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Freeview moves ahead of Sky TV in HD race

Freeview says it finished 2008 with 52,522 of its HD receivers in Kiwi living rooms, a nose ahead of Sky Television’s installed base of MySky HDi boxes – which chief executive John Fellet says are a money loser.

At the end of 2008, a total of 198,938 Freeview receivers had been sold, meaning the consortium is now broadcasting to about 12.6% of New Zealand homes.

But although Sky TV still has nearly four times the market penetration overall, Freeview has moved ahead in the high definition race.

Of total Freeview receivers shipped through retailers, 52,522 housed the HD version of Freeview’s tuner. The total includes both standalone receivers and tuners built into flatscreen TVs made by Samsung and Sony – sales of which spiked with TV’s high definition broadcast of the Olympics on Freeview HD (which was only available on Freeview; TVNZ is still refusing to make its HD broadcasts of TV1 or TV2 programmes available to Sky TV. In turn, Sky TV refuses to put its free-to-air Prime on Freeview, though Sky TV chief executive John Fellet says that's purely because Freeview ad revenue would not equal the cost of broadcasting via the platform, not a tit-for-tat boycott. NBR exclusively revealed Kordia’s Freeview fees November 21).

Mr Fellet tells NBR his company had about 50,000 MySky HDi accounts by the end of 2008, conceding the platform has fallen behind Freeview HD – at least in terms of the number of boxes shifted.

However, Mr Fellet questions whether everyone who owns a TV with a Freeview HD recorder built-in actually watches channels on the platform (which can co-exist with any Sky TV service on the same set).

In turn, Freeview has questioned whether every MySky HDi household watches Sky TV’s HD channels. Mr Fellet says the number of active HD watchers is “above 95%,” allowing for a few households that have had an HDi box installed because they intend to buy an HDTV in the near future.

Ahead of target but losing money
Mr Fellet says Sky TV is actually running ahead of its goal to have 80,000 HDi subscribers by the end of the service’s first 12 months (it launched on August 15 last year).

The 80,000 target was set because that’s the subscriber band Sky TV needs to hit to start breaking even on its HD service, Mr Fellet tells NBR. With around 50,000 subscribers at present, MySky HDi is losing money.

The chief executive also says he’s not threatened by Freeview’s HD lead, telling NBR “I think it’s fantastic. The more people who see how great HD looks, the better.”

A spokesman for Freeview would not immediately reveal the consortium’s targets but did offer that standard definition and HD receiver sales are both “way ahead of estimates” with sales accelerating during the final three months of the year as 38,442 tuners were shipped. Freeview HD launched in April last year, with the first flatscreen TVs with built-in Freeview HD tuners appearing from Sony in July.

The first hard-drive equipped Freeview HD receivers, supporting the MyFreeviewHD – a MySky style on-screen electronic programming guide (EPG) for one-click recording – were released during December.

More by By Chris Keall

Comments and questions
3

$999 for the HD freeview recorder is criminal, the hd boxes are finally about realistic at around $250. How is it I can buy a 1TB hard drive for $400 while Freeview consider there HD harddrive package value for money at a grand!, NZ consumers are getting ripped off by freeview.

How many of the Freeview integrated TVs are sitting there hooked up to a sky box and have never once even being tuned in. Most people I know with sky don't even have the tuner in the TV connected to anything, a couple have no antenna on their house because it was built after sky was on satellite.

On the other side of it, how many people just wanted to be able to record sky conveniently so got the mysky hdi and don't even have a widescreen, let alone a HD one at that?

i have to agree on your second paragraph. alot of... no... all, of the people i know that have MySky HDi dont have a big screen nor is it widescreen for that matter and you can guarantee that most people dont really care about the HD side of it, to them its just a picture. the cool thing is you can record. so if sky dont get their numbers up why dont they let freeview use some bandwidth for HD so i can get it without the hassle of my signal being crap cos' of NZ's rugged topography