Prime Coup Bad News for HD Fans UPDATED

A beauty of a programme buying deal for Prime will be beastly for HD viewers.

Sky’s free-to-air channel today announced it has secured all new product from CBS Studios International that goes to air in the US fall season.

It will include series like Beauty & the Beast (pictured), Elementary, Vegas and Friend Me but not shows that MediaWorks, which previously had an output deal with CBS, already screens.

Expect TV3 and TV4 to retain for the life of their runs series like The Good Wife, the CSI and NCIS franchises, Hawaii Five-0, America’s Next Top Model and 90210.

Head of Prime TV Karen Bieleski calls the deal a “turning point” for Prime.

“Over the past six years we have worked hard to rebuild the channel’s financial structure and we are thrilled that we are now further enhancing our commitment to quality free-to-air television in New Zealand with our agreement with CBS Studios International.”

The multi-year deal gives Prime exclusive free-to-air broadcasting rights in NZ to a broad range of new series that the Hollywood studio produces from the start of the new US TV season.

“Prime has been the only channel in New Zealand without a major studio supply deal and our agreement with CBS Studios International will enhance our current schedule in both primetime and off-peak, allowing us to offer a far greater variety of quality daytime content including talk shows, entertainment news and factual programming,” Bieleski says.

“The addition of top quality American network programmes such as Elementary and Vegas will add enormous value to our existing line up alongside viewer favourites such as Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Midsomer Murders, Top Gear and True Blood.”

CBS Studios International is the first major Hollywood studio to partner with Prime in a deal that Bieleski says represents a “significant commitment” to Prime’s future.

And the timing couldn’t be better given TVNZ has been squeezing Prime out of the market for British product, most notably BBC natural history and drama series.

However, the deal is a huge blow for HD viewers as none of the series Prime’s acquired will air here in 1080i whereas they would have on TV3.

If Prime was serious about improving the quality of FTA TV, and rating closer to TV One and 3 rather than Four, it would convert to HD to capitalise on the potential of its first relationship with a Hollywood major.

But don’t hold your breath for an HD about-face: despite what the CBS coup would have cost Prime, money within the Sky camp is still tight and Prime would rather put its dosh into content than technology.

Meanwhile, late this afternoon MediaWorks issued a press release declaring viewers would scarcely notice any difference to its schedule and it would invest savings from not renewing the CBS deal in local content:

MediaWorks TV has confirmed it will be increasing its investment in local programming in preference to renewing the company’s CBS output deal.

Long term it will see millions of extra dollars invested in locally made programmes, including some of the network’s biggest projects to date, The Block NZ (currently in production), and the local version of The X-Factor, which gained momentum this month with the appointment of Andrew Szusterman and John McDonald as project leaders.

MediaWorks group managing director Sussan Turner says the channel will build on its stellar record for local content, across drama, comedy, reality and documentary.

“TV3 has evolved to a place where our defining shows are more likely to be local programmes like 7 Days, The Almighty Johnsons, The Block NZ, and What’s Really in Our Food?,” she says. “Being New Zealand’s home of local content is where we want to be.”

The current arrangement with CBS expires at the end of 2012. After this time, MediaWorks will not receive new CBS programming, but will have ongoing contracts for the CBS shows currently airing on TV3 and Four.

“Viewers are unlikely to notice any change when the current deal comes to an end,” says Turner.

“Fans of NCIS, CSI, America’s Next Top Model and other shows will continue to find their favourite programmes onTV3, and our ongoing business with CBS will be significant for some time.”

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4 Responses to “Prime Coup Bad News for HD Fans UPDATED”

  1. Why can’t ALL channels be in HD? it’s SO damn annoying :(

  2. One step forward in content providing and two steps back in content delivery. Somehow I can’t see Prime going HD on OTA any time soon. Most likely if they do it will be confined to Sky’s pay platform.

  3. I will be really disappointed if the new season of True Blood is aired on Prime rather than SoHo. When SoHo first arrived, True Blood was one of the featured programmes. This series should be seen in HD, so hopefully it will air on SoHo first and be screened on Prime later on. I would love to see Doctor Who in HD also, but probably little chance of that at this stage.

  4. We should just boycott Prime until they go HD!! We have to do something, they constantly feel the need to screw over the consumer (remember TiVo)

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