

The disruptions? Unprecedented four-channel coverage of the Winter Olympics in February; the FIFA World Cup in June; and the Commonwealth Games in October – all likely to dislodge viewing habits.

Outside those times, it’s business as usual for the free-to-air networks. ONE, TV2 and TV3 are all expected to field schedules largely similar to their 2007-08-09 seasons, with many returning favourites. But we won’t be seeing TVNZ local productions Dancing With The Stars or Wheel of Fortune in 2010 – too expensive in the expected economic climate – and rumours persist of potential cuts to the TV3 schedule when the new Australian boss Ian Audsley (AKA “hatchet man”, according to media reports) takes over early in 2010.

And, of course, 2010 ushers in the last season of Lost. Whatever will we do without its metaphysical musings and maddening meanderings?

According to a new Knowledge Networks report, 56% of U.S. television viewers usually turn on their TVs without the intent to watch a specific programme. In other words, for most U.S. viewers, Appointment Viewing is so last decade.

We don’t expect Kiwi audiences to change their ways too soon (there’s always Coro Street firmly on the schedule), but it’s an amber indicator of times to come …

Vodafone and MySky HDi: The Details

In yesterday’s Media Monitor, we promised to blog about the Vodafone announcement as soon as it became public.

Here’s what you need to know:

From 7 December 2009, if you are on the Ideal or Ultimate home phone and broadband pack and choose SKY with Vodafone, you will get MY SKY HDi for free (usually $15 per month) and only pay an installation fee of just $49 (normally $99).
This offer will be available to new and existing residential Vodafone home phone and broadband customers who are on the Ideal (5GB) and Ultimate (20GB) packs. You just need to have either the Ideal or Ultimate pack from Vodafone, and receive your SKY subscription through Vodafone. Existing SKY subscribers who transfer their subscriptions to Vodafone with home phone and broadband will also be eligible for this offer.
*To receive High Definition content you will need own a High Definition capable television and pay a further $10 per month for the HD Access Ticket.

From 7 December 2009, if you are on the Ideal or Ultimate home phone and broadband pack and choose SKY with Vodafone, you will get MY SKY HDi for free (usually $15 per month) and only pay an installation fee of just $49 (normally $99)*.

This offer will be available to new and existing residential Vodafone home phone and broadband customers who are on the Ideal (5GB) and Ultimate (20GB) packs. You just need to have either the Ideal or Ultimate pack from Vodafone, and receive your SKY subscription through Vodafone. Existing SKY subscribers who transfer their subscriptions to Vodafone with home phone and broadband will also be eligible for this offer.

*To receive High Definition content you will need to own a High Definition capable television and pay a further $10 per month for the HD Access Ticket.


This marks the first publicly-promoted MySky HDi initiative that offers the supercharged set-top box without its usual premium pricetag. It’s the first step, perhaps, to the situation that now prevails in Australia, where new Foxtel subscribers are simply given a PVR rather than a plain-vanilla set-top unit.

The announcement also marks a closer relationship between Vodafone and Sky, suggesting that, as and when Sky decides to launch enhanced internet services through the MySky HDi box, Vodafone will be the most obvious first partnership.

Prime Television Launch New Season 2010

Prime Television launched its 2010 New Season programming yesterday to Auckland media folk, with more presentations coming up in Wellington tomorrow and Christchurch next week. Some of the highlights:

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Pride of place at the launch was given over to the Winter Olympics (Vancouver 12-28 February), which will feature on Prime for more than 12 hours of free-to-air coverage each day. The Olympics will screen on Prime from 6am till 6pm each day, accompanied by a special daily highlights show during primetime, hosted by the irrepressible presenters from “The Crowd Goes Wild”.

The Winter games are Sky’s first shot at Olympic Gold, and the free to air coverage is in addition to four dedicated channels on Sky’s Pay TV service (as well as online streaming to Kiwi viewers for the very first time).

In past years New Zealand has been poorly served when it comes to Winter Olympics content; that all changes in 2010.

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New Zealand television is fifty years old in June 2010 and Prime will be screening a landmark documentary series to mark the occasion. We’ll quickly slide past the issue of why our state broadcaster isn’t carrying this content and quietly observe that this doco series will be a fascinating retrospective on the last fifty years, as seen through the distorting lens of a Cathode Ray Tube. Looking forward to it.

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This remake of the iconic British series from the seventies asks the question “what would happen if a virulent disease scoured the planet, wiping out most of the human race?” Set in present-day Britain, the series naturally focusses on the lonely few survivors as they struggle to survive in a devastated world where everything that was once safe and familiar is now strange and dangerous. Survivors debuted on BBC1 with 6.5 million viewers in November last year; and although it inevitably shed a number of viewers during its first season run, the drama has been renewed for a second season (not yet aired in the UK).

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This latest iteration of the Stargate franchise goes where ‘Lost In Space’ and ‘Star Trek Voyager’ have gone before, stranding an unlikely crew of soldiers and civilians on an ancient starship billions of lightyears from home. This series is pitched at a younger and less geeky audience than its predecessors, and (probably inspired by the reimagining of BattleStar Galactica) introduces romance and conflict within the group rather than relying on external, alien forces to create sparks. The series launched early in October in the US (on the SyFy cable channel) and is attracting a small but perfectly formed fan following.

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Not to be confused with our own magazine of the same name, The Listener is a supernatural drama set in Toronto about Toby, a young paramedic with the ability to listen to people’s most intimate thoughts. The show began airing in the US in June 2009, with thirteen episodes produced, but was cancelled after the seventh episode due to low ratings. Toby helps persons in crisis and on the way comes to terms with his own past. With the help of his supporting cast, Toby realizes that his gift can serve to help other people. Yes, another do-gooder. [Why don’t we ever have a series about a telepath who decides to rip people off? That would probably rate high enough to get renewed!] YouTube Preview Image

They’re flatmates, they’re twenty-something (or at least look like they are) and they each have a bit of a secret: George is a werewolf, Mitchell is (inevitably) a vampire and Annie is dead. They’re trying to have a normal life — but with unwelcome intruders into their world, rumblings about an impending revolution from the vampire underworld and constant threats of exposure, it isn’t easy. The first season rated well enough on BB3 that a second series was given the green light. BTW, watch for the shtick in the first episode where George heads into the woods looking for a place to hide when he’s about to change into a werewolf. Between courting couples and poachers, there’s nowhere safe …

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You know the drill. Australian paramedics, the first to be called in for any natural or man-made disaster. Considered heroes, they’re really just like anyone else (but better looking), juggling life, love and career. Screened on the Nine Network from August to October, with average ratings — but that was good enough to see a second series commissioned for 2010.

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Perhaps we should take offence, or at least be non-supportive, given how profitable the sword-and-sorcery genre has been for the New Zealand film industry (LOTR, Hercules, Xena, Legend of the Seeker et al.). But KMATFSOF, a send-up of fantasy fiction, has at least a worthy aim (even if, as is the way with such shows, sometimes the comedy fails to fire). The show, launched earlier this year, received mixed reviews and mediocre ratings in the United States and was briefly announced as cancelled, a status that was quickly retracted. KMATFSOF is an acquired taste, attracting passionate fans and dismissive critics alike.

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Steven fry’s award-winning comedy panel show, where contestants are awarded points if their answers are Quite Interesting. A longstanding hit in the UK, this is the first time QI has been cleared for sale internationally (probably because much of the humour is both topical and designed for domestic consumption). Despite those qualifications, the show should attract a keen Kiwi and expat audience over here.

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Six-part series telling the stories of the infamous Monty Python team. This will be the fourth version of the documentary, which has already seen three different retellings so far in 2009. The original film is seven-and-a-half hours long, the director’s cut is 105 minutes long, and finally a version dubbed “The BBC Lawyer’s Cut” that is 59 minutes.

And a brief mention of other shows new to the Prime schedule for 2010:

Clarke Gayford travels through NZ meeting interesting New Zealanders.

Practical, hands-on gardening advice.

Peta Mathias offers fresh perspective on the Berber culture through its cuisine. Hey, stranger things have happened!

Volunteer, life-saving heroes who save lives at New Zealand’s roughest, toughest beach.

Forget Survivors, Mad Max, 2012 and all the other post-apocalyptic tales. This documentary series uses special effects and expert comentary to understand what would really happen to our environment if human life disappeared forever.

Steven Fry travels the world in search of some of the world’s most endangered animals — from the ice-covered mountain tops of New Zealand to the steamy jungles of the Amazon and other exotic locations in-between.

How a select band of secret agents and adventurers hunted down some of the most evil men in history and finally brought them to justice.

A look, perhaps too late, at property developers.

New Tricks comes to Prime for its sixth series, as The Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad investigate a fresh batch of unsolved murders and cold cases.

This doco explores the worldwide obsession with weight loss.

Rare and unseen footage, satellite terrain mapping and state of the art graphics to bring a whole new understanding of the Second World War.

Behind the lens of the most iconic music videos ever created.

Animated series (from the makers of Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill) that pokes fun at our nouveau obsession with “doing the right thing” [i.e. saving the planet, one sustainable-sourced, fair-trade-produced, country-of-origin-verified, unbleached, petroleum-free, recycled paper shopping bag at a time]. An early casualty of the 2009 US television season, cancelled due to low ratings.
Star vehicle for Bob Saget, former host of America’s Funniest Home Videos. A half-hour comedy dubbed as a male Roseanne, Surviving Suburbia became another early victim of the 2009 US TV season.

Four families keen to escape the crises of their everyday lives embark on a life-changing advenutre: three weeks on a deserted island.

The Hoff takes a family holiday to the UK and we’re along for the ride.

Super Nanny, but for pets.

And finally, amongst the shows returning to Prime in 2010:

  • The last outings of the tenth Doctor Who, David Tennant, leading into the new adventures of the eleventh doctor, Matt Smith;
  • And True Blood, Merlin, Midsomer Murders, Ashes to Ashes, Poirot, Lewis, Weeds, Legend of the Seeker, Judge John Deed, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Who Do You Think You Are, Bondi Rescue, Man vs Wild, Super Nanny, Wife Swap USA, Secret Millionaire, Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey and of course Top Gear.

Economic Recovery: Are We There Yet?

“Media owners have provided a great deal of additional value during the past six to nine months but we’re now entering a more ‘normalised’ environment. So trading will have to return to contracted levels.” TVNZ Head of Sales Dave Walker, quoted in Planit (14 October 2009)

MediaWorks CEO Brent Impey was similarly bullish at the TV3/C4 New Season launch, reporting that business has really picked up over the last eight weeks; and more money has been booked on television with MediaWorks in the last seven days than ever before in its history.

So — back to business as usual then, at least for television?

Alas, if only it were that simple. As we’ve learned from past “economic corrections”, the fourth quarter of each year is always a time of hope, when those marketers who have held back during the earlier part of the year spend what pennies they can scrape together, hoping for at least some Christmas sales to offset what’s been for most an annus horribilis.

Much as we’d like to believe that those “green shoots” of economic recovery spotted by optimistic observers will blossom forth and bear sumptuous harvest (if we may be forgiven for threshing the metaphor) — we fear that this new growth spurt won’t last past Boxing Day.

We’re not just being cantankerous. Despite the well-documented restoration of consumer and even business confidence, in our opinion it’s only skin-deep; the underlying realities suggest a slow recovery. As Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard observed recently, “we expect the economy to begin growing again toward the end of [2009], but the recovery is likely to be slow and drawn out. It could also be erratic. To many households it may not feel like a recovery at all, with lower employment, house prices and wage increases into next year.”

Businesses will be starting to plan now (or soon) for 2010/11 financial years starting in April or July 2010. Based on current trading conditions, company finance directors are unlikely to approve significant marketing budget increases for next year — green  shoots may look pretty in the garden but they don’t stand up too well under the harsh spotlights of the boardroom.

As a result, we don’t expect marketing budgets to show much improvement until 2011. Consumers and businesses may well be telling researchers that they expect conditions to improve over the next twelve months — but that’s largely expressing an expectation that things won’t get any worse, not that they’ll suddenly turn absolutely fabulous.

Even Christmas 2009 may not provide the boost that business is anticipating. The latest Kiwi consumer credit figures (to August 31) show a 4.6% slump in borrowing; and Kiwis are saving just 0.2% more than they were twelve months ago. Philip Borkin, economist at ANZ National Bank, summed up the challenge we all face: “A lot of people are paying down debt, and until we see the credit numbers improve, we’re not expecting much to change. For retailers this is a critical time – if we don’t get a pick-up then this could be a very challenging time for them.”

Economists’ cautions are supported by other indicators. Jasons Travel Media recently asked Kiwis what they’re planning to do for the Christmas and summer holidays. A staggering 60% of respondents are changing their plans from the norm this summer – opting to spend their time somewhere other than where they have gone for summer holidays in the past. When asked, there were a plethora of reasons for the break from traditional plans including ‘better deals on accommodation elsewhere’, ‘decided to go somewhere close’ and ‘money is a bit tight this year’. In those Clintonesque words, “It’s the economy, stupid”.

It’s not just us, of course. The latest news from the land of (former?) Hope and (lost?) Glory suggests that parsimony rather than plenty is a global reality these holidays.

The just-published Holiday Forecast Consumer Behaviour Report from PriceGrabber.com finds that this holiday season American consumers will NOT be buying Christmas goodies for:

  • Acquaintances, 57%
  • Co-workers, 53%
  • Service providers (eg parking attendant, housekeeper), 44%
  • Extended family (sorry auntie), 42%
  • Friends, 31%

Other Holiday Trends from the PriceGrabber.com survey of 2,018 online consumers, conducted from Sept. 24, 2009 to Oct. 12, 2009:

Consumers are more price-sensitive than ever
More than ever, comparison shopping is on the forefront of consumers’ minds, with 70 percent of consumers doing more research and comparison shopping online, compared with 38 percent last year. And fifty percent of consumers are planning to shop at discount or outlet stores this year, while only 43 percent did so last year.

Consumers are cutting back
Fifty-three percent of consumers are planning to spend less than they did last year. Of the consumers who are planning to spend less this Christmas, 48 percent reveal that one of the reasons that they are spending less is due to an increase in prices (necessities, gas, etc.), 45 percent cite lack of confidence in the economy, and 38 percent indicate making less money as a reason for spending less.

Shopping has started earlier, to ease the impact of holiday spending
In past years, Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, late in November) has been the unofficial start of the American holiday shopping season. This year, US consumers are planning to start their holiday shopping long before Black Friday, with 22 percent of consumers starting their holiday shopping in October and 29 percent starting in November.

In New Zealand, retailers have been in Christmas shopping mode for some time. The ubiquitous Cameron Brewer, chief executive of the Newmarket Business Association, warned in late September that “for better or worse consumers can expect to see Christmas decorations and displays popping up in some New Zealand shops over the next few weeks.”

Kiwis usually do their shopping somewhat ahead of the Christmas rush anyway. A 2007 study by AMP Capital Shopping Centres found that:

  • 25% of Kiwis have begun their Christmas shopping by September 25, three months out from Christmas
  • 16% start shopping in October
  • 21% hit the malls in November
  • 33% wait until the last fortnight before Christmas
  • 7% of us (three-quarters male, inevitably) leave Christmas shopping until the last minute
  • Meanwhile an impossibly virtuous 3% head to the Boxing Day sales with vim and vigour, buying their gifts for the following year 364 days early.

Gift lists are trimmed down to manage budgets
When it comes to holiday spending this year, 36 percent of US consumers expect to spend between $100 and $499, 28 percent plan to spend $500 to $999, and 30 percent anticipate a holiday spend of $1,000 or more.

We don’t have any recent NZ data for Christmas spend levels, but a five-year-old study by UMR Research on behalf of Visa International found that:

  • More than 50% of Kiwis expected to spend less than $300 on Christmas gifts
  • 16 percent intended to spend less than $100
  • One in twenty said they were planning to “splash out” and spend more than $1000
  • Credit card holders were more likely to expect to spend over $500 than non-cardholders (22 percent compared with 12 percent)
  • Men generally planned to spend slightly more than women
  • The most profligate age group was 30-44 year-olds.

Add a few dollars for five years of moderate inflation, deduct as required for economic downturn du jour, season to taste.


The biggest declines in Year On Year reported advertising expenditure (according to Nielsen Media Research data, Jan-Aug 2009 vs Jan-Aug 2008, at ratecard values) are:

  • Automotive (down $20.1 million)
  • Investment/Finance/Banking (down $17.8 million)
  • Government (down $11.8 million)
  • Home Improvements (down $7.7 million)

In terms of individual advertisers, Telecom has had the biggest drop in reported spend, down by 32% ($10.7 million) YOY. 16 of the top 20 advertisers would seem to have recorded YOY expenditure increases, but we suspect this has more to do with better deals being negotiated in recessionary times rather than extra dollars squeezed out of corporate coffers.

Are we likely to see any of those lost ad dollars return in 2010?
We don’t expect the Financial sector to dip into its battered piggy banks in the near future. As we’ve already seen, consumer borrowing remains down as we pay off our debts (just in case). The housing boom is over so we won’t be desperately seeking mortgages every six months; and our memories of the financial sector meltdown are all too fresh, so the non-bank financial intermediaries are rather less likely to advertise just now.

The Government? Officially on a fiscal diet. We’ll see a splurge of local body activity in Local Election Year 2010, especially as the SuperCity emerges from its chrysalis, but that doesn’t usually translate into big dollars.

Automotive? Well, you know what’s been happening offshore. Within New Zealand, if we look at how many Kiwis say they’ll be buying a new car within the next six months, that number’s dropped from 41,000 in July 2008 to 24,000 in July 2009 (Roy Morgan Single Source data).

Home Improvements? According to Roy Morgan Single Source, 706,000 Kiwis say they plan to refurbish or redecorate their home in some way (such as replacing curtains, carpet or wallpaper) in the next year — well down from 830,000 twelve months ago. And just 367,000 (was 460,000) are planning to spend more than $5,000 renovating or extending their homes in the next twelve months. With fewer consumers willing to pimp their homes, competition’s going to be fiercer than ever for the Home Improvement dollar.


As a small country far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy, New Zealand is at the mercy of global forces in a number of ways, not least the dark and mysterious menace known as the multinational balance sheet. As each quarterly reporting deadline looms in the financial capitals of the world, global CFOs swoop on allocated but unspent marketing budgets from the tiny, farflung outposts of their empires in a futile botoxian effort to tart up the numbers.

Given the current economic woes in most of the countries to which our multinational branches report, local marketing budgets won’t be doing anything but shrinking in most 2009/10 financial years — which takes us to October or November 2010 (based on typical multinational financial years) before any fiscal relief is even theoretically possible.

In other words, multinational marketers (the biggest spenders in our mass media) won’t be driving any Kiwi advertising recovery any time soon. Don’t batten down the ratecard just yet.


Our global counterparts aren’t expecting much from 2010. World Advertising Research Centre (WARC) media inflation forecasts for the year ahead (just released) don’t inspire much optimism unless you live in the emerging economies of China, India or Russia. Projections for media inflation (2010 vs 2010) for three of our key indicator markets:


  • Television up 1.6%
  • Newspapers up 0.6%
  • Magazines no change
  • Radio up 0.5%
  • Cinema up 0.8%
  • Out of home up 1.1%
  • Internet up 5.5%

United Kingdom:

  • Television down 3.3%
  • Newspapers down 0.6%
  • Magazines down 2.4%
  • Radio down 2.0%
  • Cinema down 0.5%
  • Out of home down 0.8%
  • Internet down 5.8%


  • Television down 5.0%
  • Newspapers down 4.5%
  • Magazines up 1.0%
  • Radio down 5.0%
  • Cinema up 2.0%
  • Out of home down 1.0%
  • Internet up 0.5%

Not much there to encourage embattled media owners.


We’ve seen the feathers, we’ve heard the tweets, but so far no actual sighting of the first cuckoo of a new economic spring. Our consensus view at this point is for a seasonal uptick till Christmas, then slow simmering during 2010. Sorry.

This article is drawn from our presentation MEDIA 2010: A Sneak Peak At What Lies Ahead. If you’re a Media Counsel client, please talk to your TMC team about scheduling a time for us to present MEDIA 2010 to you and your colleagues.