New Zealand digital TV penetration now at 55%

Thursday, November 20th, 2008
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NZ On Air has released a report – The Digital Future and Public Broadcasting, by Paul Norris and Brian Pauling – that studies developments and trends in digital broadcasting internationally, and looks at the implications for New Zealand.

New Zealand began the full transition to digital relatively late by comparison with other developed countries. The pay TV operator Sky has been offering its digital service since 1998 but attempts by the public broadcaster TVNZ to launch a digital service in 2000 and 2003 were thwarted by government or the problems of prospective partners. It was not until 2006 that a clear framework was put in place by the Government, enabling and encouraging the free-to-air broadcasters to introduce a digital platform.

In April 2008, Freeview launched its digital terrestrial service. The transmission network had been built by Kordia, the state-owned enterprise separated from TVNZ under the reforms of 2003, and aimed to cover 75% of households in the main urban areas.

For New Zealand, the Government’s policy is that an analogue switchoff date will be announced when digital penetration reaches 75% of households, or in 2012, whichever is the sooner. A target date is to be set once penetration reaches around 60%.

As at October 2008, overall digital penetration was below that in the UK and the USA but comparable with Australia, as the following table shows:

                                    UK         USA   Australia          NZ
                            ----------  ----------  ----------  ----------
Pay TV                             45%         52%         12%         45%
Free-to-air                      41.5%          9%         42%         10%
Total digital penetration   87% (2007)  61% (2006)  54% (2007)  55% (2008)
  % households

Sources: Ofcom, ACMA, Freeview NZ, Sky

Digital free-to-air television, Freeview, is now available on both satellite and terrestrial platforms. As at October 2008, total digital penetration (including Sky) stood at 55%, suggesting that it is likely that the target of 75% penetration by 2012 can be reached.

More: The Report (1MB pdf)