TVNZ’s upgraded OnDemand platform prepares for launch, stars wheeled out to promote it—UPDATED

At last year’s new season launch, TVNZ’s head of sales Jeremy O’Brien likened the business to having a shotgun—broadcast TV—and a rifle—its upgraded, registration-required OnDemand platform. And, ahead of the launch of the service in February, it’s unveiled a new brand via Blacksand.  

DAN and Origami have also been involved along the way, and, as expected, a number of its stars have already been wheeled out for promotional purposes, including Temuera Morrison, Toni Street and Pua Magasiva. And there will no doubt be plenty more before the official launch.

TVNZ claims the new, easy-to-use ondemand interface and the addition of user registration will “personalise and optimise Kiwis’ viewing experiences” by adding the ability to create watchlists, mark favourite shows, get recommendations and be told about the latest shows. 

It will also allow​ TVNZ to better understand its audience and target ads to them, and that has led to a few changes within TVNZ as it has had to bump up its capabilities in terms of direct marketing. 

Last year, TVNZ’s head of digital media Thor Bayer said that the new platform might prove a useful tool to advertisers in the future, but improving the user experience was the primary aim of introducing the service. 

“We are already good at targeting viewers based on which shows they choose to watch,” he said. “This is still a work in progress and we will see further down the track how we can go about building it up for advertisers.”

According to the figures from late last year, the company’s television revenue dropped from $312 million last year to $306 million this year, while digital media revenue rose from $9.9 million to $12.9 million, so it’s still a small part of the business. But it’s growing quickly and it will grow further as more viewers start watching ondemand. Last year, Ondemand hit a new high with 6.3 million streams in the month of October. And December 2014 also saw streams up 52 percent from December 2013.

TVNZ is also claiming a New Zealand first with the ‘pick up and play’ feature allowing viewers to start watching a programme and pick it up later on their smartphone, laptop or tablet from where they left off. Sky’s soon-to-launch SVOD service Neon is also expected to offer this feature. But Lightbox, which announced an enticing deal for Spark customers yesterday, doesn’t. 

“A Shortland Street fan might begin an episode on their bus ride home from work, hit pause when they arrive home, only to resume the episode from the comfort of their couch on another device,” says a release. “The average Kiwi typically watches three hours of television a day, according to the latest Nielsen research. With online and mobile video usage growing fast, TVNZ OnDemand gives Kiwis further control over their viewing experience across these devices.” 

  • Check out TVNZ’s most-streamed shows of 2014 here

“In this new TV world, viewers are telling us they want greater freedom,” says general manager of TVNZ OnDemand, Jason Foden. “They want their favourite shows to be available both on TV and online, they want more ways to watch and be informed and they are eager to get their hands on TV’s most talked about shows as soon as they are available. For us it’s not just about keeping up with our viewers, but staying ahead of the game, and these new personalised features will bring much more individual control to the viewing experience.” 

As well as its big-rating TV shows like Shortland St and Big Bang Theory, it will also offer more exclusive premiere content, including eight Shortland St webisodes in February.  

As part of its First and Fast sub-brand, it has premiered a number of new and returning shows exclusively through OnDemand, such as Red Band Society, The Last Ship, Constantine, Black-ish, Selfie and Geronimo Stilton. Returning shows like Criminal Minds, Mike & Molly, Resurrection, The Mentalist (the final season), Person of Interest, Once Upon a Time, Grey’s Anatomy, Revenge, The 100, and The Vampire Diaries also arrived express from the US. Also, in September, TVNZ OnDemand made seasons one and two of Orange Is The New Black available, chalking up a million streams in a single month. 

“We’re committed to premiering more content across our TV and online channels, as it’s receiving a huge response from our viewers, and lets them join a global conversation,” says Foden

Of course, not all shows that screen on free-to-air TV are available on the broadcasters’ online channels, as it depends on the rights the broadcasters have purchased. And there has never been more competition for online rights, with MediaWorks, Lightbox, Quickflix and Sky all gunning for shows. Netflix is also set to launch in New Zealand in March, so it will be interesting to see what happens with its popular shows, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. 

Freeview’s Sam Irvine said last year that its research showed people were considering their entertainment options more than they were before and that’s “probably because there are now more ondemand options”. That’s particularly noticeable with the under 35 market, he says, many of whom don’t see a reason to pay for Sky as they’re accessing content through other means, either legally, illegally or through a combination of the two (according to Stuff, around 30,000 New Zealanders had found workarounds to use Netflix and a recent Colmar Brunton study showed almost half of young New Zealanders admitted to unauthorised streaming of TV programmes and almost a third indulged in unauthorised downloading of movies. 69 percent watched TV on-demand). 

Upcoming TVNZ OnDemand premieres include the highly-anticipated series iZombie, starring Rose McIver, One Big Happy and American Crime. New seasons of Castle and The Following will also be available closely behind the US.

For TVNZ OnDemand fans who want to be up with the play, pre-registration for the new site is now open.

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