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Mediacom Marketing Digest 22 November 2005

Mediacom Marketing Digest 22 November 2005

Cut Down In Their Prime

Timing, of course, is everything. Last Wednesday we listened intently as Andrew Shaw outlined the Prime Television programming plans for 2006, with the jewel in the crown the new Ricky Gervais comedy Extras (supported by a wide range of photogenic BBC series & documentaries).

Come Friday, the whole schedule was rendered moot upon the news that Sky has purchased Prime for $30 million and change, with the avowed intention of using the channel as an outlet for delayed coverage of sporting events.

Rugby is of course at the heart of any Kiwi sports agenda, and we're told that Prime was the top bidder for free-to-air rugby rights -- although TV3 do have the right to match any final bid. TV3 must be sorely tempted to snatch the rugby out from under the new Prime - how can you be a free-to-air sports channel without our favourite sport ? - but now that TV3 owner Canwest is a public company, commercial reality tends to make it difficult to indulge in grand but unprofitable gestures.

The bits between the sports on the new, new Prime are going to be of particular interest. The programming purchased under the old management is unlikely to fit the demographics of the re-engineered channel, but may appear fleetingly 'til new shows are added.

Take a look at some of the programming currently appearing on Sky1, and don't be too surprised if some of this stuff makes its free-to-air appearance on the channel formerly known as Prime [yes, expect a name-change].

The Sky takeover is not yet a done deal -- the chubby chantreuse won't be warbling until a few minor issues (including a guest appearance by the Commerce Commission) are ironed out, but we can see little to stand in the way. Prime's dismal ratings performance in 2005 clearly demonstrates that no audience monopoly will result from this combination of broadcasters; and the entire advertising industry will testify that the ad dollars donated to Prime and Sky are but a fraction of the loot showered on TV1, TV2 and TV3.

Inevitably, both Canwest and TVNZ have been hinting at dire consequences and looking for windmills at which to tilt. It's been a cosy little duopoly these last few years, why not try to stall competition a little bit longer? Sorry, the paradigm just tilted.

The new Prime/Sky combination is going to be a rather more effective competitor, in terms of both programme acquisition and audience-gathering. We might be somewhat more sympathetic to the free-to-air broadcasters' plight, had we not found ourselves rather bruised by the predatory pricing of recent times. Instead, we find ourselves cheering on the new kid on the block.

Meanwhile, downloads, Video iPods, PVRs, PSPs et al. threaten to make the whole "broad"-casting model irrelevant ....

But Wait, There's More ....

Time Warner's AOL will launch a free internet television service early next year, bringing 3,400 hours of programming to viewers online. The service, called In2TV, has taken two years to develop and is the first time a major TV studio has made primetime entertainment programmes available online at no charge.

In2TV will be supported by advertising and will feature 4,800 episodes spanning 100 series of Warner Bros-produced shows including classic primetime hits such as Wonder Woman, Welcome Back Kotter, Growing Pains, Kung-fu, F-Troop, Maverick, The Fugitive and Falcon Crest.

The internet channel will be divided into six channels: comedy; drama; animation; action; classic; and superhero/villain; with plans for two more channels..

The big difference with the service AOL is offering is that it's free.

Instead of charging for the content, AOL will make its money in the traditional TV way by selling advertising space -- up to two minutes for every half-hour episode compared with an average of eight minutes of commercials on free-to-air TV. With approximately 112 million unique monthly visitors to AOL online sites, advertisers will certainly be willing to listen to the possibilities.

AOL also plans to offer new interactive games, quizzes and polls, aiming to make this old TV material more attractive to consumers and advertisers. For example, users will be able to e-mail short videos to their friends, such as a clip of a 1987 appearance in "Growing Pains" by Brad Pitt, with shoulder-length feathered hair, as well as clips of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jay Leno and other celebrities before they became famous.

Well, yes, these goodies may not be exactly ready for primetime -- but they will attract something of an audience, and they're the first fledgling steps of the Hollywood establishment into uncharted territory, so don't knock it, OK?

And Our First Example Of PSPcasting ...

If you're more interested in the cutting edge of TV technology, check out a new television series set in London that allows viewers to direct the storyline and download episodes in advance of transmission to their PSP.

Dubplate Drama is an urban youth drama that follows the central character Dionne in her bid to make it in the music industry. Each of the six 15-minute episodes ends with a moral dilemma. Viewers get to vote by text message on one of two options to choose what happens next.

The series is being shown late at night on the UK's Channel 4 and also on MTV, with episodes available for free download to the Sony PlayStation Portable 24 hours ahead of transmission and in a cut-down version on the 3 mobile phone network. Check out the details at


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