TVNZ Ondemand blows out a few innovative candles

TVNZ Ondemand launched on 20th March 2007 as Australasia’s first catch-up television service. Five years on and the TV industry is nigh-on unrecognisable and while all major broadcasters face plenty of challenges coping with the rapid change, TVNZ’s ‘inspiring New Zealanders on every screen’ philosophy means there are also plenty of opportunities for the growing online platform. 

Ondemand kicked off with only New Zealand content, but added international content from September 2007, previewing new shows like Fringe, The Cult and Flash Forward before they aired on TV2’s new season in 2009, a few years before MediaWorks did the same thing with this season’s new shows New Girl and Homeland.

TVNZ Ondemand’s PS3 service was the first of its kind for a commercial broadcaster and gave PlayStation owners the ability to watch episodes of their favourite shows through their PS3 device on their televisions.

Then came the International Emmy award winning Reservoir Hill, a ground-breaking online only series in 2009, followed by the quirky and very funny online-only comedy Auckland Daze in 2011 that is soon to find a home as a six-part series on TV ONE.

In November the entire video platform was replaced with Brightcove’s world-leading service, which Tom Cotter, general manager of digital media at TVNZ, says has vastly improved the quality of video delivered to users, reducing buffering and errors by over 80 percent.

“When we launched TVNZ Ondemand it was in an era where viewers were happy to receive something, somewhere, in any quality,” says Cotter. “Today we all expect to see everything, everywhere in perfect quality. Our next generation of platform has enabled this—and we have only begun to leverage its capabilities.”

Much like traditional print versus online news, there is still a big gap between the ad revenue gained from traditional broadcast versus that gained on Ondemand (TVNZ didn’t get back to us to discuss ad revenue for the online platform). But there has been a fair swag of innovation to try help grease the wheels for advertisers, with Ad on Pause, Ad Selector, Ad Hover and, most recently, iPhone Click to Call.

With competition from all fronts, including news organisations like Fairfax and electronics companies like Sony now dabbling in IPTV, online video (YouTube has just dished out $100 million for fresh content), streaming services like Netflix, the rise of ‘social TV’ slowly bringing live broadcasts back into fashion, and, of course, the ever-present e-pirates, there are still plenty of challenges to overcome.

But there are also plenty of positives. As the latest ASA figures showed, online advertising is steaming ahead and is becoming increasingly more traditional; time-shifted viewing is on the up and its gorwing importance for ratings was recently referenced by Nielsen; February stream views were up 48 percent year-on-year to over 1.6 million and 1.8 million unique browsers (it’s New Zealand’s sixth most popular website); 70 linear years of content viewed in February alone; and TVNZ expects growth to continue.

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