Global mode and the big whine
UPDATE: Spark spokesman Richard Llewellyn says TVNZ did not ask Spark or Lightbox to appear on the One News story broadcast Saturday evening. "Lightbox CEO Kym Niblock fronted other media on Thursday and over the weekend. We simply weren’t contacted by the TVNZ reporter so not accurate to say otherwise," Mr Llewellyn says - Editor.
Last week Sky TV, Spark, MediaWorks and TVNZ announced they were threatening to take legal action against those companies who sell or promote technology to let people more easily access (and pay for) offshore TV and movie services.
Put simply, the four named companies all had a big weep over Global Mode because it's eating into their forecast profits.
Over the past few months we've been really praiseworthy of the efforts Sky and Spark have been making with online broadcasting (Round of Applause for Sky and Free Lightbox part of future TV watching) but this latest move has caused us to lift our eyebrows.
I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of legality or the technical aspects, I just want to talk about the things that I know a bit about: communications.
Firsly, the legal action was announced on Thursday afternoon. Traditionally, if you wanted to release something that could possibly be construed as a negative, you'd do so on a Friday evening when journalists were hitting deadline for the day and tomorrow's paper was set out. So kudos to them.
Oh except the Thursday they released their statement was the Thursday before Good Friday. One of only two days of any year that a newspaper isn't published. So I retract that kudos, because it's actually *more* cynical than a Friday afternoon info-dump.
Secondly, TVNZ covered the story for its Saturday evening news bulletin (link to story). Good on it for having a crack at the story even though its head office has skin in the game.
Chief executives of Sky and Spark were asked to appear in the bulletin. Both chose not to. This despite the fact that we've heard on good authority that Sky is leading the charge on this issue. John Fellet and Simon Moutter decided to stay well away from fronting the news item about it; leaving it to TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick to literally phone the interview in.
And finally, from a communications perspective, the messaging that Sky, Spark et al have been using has been interesting. They've been very quick to try to make this a business to business problem. You consumers don't have to worry, this is just boring suits fighting it out in the board-room-playground. You guys can keep having it sweet.
This quote was from their statement: "This is not about taking action against consumers; this is a business to business issue and is about creating a fair playing field."
A lot is said in that sentence that may not be picked up on at first glance.
Firstly, as noted: business to business, not consumer; secondly the use of "fair playing field" is fascinating. "Fair" is probably the word that New Zealanders hold most dear. That's how we want to be viewed. As fair. No one gets an advantage, we're all the same, pull yer head in mate etc.
So in their attempts to sell their sow's ear of a message they've attempted to tap into the New Zealand psyche and convince you that you should be on their side.
The big four know that if they can either a) convince you that it's not in the interests of consumers or b) convince you that it's about making things fair; then they'll win the hearts and minds of New Zealanders (or rather, not cede the hearts and minds to those who peddle global mode).
Except it does affect consumers. Because, if Sky and Spark etc are successful, then the consumer will have less choice than they currently do.
As we said in our release on the issue last week, Kiwis still have the choice to go with Sky, Spark and others' online services, so those companies should just focus on making their offering as attractive as possible. Not trying to shut down the competitors.
The only silver lining to this particular cloud is that, if the question ends up in court, we'll know what today's law says about this once and for all.
David Cormack is InternetNZ communications lead.