TV streaming in 2023: What’s new?
Catch up on the latest news about Freeview, Spark Sport, TVNZ+, Netflix and more.
It’s a turbulent time for the video streaming market. Revenue is down for major international players such as Netflix and Disney+. Locally, the landscape is contracting, with the exit of Spark Sport and VodafoneTV. Here’s what you need to know about recent and upcoming changes to your favourite TV services.
Freeview launched a live TV app in December 2022
Freeview Streaming TV is a new app available on most new smart TVs and all SmartVU streaming devices.
Through the app, consumers can stream live TV for free. It’s particularly suitable for consumers who enjoy channel surfing and those who experience ‘decision fatigue’ from on-demand services.
At launch, the app covers 15 channels including TVNZ 1 and 2, Three, Whakaata Māori and Prime. Freeview plans to add further channels over time.
Notably, the app isn’t available on smartphones or other mobile devices, so it can’t be used for screencasting. If your TV isn’t compatible, you’ll need a SmartVU box or dongle to access the Freeview app.
Spark Sport is ending in July 2023
Spark is giving up on the sports streaming market later this year. Most of the rights currently owned by Spark will transfer to TVNZ, including New Zealand Cricket content which will remain free to air on TVNZ until 2026.
Spark CEO Jolie Hodson said the Covid-19 pandemic had caused “major disruption to sporting codes globally just a year after launch” and it had become “difficult to justify the type of investment Spark Sport requires”.
Spark Sport can be used as normal until 1 July, when the platform is shut down and content is officially transferred to TVNZ.
The change effectively returns the premium sport market to a monopoly, with Sky likely to reclaim many rights currently held by Spark as time goes on.
Since the news, Sky has already raised the price of its Sky Sport Now streaming service by $5 to $45/month. The increase kicks in on March 1.
Ad-supported streaming will likely arrive for Netflix and Disney+
The economics of TV streaming are faltering at the larger end, with juggernauts such as Netflix seeing stagnating customer numbers worldwide.
In a bid to reach a greater number of consumers, streaming platforms are offering cheaper plans to people willing to sit through ads.
Netflix’s Basic with Ads plan features roughly four minutes of ads per hour that play both before and during shows and movies.
The Basic with Ads tier isn’t available in New Zealand just yet, but in Australia it costs AU$7/month ($4 less than the cheapest ad-free plan). We expect to see it rolled out to smaller markets like ours in the next 12 months.
Disney+ also believes it can reach more eyeballs through ad subsidisation. Disney+ Basic has launched in the US and looks set to expand globally through the year, though there’s been no formal indication New Zealand will be on the list.
In a devious twist, the moment Disney+ Basic entered the US market, the price of an ad-free subscription rose from US$8/month to US$11/month, while the Basic plan slotted in at the previous price of US$8.
At the same time, the cost of Disney+ rose here as well, from $13/month to $15/month. So, at a guess, if Disney introduces an advertising plan on our shores, it may be priced at $13/month.
TVNZ On Demand has been renamed TVNZ+
TVNZ has completed the rebrand of its on-demand streaming service. It’s now called TVNZ+, joining Disney+ and Māori+ to leverage off a common industry convention.
It may be a stretch to call this news, given that the TVNZ+ name was announced back in June – but a rebrand such as this takes time to play out and sink into public consciousness.
VodafoneTV is hanging by a thread until February
Originally due to shut up shop in September 2022, Vodafone’s foray into TV delivery is still running on fumes until at least February 28.
VodafoneTV was a streaming box that combined free-to-air TV, Sky TV and linear streaming services into one experience. The device was originally for Vodafone customers only, but was put on wider sale in 2019.
The final end date has been pushed out several times to give Vodafone’s commercial partner Sky time to launch its own streaming box that more or less does the same thing.
Sky Pod will arrive this year (surely)
Sky is finally launching hardware that supports streaming.
The Sky Pod is a small puck-shaped device that plugs into your TV and lets you access your Sky TV subscriptions via the internet. It also supports third-party streaming apps such as Netflix, allowing you to watch everything in one place. It’s a direct successor to the VodafoneTV device (see above).
Sky is currently only selling the Pod to existing VodafoneTV customers for $100. However, we expect the Pod to become available to other Sky customers later in the year.
Sky is also working on a new set-top box capable of delivering TV through both streaming and the existing satellite technology. The box was said to be coming in the middle of 2022, but is not yet available. It will cost $200.