Sky Television (New Zealand)
|Traded as||NZX: SKT, ASX: SKT|
|Headquarters||Auckland, New Zealand|
John Fellet, CEO|
Peter Macourt, Chairman
|Revenue||NZ$928 million (2015)|
|NZ$379.8 million (2015)|
|Profit||NZ$171.8 million (2015)|
|Total assets||NZ$1.9 billion (2015)|
|Total equity||NZ$1.3 billion (2015)|
Number of employees
Sky Network Television Limited is a New Zealand pay television satellite TV provider. It is also a wholesale channel provider to New Zealand cable television provider Vodafone and terrestrial pay television service Igloo, which it also owns and operates. On 31 December 2015, Sky had 860,445 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, Sky, there is no connection between the companies.
The company was founded by Craig Heatley 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.
Sky originally launched in early 1990 as an analogue UHF service. Subscribers required UHF set top box and UHF aerial both of which were supplied by 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 three 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 TV One 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 Channel and Orange, Orange later became known as Sky 1 and then The Box. 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, Discovery Channel screened outside of racing hours and was only available to Sky subscribers. Orange 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. 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 Cartoon Network was replaced with Nickelodeon.
Later, funding allowed Sky to extend its coverage throughout most of New Zealand: in 1994, the company expanded to Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Southland and Otago, followed 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 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.
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. 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 Channel was available to Sky Digital subscribers 24 hours a day but UHF subscribers could only receive the channel outside of Trackside's broadcast hours.
Digital versions of free to air channels have always been available on Sky Digital meaning that some 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 TVNZ 1 and TVNZ 2 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).
Launch of My Sky Service
In December 2005, Sky released its own Digital Video Recorder (DVR), which essentially was an upgraded set top box similar to Foxtel IQ in Australia or TiVo in the U.S.. Called My Sky, it offered 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 gave viewers access to a revamped Guide and the new Planner, used to plan and access recordings at the touch of a button.
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 on 30 March 2006, after the ageing Optus B1 satellite was out of alignment for a 13-hour period and therefore 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. The boxes allow connection of to up to four satellites which can work with its four TV tuner cards in any combination. The device has a 320GB HDD. 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.
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. Sky Box Office channels, including adult channels are copy protected so DVD/HDD recorders and PCs will not record from these channels. Other channels are not copy protected. Copy protection technology is not built into other decoders.
On 1 July 2011, a version of the same decoder with a 1TB hard drive was launched as My Sky+
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.
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.
The Igloo service is provided through DVB-T and is available in areas of New Zealand where Freeview HD is available. Customers require an 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, the customer is also responsible for the installation of the equipment including the UHF aerial. Sky subscribers do not own their Sky decoders and are required to return the decoder on cancellation of their service, Sky will also arrange for a technician to install any equipment in the customers home including the satellite dish. 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
In November 2005, Sky announced it had purchased the free-to-air channel Prime TV for NZ$30 million. Sky uses Prime TV 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.
News Corp sale
In February 2013, News Corp announced it will be selling its 44 percent stake in Sky TV.
Replacement of Legacy Hardware
From November 2015, Sky has started replacing the legacy standard digital decoders and 2005 My Sky decoders with a new decoder. The My Sky HDi and My Sky + box software will be upgraded to the same system software of these new boxes. The new Sky software has features such as internet capability, search functionality, favourite channels, and a series stack function. The new Sky box has built-in Wi-Fi, but a Sky Link device can be ordered for free by customers, in order to use a Wi-Fi connection on the older My Sky boxes. The new box has an ability to turn recording features and storage capacity on if the subscriber is a My Sky subscriber, so no additional box is required. This will allow Sky to cease broadcasting scrambled channels using the current H.262 video compression in favor of H.264, which means Sky will have roughly double the capacity on satellite for additional channels and Ultra H.265 HD broadcasts in the future. Free-to-air channels such as Prime, Edge TV and Bravo Plus 1 will have to remain in H.262 to be accessible to non-Sky subscribers such as Freeview viewers. The software upgrade to MySky HDi contained many bugs such as lost recordings and features such as series link. This had led to many complaints from Sky customers (ref Sky NZ Facebook page). Sky have acknowledged issues with the screen fonts which will be changed in future upgrades, however have not commented on the wider issues with the software.
Products and services
Satellite Television Channels
Sky defines a virtual channel order that groups channels by their content.
General entertainment basic channels are below channel 30 which includes TVNZ's free-to-air TVNZ 1 (four regional markets for SD), free-to-air TVNZ 2, MediaWorks' free-to-air TV3 and free-to-air Bravo, Viacom Media Networks channels MTV and Comedy Central, NBCUniversal's E!, Prime (three regional markets), The Box, Vibe, UKTV, Jones!, The Zone, Discovery Communications' Living Channel, Food TV, and TLC. Free-to-air channels Māori Television, HGTV, Duke, Choice TV, The Shopping Channel and TVSN. Sky Arts and SoHo are available as 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 Disney, select Sky Movies Pop-up channels (such as Halloween or superhero movies), TCM (Time Warner classics) and Rialto Channel (independent). Sky Box Office channels 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 5, select Sky Sport Pop Up channels for special sporting events, Disney's ESPN & ESPN2, TAB Trackside 1, TAB Trackside 2, The Rugby Channel and a mosaic of Sky Sport channels. Sky Arena offers one off pay-per-view events. Garage is an extreme sports channel.
Informational basic channels are from 70 to 79 which includes targeted scheduling for Discovery Communications' Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, as well as News Corporation's National Geographic Channel, 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 Face TV. 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 and European RT.
Children & Family entertainment basic channels are from 100 to 109 which includes the Disney's Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD, Viacom Media Networks channels Nickelodeon and Nick Jr., and TVNZ Kidzone.
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. 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 Radio New Zealand National, Radio New Zealand Concert, Tahu FM and Calvary Chapel Radio.
Channels for special services (system/hidden) are from 800 to 999 which includes Supercheap in-store radio and an auxiliary backup channel.
High definition channels include:
- TVNZ 1 (select content)
- TVNZ 2 (select content)
- TV3 (select content)
- Prime (select content)
- SoHo (including POP-UP channels)
- The Zone
- Sky Movies channels (Sky Movies Premiere, Sky Movies Extra, Sky Movies Greats, Sky Movies Classics, Sky Movies Action, Sky Movies Disney, and Sky Movies pop-up channels)
- Sky Sport channels (Sky Sport 1-4, and Sky Sport pop-up channels)
- ESPN and ESPN2
- TAB Trackside 1 and TAB Trackside 2
- Sky Arena (select events)
Due to satellite bandwidth constraints, the quality is lower for TV One, TV2 and TV3 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 Weather Channel, Playin' TV, Mind Games are available until 28 January 2015. Other services include SkyBet (TAB sports betting), Upgrade channel (self service package changes), Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) (programme listing by channel), Ad Track (advertising insertion for Jukebox audio channels), a VCR SCART Input test and an iA Modem Test.
All Sky customers have the option to subscribe to the My Sky service, per Sky Box in order to activate PVR features on that box. This allows the customer to pause and rewind live television, as well as record three channels while watching a fourth live, on their Sky Box. Another one of the advertised features of My Sky is the ability to record series of programs using the "Series Link" feature. However following the software upgrade in 2015/ 2016 this advertised feature does not work for all customers. Also, a My Sky + box is available with four times the recording space. As of 30 June 2015, there are 549,906 My Sky subscribers.
Sky On Demand
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 movies at any one time. New titles were downloaded automatically from the Optus D1 satellite to the PVR and listed only when they are available for purchase and instant playback.
In November 2015, the Sky On Demand offering was extended to allow all Sky customers to watch subscribed content at a time that suits them, rather just according to the linear schedule. This removes the need to pre-record certain TV shows or films, because viewers can connect the updated decoder to their home broadband and choose stream content from the catalogue of options depending on which channels they subscribe to. This is more akin to on-demand services offered by TVNZ and Netflix, and is designed to give viewers more freedom.
Sky Go is Sky's video on demand streaming service, which was launched in 2011 as iSky. It can be accessed via the Sky Go website on PC or via a device via the Sky Go app.
The instruction to record a programme is sent to the set-top boxes via satellite.
Sky TV Guide app
Sky has released a mobile app which works on iOS devices such as iPhone, iPad and iPod Touches, Android devices & Windows 8. The app contains an electronic program guide, remote record capabilities (for My Sky boxes), 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.
In 2015 Sky launched an online streaming service called Fan Pass. Viewers can purchase day or week passes to access Sky Sport channels 1-4, or purchase passes for individual sports such as Super Rugby, NRL or Formula 1. It is available through the Fan Pass website, as well as apps for Android and iOS devices.
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 (discontinued)
In January 2007, Sky launched Sky Sport: The Magazine, as the published extension of the Sky Sport television package. The magazine featured articles by local and international sports writers, as well as sports photography. Sky TV Rugby commentator Scotty Stevenson was the editor for the magazine. This magazine was discontinued in June 2015.
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.
When a customer subscribes to Sky they 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 My Sky pay an additional cost per month. If a customer wants to discontinue their Sky service on a temporary basis the customer can switch to a decoder rental option which allows the customer to receive free to air channels only.
When the customer cancels a Sky subscription the customer is required to return the equipment but not the satellite dish. If the customer moves to another address the customer is required to leave the satellite dish behind and arrange for a new satellite dish to be installed at the new address, at the customers expense, if a satellite dish has not already been installed at the new address. The satellite dish can be used to receive the Freeview satellite service using a Freeview set top box.
UHF aerials installed on a customers home when Sky operated their UHF service may also be used to receive Freeview HD or Igloo.
The 2016 NZ Corporate Reputation Index placed Sky in last place. The Corporate Reputation Index lists the top 25 companies in New Zealand based on revenue sourced from the 2015 Deloitte Top 200 list, and is judged by consumers with no company input. In the 2016 list Sky had dropped two places to number 25 from 2015.
- "SKY to shut down UHF network". Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- Pullar-Strecker, Tom (23 October 2013). "Sky TV gives up unused spectrum". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- Brand Kreft (8 December 2011). "Igloo details confirmed". Throng New Zealand. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
- Commerce Commission Website - Sky cleared to acquire Prime Television
- "Murdoch to sell stake in Sky TV". 3 News NZ. 4 March 2013.
- "SKY TV - Sign in". Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- "SKY GO". SKY GO: Watch SKY online. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- 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.
- "SKY TV iPhone / iPad Application". SKY - Pay TV - MySKY - iSKY - On Demand - Entertainment - Come With Us. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- "Current Media Releases". SKY - Pay TV - MySKY - iSKY - On Demand - Entertainment - Come With Us. Retrieved 12 June 2015.