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Seven to up ante on new platforms

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Seven to up ante on new platforms

The Sydney Morning Herald

20 October 2005

The Seven network has revealed it will expand distribution of Australian TV programs such as Home and Away, Blue Heelers and Dancing with the Stars to the internet, portable media devices and mobile phones by the middle of next year.

The move follows Apple's unveiling last week of its new video iPod and a content deal with Walt Disney in the US.

Apple's updated iTunes website and the video iPod allow TV shows such as Desperate Housewives to be downloaded for $US1.99 ($2.66) an episode.

Apple Australia's marketing director, Rob Small, would not comment on when the new video iPod would be launched in Australia. "It's too early for me to say," Mr Small told the Herald. "I think the decision is to be made on a country-by-country basis."

Apple's video iPod launch last week came as conjecture is again swirling in the music industry that the company is close to launching its iTunes music downloading service in Australia. Apple has finalised payment systems for royalties with music labels in Australia but Mr Small refused to comment on the timing of an iTunes launch.

TV networks and media planners, meanwhile, say the arrival of video iPods will have little impact on TV viewing patterns in the short-term, particularly for blockbuster TV shows.

"It's not a threat," said Mike Wilson, managing partner of media strategist Naked Communications. "It's unlikely to be a spoiling piece of technology which in its own right will change the way TV is viewed. It makes sense for TV shows to reach an audience by other means. I don't think it's going to affect the really big TV shows.

"Where it may affect TV is with niche programs."

The former chief executive of Warner Music and now network sales director at Ten, Shaun James, said video iPods would have little impact on free-to-air broadcasters but did present a clever way to "monetise content".

"The fundamental issue between music and video iTunes on our business is we don't have a major piracy problem," he said. "Does a video iPod take away from the free-to-air viewing experience? I would argue no.

"It adds to it. There are now opportunities for monetising delayed [TV] content."

Seven spokesman Simon Francis confirmed Seven's locally commissioned TV shows would be "repurposed" for the internet and mobile media next year. "Mobility is the next move. We're well advanced for our migration into that area," he said. "By this time next year you will see some significant moves in delivery platforms beyond broadcast TV."

Mr Francis said Seven would use a range of "revenue models" for new distribution channels, which would use pay options such as Apple's iTunes. But he said developing advertising-funded content, which would be available free on the new platforms, would be one way of generating revenue for the network in the future.

"Seven and Nine are in a very strong position because we create so much of our own programming," Mr Francis said. "That's the core of our future. The key factor for Australian TV networks is, if you own the content, you own the copyright. You need to have programming only seen on Seven and then leverage that unique content into other formats."

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