Hard News by Russell Brown


What the TiVo deal signifies

The TiVo deal with Telecom makes sense. No, really. It might not make sense for you (it certainly doesn't for me), but I think it does solve some problems for TVNZ, Telecom and the regional TiVo licence-holder, Hybrid Television.

Until yesterday's announcement, the received wisdom had been that TVNZ was up against it trying to sell a branded DVR device and service when the 100,000 or so New Zealand viewers most likely to want that already had one – a MySky. TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis effectively admitted as much when he came on Media7 a couple of months ago.

Moreover, Hybrid itself was faced with negotiating deals with major ISPs to remove broadband data caps and/or charges on the traffic generated by the TiVo on-demand programming. Even the brutally competent Sky Television had been defeated by that.

Making Telecom both the exclusive reseller of the box and the only conduit for the on-demand programming changes the equation. It's Telecom that has to make this work, and TiVo in New Zealand has gone from being a Freeview DVR with an added facility for on-demand IPTV programming, to an IPTV receiver that's also a Freeview DVR.

There may be some scope to sell TiVo as just a Freeview DVR (the electronic programme guide will run over any broadband connection, and not just Telecom's), given that its $900 pricing isn't out of line with the price of other Freeview DVRs (and it has nice home sharing features that the others don't have). But I don't think that's the point of the deal.

Telecom has been trying to get a handle on IPTV for more than a decade, but has been defeated by a lack of internal aptitude, a platform and partners. The deal seems to offer Telecom all three. For TVNZ/Hybrid, it means taking on Sky in a sector where Sky has actually failed, rather than only one where Sky was threatening to stomp around dishing out the contents of a Big Bag of Hurt.

One thing this won't be is an internet video box. All video, whether free or pay-per-view, has to be ingested into the TiVo content management system before it can be delivered. TiVo in the US comes with a YouTube application, but that's part of a monthly subscription service, which won't be the model in New Zealand.

Which is a shame. I've been trying out the Panasonic BluRay recorder/DVR, which does have a viable YouTube application (in VieraCast) – but is let down somewhat by the content delivery. The VieraCast server is in California, and I'm not -- which means that videos sometimes load very slowly, depending on network conditions. We tend to take for granted the remarkable content delivery network that makes YouTube on our computers such a compelling experience.

What might be available apart from catch-up TVNZ programming and the usual movies? TiVo's New Zealand manager Steve Browning told me recently that "our content manager has already approached a number of NZ rights holders from successful NZ back catalogue series (directly) or has/will do so via TVNZ."

I have some insight on the contractual nightmares around heritage TV series – that's what has kept them off air – but it may be that licensing for an entirely new on-demand platform will be easier.

Anyway, there was a crumb yesterday for people who'd like a TiVo but can't or won't go to Telecom:

Ms Minicola said she hoped other telcos would follow Telecom's lead and offer no-limits broadband deals that allowed movie downloads.

The interesting question, it would seem, is how hard Hybrid has really tried to get the other telcos on board up till now.


I am greatly delighted that James Milne (with Luke Buda) has won this year's APRA Silver Scroll Award for 'Apple Pie Bed' from the Lawrence Arabia album Chant Darling. The song itself is but one of a cluster of gems on the album, which you can obtain here at Amplifier, as either a CD or MP3 download; or here on iTunes.


Congratulations to the people behind (and in front of) Throng TV. The first episode is confident, funny and, in the case of the interview with TV3 news chief Mark Jennings, most interesting. (There's an occasional problem with audio distortion which I'm told only cropped up after it was compressed by Vimeo.)

Damian and I spoke to Throng TV host Hamish Coleman-Ross for the Public Address Radio programme that airs at 7pm Sunday on Radio Live, and Simon Pound went out to Throng HQ to talk to co-founder Regan Cunliffe for a story in last night Media7 show.

You can, of course, watch the Media7 show here.


Graham Reid's new anthology, The Idiot Boy Who Flew, on the Public Address Books imprint, will be officially launched in Auckland next Tuesday evening. There will be a glamorous ceremony I will tell some jokes, Graham will do a reading, the book will be available for purchase, and there will be drinks. It should be fun.

I have three double invites for Public Address readers to join us. Just click reply and email me with "Book launch" as the subject line.


And finally, don't forget to vote in the Forest & Bird Bird of the Year poll. The rifleman is streets ahead at the moment, but I'm not being distracted by all these cooler-than-thou indie birds that certain fanciers favour. I'm going for the tui, because already this season, the tui has been coming to my place. It'd be rude not to reciprocate.


And finally, Susan Boyle is back. She was presented at America's Got Talent, covering the Rolling Stones' 'Wild Horses':

She fluffed the lyrics at one point, but she seems alright. She deserves to enjoy her fame in a less febrile environment than has been the case so far.

Musically speaking, of course, you may prefer the edgy, fragile version of 'Wild Horses' performed in duet by Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams. Right-click here to download the MP3 (and yes, I checked – you can't buy it on iTunes and some record company bot had even had the performance taken down from YouTube).

More 'Wild Horses' covers here.

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