Monday, September 07, 2020

Is the video end nigh?

It looks like my Weekend Diversion posts may become rare again: Today NZ broadcaster Mediaworks announced that their TV channels were being sold to American company, Discovery, Inc. The network already owns NZ channels Living Channel (a lifestyle channel only on pay TV), Food Network NZ (a NZ localised version of the company’s own Food Network, and only on pay TV), Choice TV, a general broadcaster that’s on both pay TV and free-to-air, and HGTV New Zealand. Discovery Inc.’s flagship channel, Discovery Channel, is available on our pay TV service. If the sale is approved, I think it’s inevitable that the two music video channels I watched when they popped up earlier this year will be going away. Again.

Back in May, I talked about the return of the music video channel I always used to watch, and I noted that the company that ran them was for sale. That channel, and other “softer” music video channel were branded for two of the company’s radio stations. Since the company is keeping its radio stations, not selling them to Discovery, Inc., it seems highly improbable that the new owners will keep the music video channels. But I have no idea what they’ll do with them.

The company’s international division, which owns the two NZ TV channels, owns a lot of channels around the world, so they have some options for what to use when replacing the two music video channels. It seems unlikely to me that they wouldn’t do that: They already own the programming, don’t need to license the content, and it would be much cheaper than making programming for New Zealand. Will they make the programming more “international”? There’s a part of me that will be interested to see what they choose.

As part of the deal, Discovery, Inc. will get the broadcast rights to Bravo TV in New Zealand (which is somewhat localised, and both pay TV and free-to-air), along with the existing TV channel, Three, which is the main competitor to government-owned TVNZ (like their channels, Three is both pay TV and free-to-air).

It’s possible that regulators will shoot down the sale because it will concentrate a lot of channels ion the hands of one company. But aside from the two music video channels, the only new ones they’re acquiring are Bravo and Three, and therein lies the problem for them: Choice, which they already own, is the largest independent free-to-air broadcaster after the company that’s just been sold. In other words, there would be two companies that would control all free-to-air TV in New Zealand (pay TV operator Sky TV owns Prime TV, and that free-to-air and pay TV channel is the only other significant free-to-air channel in New Zealand—and that's just one channel. Discovery’s hope may be that regulators decide that since the new merged Discovery, Inc. operations would be much larger than the two were separately, it'd be much stronger competition for TVNZ, which is by far the dominant broadcaster. We should know by the end of the year.

One way or another, I still expect the two music video channels to go away at some point, either through re-purposing by Discovery, Inc., or if that sale is rejected by regulators, then they may just be shut down to reduce costs. That’ll leave Juice TV, which I mentioned back in May, and sometime video programming on TVNZ’s Duke channel (called, cutely, “Duke Box”). But there’s no guarantee either will be broadcast music videos often enough, or that their videos will be interesting enough, for future Weekend Diversion posts. We’ll—ahem—see.

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