What now for Sky TV?

Written By: - Date published: 10:45 am, March 4th, 2013 - 45 comments
Categories: capitalism, news, Privatisation, tv - Tags: , , ,

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp are selling their shares in NZ Sky TV.  What does these mean for the on-going decline of public broadcasting, and related rise of global corporate control?  It will be interesting to see where the shares go.  It is possibly part of the shift away from control by media moguls and towards control of news media by investment bankers.

Liam Dann reports in the NZ Herald today:

Shares expected to go on trading halt this morning as News Corp sells its 43.6 per cent stake.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is understood to be selling out of New Zealand’s Sky Television.

Sky TV shares are expected to go on a trading halt this morning as the media group sells its 43.6 per cent stake into the market at a price of $4.80 – a 7 per cent discount to its $5.17 close on Friday. …

Bankers for the deal are understood to be Craigs Investment Partners and Deutsche Bank.

Market sources said yesterday that the sale had been tendered by News Corp and the investment banks were effectively underwriting the deal.

No cornerstone shareholder is expected to take a stake in excess of 19.9 per cent – a level that would require a full takeover offer to be made.

A spokesperson for Sky TV said yesterday that the company could not comment on matters relating to shareholdings.

Another substantial shareholder – the Todd family – sold its 11.11 per cent stake in Sky TV in November last year to Credit Suisse, which on-sold it to institutions and private investors.

That block of shares was sold at $5.05 a share for about $218 million.

The on market selldown of Sky TV also follows media group Fairfax’s $769 million selldown of Trade Me in December.

I’m pleased to see Murdoch’s empire struggling and that it is withdrawing from NZ.

Murdoch’s News Corp has been the dominant shareholder in Sky TV since 1999.  Dann reports that the number of Sky subscribers have been pretty static over the last year, with the profit gains largely coming from subscribers spending more and subscribing to more services:

  Last month Sky TV reported a 9 per cent gain in first-half profit as subscribers migrated to its MySky premium service and spent more.

Profit rose to $68.2 million in the six months ended December 31, from $62.7 million a year earlier.

Sales rose 3.9 per cent to $443 million.

Total subscribers to Sky TV’s services were little changed at 846,988 at December 31 from a year earlier, though the number on MySky climbed 28 per cent to 423,973. Average revenue per subscriber rose to $75.78 at December 31 from $71.81 a year earlier.

I’m not very knowledgeable about the way such sales of shares work, but I am concerned about the role of financial institutions in managing the share sales.

In an article in Pacific Journalism Review, Oct 2011 17.2, p188, ‘Global capital and media communication ownership in New Zealand‘, authors Wayne Hope and Merja Myllylahti outlined the increasing globalisation of NZ media ownership.  They said:

In 2011, there are still four major players in the New Zealand media market: APN News & Media, Fairfax Media, MediaWorks, and News Corporation/Sky. New Zealand news media is dominated by overseas companies and these companies are primarily owned by financial institutions and a handful of foreign media moguls: Australian/Amrerican Rupert Murdoch (News Corporation), Irish Tony O’Reilly  (Independent News & Media), and Australian mining billionaire Gina Rinehart …

News media have been struggling in various ways to make profits.  According to Hope an Myllylahti, MediaWorks were heavily in debt in 2009, but were rescued by the involvement of several new investors including Goldman Sachs JBWere, which took a 12.9% stake in the company.

So rather than looking at the withdrawal of News Corp from Sky as a decline in corporate global control in the media, we are probably seeing a shift in the kind of players dominating the media: a shift away from the media moguls, and towards the investment bankers or financial institutions.  It’ll be interesting to see the individuals and organisations that take up News Corps’ NZ Sky TV shares.

I am hoping that this won’t mean that Sky is rejuvenated so that it can once again start to recruit more subscribers, further fueling the decline in free-to-air news and other media.

45 comments on “What now for Sky TV? ”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    To me its clear Murdock is setting the groundwork to buy TVNZ.

    No doubt he or his henchmen have had the requisite meetings with Key and Joyce to ‘move things along’

    • Tigger 1.1

      Interesting theory. Probably a third term plan for the Nats. Once they’ve hocked off the power companies all other assets will be lined up for sale…

    • cricklewood 1.2

      Nah, They are cashing out as they can see the writing on the wall. The NZ market is probabaly at close to saturation point in terms of penetration for sky and revenue in trational type broadcasts can only go one way. As broadband further improves more and more content will be streamed.

      I recently quit sky and now watch a lot of shows online legally for free, no ad breaks and no monthly subscription. I haven’t managed to get near my data cap yet. There are also pleanty of less than legal avenues available…

      • karol 1.2.1

        cricklewood: I recently quit sky and now watch a lot of shows online legally for free, no ad breaks and no monthly subscription. I haven’t managed to get near my data cap yet. There are also pleanty of less than legal avenues available…

        Well this is where screen productions are going – online. And this is why Hollywood (Dotcom) are so keen to control what people watch online. It is tied up with the TPPA, and Jane Kelsey has posted another excellent article on the TPPA on The Dailyblog this morning. It’s all about the US trying to dictate it, rather than it being a true, fair and equal negotiation process.

        Several of those areas are must-haves for Obama – notably, intellectual property, which impacts on pharmaceuticals, the internet and innovation and disciplines on state-enterprises that could extend to ACC, Kiwibank and the universities.
        The way that John Key and Tim Groser talk, all the parties including New Zealand are equals at this negotiating table. But this has always been the US plus the rest.

        Clare Curran, while correctly identifying the shift to online content as being signalled by the News corp share sales, misses the connection with the TPPA entirely. She just focuses on regulation within NZ:

        The Government must include video content and broadcasting in its review of the telecommunications industry following News Limited’s decision to sell its stake in Sky Television, Labour’s communications and IT spokesperson Clare Curran said.

        “Today’s announcement is a clear signal by Rupert Murdoch that Sky’s dominant market position has changed forever with the increase in online video content from sources such as Quickflix, and Netflix.

        “The Commerce Commission has said ownership rights of content are the critical factor behind the successful uptake of ultrafast broadband in New Zealand. The Commission is also investigating Sky TV’s contracts with telcos, which may be restricting competition. The Minister must acknowledge this and include online video content in its recently announced review of the telecommunications sector.

    • infused 1.3

      Doubt it. Cashing up looks likely.

      Skytv is still good. Still expensive though.

      • infused 1.3.1

        I watch very little of what’s offered though. Mainly movies, history and discovery.

        • Lanthanide 1.3.1.1

          So you’re probably an expert on Hitler, WW2 and how aliens are behind everything?

          • infused 1.3.1.1.1

          • TheContrarian 1.3.1.1.2

            Ancient Aliens is a great watch. The hair, THE HAIR!

          • felixviper 1.3.1.1.3

            And sharks.

            • James N 1.3.1.1.3.1

              You forgot snakes.

              • felixviper

                I tuned in to Bridge Day once, a whole day of programs about bridges.

                There was “Worlds Tallest Bridges”, and “World’s Longest Bridges”, and Worlds Oldest Bridges”, and “World’s Most Amazing Bridges” etc etc.

                Also note that none of those categories are mutually exclusive, and many of the bridges made multiple appearances throughout the day.

                • TheContrarian

                  All those nature/technology channels now pursue an agenda consisting of reality shows and scientific woo like Bigfoot Hunters and Ancient Aliens.

                  very disappointing

            • QoT 1.3.1.1.3.2

              Shark Week is an international cultural treasure, felix. You mess with reruns of Air Jaws Apocalypse and you are messing with *me*.

        • felixviper 1.3.1.2

          That’s about all that appeals to me on sky, and those channels get pretty repetitive too.

          • infused 1.3.1.2.1

            Well new movies once a month. To be honest, the only reason we keep it is when friends come over. Always something on to watch.

      • Rogue Trooper 1.3.2

        cashing up indeed now they’ve made their splash

    • karol 1.4

      Well if the indications that there’s a shift away from the dominance of media moguls, then it’d be more likely that financial institutions are positioning themselves to get a significant interest in other media channels such as TVNZ.

  2. He couldn’t stomach managements decision to broadcast citizen A.
    Bomber Bradbury defeats Murdoch.
    Or, a more likely reason is that this 2 billion dollar company has weak growth potential in a market this size. Timing is good to offload.
    Quite why many of you continually berate Sky TV is a mystery. They provide fantastic service and we are lucky that they exist. The range of sport that we get across many channels is world leading.
    Try and recall the days of tv1 owning all the sport. 4 hours a week at best and piss poor olympic coverage.
    And Coronation street Taliban threatening to blow TVNZ up if Rita was disturbed during any big event.
    Based solely on subscriber numbers Sky has been a phenomenal success story.

    • Tim 2.1

      I suspect many ‘berate’ Sky because of its monopolistic behaviour and attitude; its priviledged position in ‘the market’ whereby what happens elsewhere in the world (such as being levied to support public service broadcasting) does not apply in NZ; because of its anti-competitive behaviour through the use of programming across its FTA channel and pay channels; and because (because of its proviledged position in ‘the market’), its driven up the cost of content for other broadcasters who are honestly trying to make a buck. When I say ‘honestly’ – I mean in the sense that their bizniss of providing an audience to advertisers and treating that audience as consumers rather than intelligent human beings who are residents, citizens and taxpayers who have effectively provided the monopolist with the necessary infrastructure, and who now have to ‘user-pays’ to participate.

      BTW (as they say in the connected world): ‘recall the days of tv1 owning all the sport’ is hardly a fair comparison in that it decontexualises everything that’s occured since that was the case – the specialisation of channels, the manner in which (IF you’re OK with the totally commercial imperative) TVNZ had a charter and an obligation to turn a profit, a load of total politically appointed fukwits at its helm and a culture of comfortably-off pulling its strings, etc., etc., etc.
      Actually not a lot has changed in that regard – and you can be sure that the string-pullers (and cock pullers within) have been wishing for proivitoisashun for many a moon.

      IT might be useful too for you to consider what’s happened over time to a service expected to deliver programming to citizenry (you know – that quaint phenomenon whereby people cast a vote to have representatives to act in their interests including the provision of a public sphere – free & fair – unincumbered by commercial, political or economic imperatives in whose interests it is to try and suppress it).
      Does anybody else remember a National Film Unit that was able to undertake activity that, although might not have been commercially viable, was socio-politically important????; OR – if not…… perhaps a Natural History Unit whose output under its new guise is rarely seen! NZ! unavailable to NZers.
      Saul Roit tho’ aye jonky (and Russ)? All that fawn vestmint, the ‘MUMIN dead vestas’ with orl thet petty kesh they’ve got rolling rearn – sheel see iz roit. [When someone can identify who or what MUMIN dead vestas is or are – please please let me know} Skoi’ll troin make (SKY TV will try and make) surer thet – (With apologies to the likes of Bomber Bradbury who I referred to as a Bradley once) whose faith in SKY is somewhat more optimisic than mine.
      Though I watch the chennil 89 content – its actually a piss poor/technically neglected alternative to what we used to have.

      …. and let’s not get started on Freeview, Kordia and it’s incompetently (and I mean really very basic basic stupid stupid dolt type incompetence) decisions.

      I suspect that why Murdoch wants out is that he can see the future – considering all the above. If I were the masters of the Universe (little “m”) within SKOI NuZiln, I’d be hawking my C.V. now far and woid – i.e. if I subscribed to that over-ambitious attitude with a sense of having an inflated idea of self-worth that many in that bracket have.

      Were it for Labour or Green policy that we should pay their air-fared out of here……they instantly get my vote.

      Russell – ever considered mining in North West West Straylia?. IF I knew who you were, I’d pay the airfare moisef. I’ve even got some mates that could put you up till you get started.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        Does anybody else remember a National Film Unit that was able to undertake activity that, although might not have been commercially viable, was socio-politically important????;

        Yep.

        Peter Jackson acquired most of its footage for a song and made millions off what was public commons.

        • Tim 2.1.1.1

          Indeed he did – including some shot by my father-in-law who is now busy rolling in his grave.
          Never mind though aye …… Billy “boi” Shearer is strumming it – hoping for the rest of us to ‘sing it’.
          PG Tips it ain’t!

      • asd 2.1.2

        What I would like to know is, was Lindsay Perigo paid off by SkyTv to get rid of the broadcasting fee with his Libertarians political party campaign, so that Sky could grab ascendancy and then dominance of the domestic TV market for subscribers/viewers? If that was a genuine conspiracy it worked a treat.

    • Colonial Viper 2.2

      We are lucky Sky exist even though its been instrumental in deconstructing public TV in this country?

      Yeah sure.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.3

      They provide fantastic service and we are lucky that they exist. The range of sport that we get across many channels is world leading.

      hahahahahahaha

      Oh, wait, you weren’t joking.

  3. Slap Shot 3

    Compared to the pay TV you get overseas SKY is terrible. You have to pay through the nose to get many of the decent channels because the butter is spread too thin.

    Might as well watch online for nothing. Call it civil disobedience because our government doesn’t do enough to protect us from a predatory monopoly.

  4. addison 4

    This vital asset should be immediately purchased buy the Government. Its profits should be kept in NZ for Kiwi mums and dads. It is after all an essential to Life, Nationalise it immediately. Better still make sure Kiwis buy it and then \Nationalise it.

    • freedom 4.1

      oh our aching sides,
      you really should go on tour with material like that,

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.1

        addison the pretend Tory from the pretend UK pretending to be retired in Nzzzzz

        • Rogue Trooper 4.1.1.1

          wotta ’bout Joycee wanting to claw-back funding if Unis enrolments drop more than 1%

    • Tim 4.2

      Addison, whilst once you were busy making GJ Homes Ads along with you nauseating ‘woifee’ having her orgasm over their perfection (GJ’s) and recent carpet sampling by post, it’s not likely to happen un John Key’s gubbamint – or perhaps even the PG Tipster under Labour.
      Just as an aside though ….. have you yet taken advantage of those side bars that desperately implore you to transfer the rest of your wealth to the colony (oops! sorry …. the DOMINION)?
      I’d hold off if I were you – until you’re certain those bloody natives don’t get ideas above their station.
      I mean …. the signs are there aye – those bennies are rattling their dags in desperation

      • Colonial Viper 4.2.1

        have you yet taken advantage of those side bars that desperately implore you to transfer the rest of your wealth to the colony (oops! sorry …. the DOMINION)?

        I believe that we can still be considered a Realm of the Commonwealth.

    • Tim 4.3

      I’ve a recording of a History Channel series addison you’d be interested in. “The Fall of the British Empire”. Over the three episodes it contains some simply gorgeous footage of African miners -some effectively working for nothing; Pakistan/Indian conflicts resulting from partitioning, that little ‘crisis’ in Malaysia; among other things. The NZ, Canadian and OZ ‘utterly British’ Dominion administrations of course were so grown up I don’t think they saw the need to include Australia’s stolen generation, or the fleecing of Canada’s and NZ’s indigenous.

  5. Tim 5

    Yep – sure can. Run up the flag. Actually CV, I’m glad we are, though our contribution as members of it and former Empire is not that great in recent days. Atonement for the bad bits that occurred is rather pathetic (maybe JohnKy is taking a leaf out of Oz’s book), and as for the good bits of membership that occasionally occurred can’t really be regarded as that significant.
    You can bet Jonky is busy studying Joolya’s latest dog whistle where by her RootyHill promise of jobs for the truly,UTTERLY assimilated OZers will be protected from all those queue jumpers and bloody boat people.
    Bet your undies Jonky will be looking for ways to further assist. Actually – it’ll be Steve – John’s trying to grease up South America. Now there’s an idea!. I’m not sure he realises just how ‘onto his case’ they actually are.
    It’ll be meetings behind closed doors – after which they can’t wait to leave the room to smirk!.
    Still, at least a few DPS will have had some R & R aye.

  6. xtasy 6

    To me the media in NZ is generally SHIT! There are those like Farrar justifying conditions by saying we get a lot of current affairs on air, but I decidedly disagree.

    NZ is run primarily by private or corporate media companies, and they are not informing properly and do not target focus on real issues that many NZers are affected by. Especially minorities are not given any voice at all, that includes Maori, Pacifica and beneficiaries for instance.

    Now how long ago did any of you see or hear Q+A or The Nation on TV? Every year it seems there is a 3-month break for these programs, and not much else is reported on on depth. The main news from any main TV channel are not delivering enough. I noted a slight improvement of recent, but it still leaves heaps to be desired. Where is for instance any “debate” on welfare reforms, just one issue and topic, which are the biggest changes in a generation???

    We get heaps on weather, crime, shark attacks, emotional issues, and what some selected pollies raise as headlines to profile their own interests, but nothing that really affects many NZers.

    The remaining “public” media is increasingly trying to compete with the private media to get “headline” stories and neglects other real issues. We have the advertisers dictate to us what broadcasters and print and online media should present, and little else. The remaining accountable and informative media is being phased out, I mention TVNZ7, Stratos and Triangle here in Auckland, the voices of many are being silenced, and one wonderw about the powers of one Steven Joyce, who ran Mediaworks.

    It is a shameful situation, leaving heaps to be desired, so this share sale by Sky TV is not going to change or improve anything, it will just change the ownership of a commercial outlet interested primarily in profit. It should raise questions and ask people to take action to get the media back into an environment where they can have a voice also. Take a bigger step than lament some share holder changes, please.

    • karol 6.1

      xtasy, I agree that the most crucial issue is the need for improvement of NZ media, especially news & current affairs/political reporting.

      However, this is tied up with the nature of media ownership, and the way it has changed over time. News Corps’ withdrawal from NZ, is a significant shift, so it’s important to consider how things are changing.

      I don’t agree that it will be just a change of ownership and nothing more. Murdoch was the leader in the neoliberal shift of news and current events to being “infotainment”. This involved the globalisation of media, plus the increasing control of the MSM by a small number of mega-corporations headed by media moguls like Murdoch. The mogul era now looks to be in decline, with banks/financial institutions increasingly becoming key players.

      Investment bankers like John Key’s ex-employers, have been looking for a while to get more of a foothold in the Hollywood and news media industries. Hence Key’s interest in Hollywood, Hobbits etc.

      crickelwood’s comment above identifies one of the key changes going on now, that may be causing the decline of Sky TV as we currently know it. This has to do with the increasing shift of media, and news to the internet. So now big mega-corporations are looking to get control of copyright etc (e.g. TPPA, Obama, and you can be sure the bankers’ lot will be in there too).

      NZ TV and news wasn’t great before the 80s, but public service broadcasting has gone into decline here at the same time as we saw the rise and rise of Murdoch. Now the entire ground is shifting, and we need to look at the relationship between broadcast media and the Internet. It does give us scope for mounting pressure for changes in new kinds of ways.

      I’m not happy with the shift of FACE to Sky. OTOH, the launch of the Dailyblog gives me some hope for a critical mass of alternative, quality news/political input via the web.

      • Don't worry be happy 6.1.1

        Is Murdoch going out of Sky to ready up his ancient loins for charter schools? Pots of money to be made there. NZ an excellent ‘proving’ ground for dodgy experiments….

  7. Lloyd 7

    Surely it is time for the people of New Zealand to buy any loose shares in Sky, with the obvious investor being the government.

    • tc 7.1

      This may be a prescursor for Foxtel arriving (Ruperts Oz pay service) as maybe the right chats with Joyce and Key whilst on his many US visits have been had.

  8. John Drinnan 8

    No not really
    In fact the Murdoch sale to other financial interests means that the New zealand ownership has increased. Of course it all becomes murky once debt is involved,
    May well change if an overseas company decides to take a cornerstone stake.
    At moment sky hasa much bigger proportion of NZ ownrrship than Mediaworks, APN, Fairfax

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