Igloo takes aim at 'middle-ground' mum-and-dad viewers

New pay TV venture Igloo takes a disparaging view of its target audience.

Igloo, the new pay TV venture of Sky and TVNZ, will be targeting mum-and-dad viewers once it launches in the first half of 2012.

Igloo is a joint partnership between Sky (51 percent) and TVNZ (49 percent) offering both free-to-air and pay television channels.

At the official launch of Igloo yesterday, general manager Chaz Savage said the product was angled at “Mum and Dad” TV watchers who might be feeling the crunch of the slowing economy, but who still want to be able to maintain their “happy addiction with the couch".

The Igloo media player will cost under $200 and the basic package $25 month, including all channels currently on TVNZ. The lack of a MySky style decoder and installation fees will keep costs down.

Chaz SavageChaz Savage

The package will include access to 11 channels: BBC News, BBC Knowledge, UKTV, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Heartland, Vibe, Food Television, Kidzone24, MTV Hits and Comedy Central.

Live pay-per-view sports events are available to purchase, as are more than 1,000 movies and TV episodes. On Demand films and TV episodes are streamed over broadband connections and are available to view for 48 hours. Users also have the option to cancel the service for a month and then restart it again, with no termination fee.

The idea of pay-per-view television is one that will appeal to many viewers, but the professed mantra of “choice and flexibility” may not be so applicable when Sky increases its monopoly position.

The Igloo team said market research indicated viewers not already part of a pay-per-view package want an array of entertainment and option of sport viewing, live pause stream, media player, an easy-to-use universal interface and an assurance that they will not be adversely affected by the analogue to digital switch-over.

These are the “middle ground viewers who may be not as engaged in such intelligent television viewing,” according to Savage.

The dominance of pay TV's major player teaming with the major player from free-to-air TV means that the TVNZ/Sky partnership is effectively freezing the market, but departing TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis said he had no qualms about competition issues.

“Igloo is adding choice.”

MediaWorks, the owner of TV3 and TV4, won't see it that way. While it chose not to attend the launch, there is talk about whether the company will withhold electronic programming guide listings (EPGs). Sky TV is still withholding the EPG for Prime from TiVo.

MediaWorks will also be annoyed that revenue from monthly subscriptions to the channels (which include TV3 and TV4) will go to TVNZ and Sky and downright furious at the pairing which is aimed at strangling the competition in the switch-over to digital.

However, Sky chief executive John Fillet said MediaWorks would be paid revenue for the programmes to which they owned the rights.

Ellis also dismissed the notion that Freeview would be undermined by the move as it is not a commercial company.

The revenue TVNZ hopes to make will come from subscriptions, and profit contribution from investment.

He added, somewhat incongruously, that there was a “pent-up interest in a sports channel after the Rugby World Cup, those viewers who don't want to be paying for a sports channel all the time can watch the odd game of netball or rugby if they want".

And despite rumours that Igloo would  double as a fully-functional MySkyHDI decoder and subscribers would be upsold to the full package, Savage said that wasn’t the case.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).