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Thousands left dangling as Foss turns off analogue TV

At 2am this morning, Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss flicked a switch at Kordia’s Waiatarua TV tower in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges, ending sixty years of analogue TV broadcasting.

Anyone who wants to watch TV now has to have Sky TV, Freeview, or igloo.

On Friday, Freeview GM Sam Irvine told NBR that research for Going Digital indicated that 94% or 49,000 households in the Upper North region (including Auckland), had yet to make the switch to digital TV as of the start of November.

The area was the final region to go digital. 

Mr Ivine said many homes were buying Freeview boxes or Freeview TVs in the final month, but at final estimate would not be released by Going Digital until December 12.

The Freeview said while 49,000 households had yet to go digital in the final month, a larger number would have a digital device in their home but secondary TVs that were analogue (and no useless) or VCRs or DVD or hard drive recorders that would no longer work.

The digital TV hold-outs could quality for targeted assistance from the government (the package covers the cost of a Freeview decoder - the cheapest of which sell for under $100; no subsidy is available for an $89 igloo box, as the service includes an optional pay TV component, and pay TV is out-of-bounds for the assistance scheme).

A Sky TV insider told NBR the 49.,000 hold-outs were not necessarily low-come, or confused about the switchover. Some would be people who did just not use broadcast TV as their main source of entertainment.

But in the context of Sky TV-TVNZ joint venture igloo struggling to reach its scaled back target of 19,000 by Christmas, it's a number that looms a little larger.

The digital switchover began under Labour in 2006.

The government says the total process, including subsidies to create the Freeview platform and targeted assistance, has cost $157 million.

It has recouped the money, and then some, by auctioning off the 700MHz spectrum freed up by the analogue TV switch-off - which in a happy coincidence for the Crown is perfectly suited for 4G networks.

The government has so far raised $176 million from the ongoing 4G auction, should bag its reserve amount of 198 million with Telecom and Vodafone still in the running for the final lot of airwaves.

The future of TV isn't just about airwaves, however.

The Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) fibre rollout has opened the way for delivering TV content over fibre.

Vodafone recently became the first company to take advantage of this development, offering its UFB subscribers a Vodafone TV box that offers Freeview or Sky TV. Critics say TV over fibre holds limited appeal while ISPs simply resell Sky TV's service. Vodafone says fibre's greater bandwidth allows for better picture quality for several channels than Sky TV over satellite, plus its own selection of ondemand movies.