There have been many media stories that have grabbed the headlines in 2010. The end of daily radio for Hamish & Andy on the Today Network, the snapping up of Ten Network shares by Australia’s richest and Federal Election coverage have all dominated the headlines. The real story in 2010 however is the plethora of media content now available to consumers across TV, online, tablet or mobile devices from numerous providers.
News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch said earlier this year that “content is not just king, it is the emperor of all things electronic. Clever technology is merely an empty vessel without any great content.”
The FTA networks Seven, Nine and Ten have created a strong online presence with catch-up TV services driven by advertiser-supported models. The ABC however remains the leader for TV with its iView catch-up service not only available online, but also on Playstation 3 and tablet devices.
Whilst these online services are easy to access and use, they are useless without content. This year has seen a range of content deals between networks and studios which conflict with programs that each network broadcast on terrestrial TV. For example NineMSN’s FIXPLAY has free episodes of Spooks, Shameless and Doctor Who, even though these shows are broadcast terrestrially on the ABC and SBS TV. Meanwhile Yahoo!7’s Plus7 has content arrangements with the BBC, Comcast and Sony TV – which is a major supplier of content to the Nine Network.
This year has also seen the near completion of Australia’s new digital-only FTA channels (Ten’s Eleven launches 11 January 2011). The FTA networks were hesitant to launch digital-only channels for sometime yet there are now some 15 channels available. This year 7Mate, GEM and ABC News 24 all launched as new FTA digital-only channels. These channels have on some nights attracted a combined 15%-20% of total viewers and presented a new challenge for subscription TV providers FOXTEL and AUSTAR. These new channels have had success (7Mate & 7Two provide Seven with a reported $10 million in revenue a month) with schedules full of US, UK and Australia reruns and a sprinkling of new and exclusive content.
The increase in content distribution by FTA networks across new technology has increased advertiser inventory which in turn has seen a strong ad recovery for the TV sector after difficult times during the Global Financial Crisis.
The year started with the Winter Olympics from Vancouver, with FOXTEL producing four channels of coverage during the event and then towards the end of the year providing six channels of coverage for the Delhi Commonwealth Games. This innovative and extensive converge from FOXTEL (rebroadcast on AUSTAR) was a warm up for its coverage of the 2012 London Olympics. The coverage highlighted content is emperor and will attract eyeballs if distributed in an easy to view fashion.
Whilst Australian homes with subscription-TV is only at around 30%, this year has seen innovation from FOXTEL and AUSTAR by delivering content to consumers across a multitude of platforms. In October FOXTEL announced the launch of its On-Demand Service, that as FOXTEL CEO, Kim Williams AM, said, “…delivers further on FOXTEL’s compelling consumer proposition of putting you in control of your television viewing and allowing you to watch what you want, when you want to and increasingly over a device of your choice.” The subscription platform also launched FOXTEL on XBOX360 this year as another way for consumers to access content.
AUSTAR has not been left behind. The regional subscription TV network launched an on-demand service this year available through its MyStar HD set-top box and online.
FOXTEL was also the first for 3D broadcasting in Australia with FOX SPORTS covering a Socceroos World Cup warm-up match at the MCG and continued with other 3D content including the French & US Open Tennis Finals.
The subscription TV network also launched new channels this year including SPEED, SPEED HD, MTV Hits, MTVN Live, MTVN Live HD, BBC Knowledge HD, Nat Geo Wild HD and FOXTEL 3D. Next year LIFESTYLE HOME is set to launch on 1 March replacing the HOW-TO CHANNEL.
The subscription television networks this year have faced strong competition from a reinvigorated FTA sector. The launch this year of new digital channels, government tax incentives for FTA and the proposed reforms to the Anti-Siphoning laws have created challenges for FOXTEL and AUSTAR and will continue to do so ahead of the analogue switch-off in 2013. FOXTEL and AUSTAR have attempted to combat this threat with more content on more channels, available to consumers in more ways, at their own choosing. This is a clever strategy and a win for consumers. 2011 is going to be a fierce battle ground between the FTA and Subscription TV sector as more ad-money is spent online and digital-TV penetration rates increase throughout Australia.
So far this article has centred around TV networks extending their brands online and providing new access points for consumers. However 2010 is the year that IPTV gained market recognition in Australia. Whilst audience levels for IPTV services is still negligible, increasing competition in the sector has created a strong base for consumers to migrate to watching content online as Internet speeds increase in Australia.
This website has previously commented on the explosion of IPTV services in the UK and USA including prominent services such as BBC iPlayer, YouView, Hulu and Netflix. Whilst Hulu has earmarked Australia as a possible expansion territory this looks like it will be sometime away.
Whilst Australians wait for Hulu, this year has brought Australian consumers more IPTV services than ever before. FETCH TV has probably attracted the most coverage as an independent start-up offering IPTV channels and on-demand movies through ISPs including launch partner iiNet, Internode and Adam Internet. The service is provided for a monthly access fee on-top of normal broadband charges. TELSTRA in competition to FETCH TV launched its T-BOX which provides exclusive BIGPOND Channels such as V8 SUPERCARS TV and ON-DEMAND MOVIES to broadband customers.
However it is not just content providers and distributors this year who have jumped onto the IPTV bandwagon. SONY this year launched its range of Internet-enabled BRAVIA TVs which allow access to various IPTV stations including Yahoo!7, ABC iView, FIFA, YouTube and Golflink amongst others. Korean electronics giant LG also jumped on-board when it announced a partnership with TELSTRA to enable BIGPOND MOVIES to stream to LG NetCast™ enabled TVs. LG’s Korean competitor SAMSUNG also struck deals this year that provide Internet@TV services to enabled SAMSUNG TVs including access to YouTube and BIGPOND services.
2010 has been a big year in the media sector. There has been greater integration by media brands across a wider number of platforms including terrestrial and subscription TV, online and on tablet and mobile devices.
These new services have embraced technology to provide more access points for consumers to access content. This is the key, content. As Rupert Murdoch says content is not just king, it is the emperor.
As more new TV and IPTV services become available into 2011 and beyond the battle for content will continue to rage. No doubt as content becomes more expensive there will be casualties along the way.
FrostGlobal.com will be back in 2011 for more media analysis and news.
Happy New Year!