Four Still an SD Lame Duck

C4 today is being relaunched as Four so it and sister channel TV3 can compete more strategically against TVNZ’s networks.

Owner MediaWorks TV is revamping the niche youth music channel into a mainstream entertainment network for 18-49 year-olds – the audience TV3 targeted for 21 years before setting its sights on 25-54 year-olds.

But whereas TV3 has been the leader in free-to-air HD, Four will continue to broadcast in SD just as its chief TVNZ rival, TV2, aggressively hikes its 1080i content from merely a few hours a week to more than 20.

Compounding this inequity is the number of TV3 HD properties that is switching to Four to help drive its ratings, including new seasons of The Simpsons, Family Guy and America’s Next Top Model. (Four officially launches at 6pm with the Flight of the Conchords episode of The Simpsons; the latest season will air weekly 7.30pm Sundays.)

MediaWorks TV chief executive Jason Paris acknowledges MediaWorks TV needs to be “sorting out” Four’s HD future sooner rather than later.

“Consumers are increasingly demanding their channels be brought to them in HD and that’s something we have to sort out,” he says.

“I think our first focus will be launching Four in HD on the Freeview platform and then working with Sky later to bring HD on the Sky platform.

“Freeview as a brand needs as many advantages as it can get heading into the digital switchover [in 2013], and if launching Four on Freeview in HD first, before the Sky platform, was something of benefit, then we’d probably look at doing that.”

But first, MediaWorks management has to decide if making Four HD is preferable to launching another SD channel.

“It’s about capacity issues at the moment,” Paris says. “You only have a certain amount of spectrum and we’ve just been looking at is that spectrum best used to increase Four to HD or should we be looking at using that spectrum for new channel launches.

“That decision hasn’t been made yet. There’s no guarantee Four will be going HD but I’d be leaning towards that option.”

Can Simpsons Conchords fly in SD?

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3 Responses to “Four Still an SD Lame Duck”

  1. Downgrading their ‘premium’ shows from HD to SD in their channel-changeover is not going to win them any viewers. Considering their target audience is getting their entertainment fix from diverse sources such as the Internet, gaming, etc, the networks really need to bring some added value to the table if they want to get people interested and distract them from what they’re already doing. I’ve spent plenty on upgrading my home theater to HD; for me, HD is that added value. I’ve ‘sampled’ most of the current shows via the Internet; those that I’ve liked, I’m quite happy to watch again IF the networks bring them to NZ in HD. Otherwise, I’ve got plenty of other ways of wasting my time.

  2. Agree it’s not going to win them any viewers, but then the shows mentioned hardly benefit from the added resolution, do they? The Simpsons stands or falls on the quality of the script, not the crispness of its line art. America’s Next Top Model? Tears and tantrums on reality TV won’t miss the extra pixels either. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a nice 1080p setup and it’s great for quality production values (i.e. Blu-ray) but the problem for Four is the same as it is for TV in general: too much ad-punctuated crap slavishly programmed to an obsolete and flawed yardstick (ratings by PeopleMeter).

  3. ““It’s about capacity issues at the moment,” Paris says. “You only have a certain amount of spectrum and we’ve just been looking at is that spectrum best used to increase Four to HD or should we be looking at using that spectrum for new channel launches.”

    I should be a no brainer and go HD but I bet they will launch a FOUR +1..

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