Hybird TV, Sky face off

Hybrid TV CEO says she will 'pursue other avenues' for electronic programme listing if necessary

Hybrid Television may cross swords with Sky Television by including Prime's programme listings on digital video recorder TiVo's electronic programme guide without the permission of Sky.

Chief executive Robbee Minicola says she intends to seek further information from Sky on why it will not allow its listings to be shown on TiVo and could then seek legal advice before making a decision.

Sky and Maori Television took some gloss off the launch of the hi-tech personal video recorder last month when they refused access to their listings.

Although TiVo can still display the channels, their decision means TiVo owners cannot see what programmes are on Prime or Maori TV or record programmes straight to TiVo's built-in hard-disk drive from its electronic programming guide (EPG).

A Stuff.co.nz poll suggested one-third of viewers who were considering buying TiVos might have been put off by the lack of listings data.

Sky spokesman Tony O'Brien would not add to an earlier statement that it was concerned Hybrid could not track how many customers were watching Prime and was uncomfortable with an exclusive partnership between Hybrid and Telecom, which has sole rights to sell TiVo in New Zealand.

Minicola says going against Sky chief executive John Fellet's wishes on Prime's listings would not be her preferred option, but she did not believe Sky's explanation stacked up, because Prime's viewing numbers on TiVo would not yet be statistically significant.

If it became a genuine issue, Sky could withdraw the data.

"I first have to find out why he doesn't want to give it to us.

"If I categorically see there is not a valid reason, then as an organisation working on behalf of my customers, I have to pursue other avenues if they are legally available."

Victoria University law professor Susy Frankel, who chairs the Copyright Tribunal, told The Dominion Post last month that while television listings could be subject to copyright, Hybrid Television would not necessarily breach Sky's copyright if it copied Prime's programme titles and broadcasting times into its EPG.

The legalities could depend on what information it used, and how.

Unitec broadcasting lecturer Peter Thompson says it would be no surprise if Hybrid did move on Prime's listings.

"The recession is biting into advertising revenue, putting pressure on free-to-air broadcasters, but it has an indirect effect on Sky as well, because people look twice at their subscriptions.

"When everybody is trying to make sure every cent counts, no-one wants to move in a direction that does any favours for the opposition. I don't know if [anyone] is looking at what is good for the consumer."

Minicola hopes Maori TV will agree to release its programme listings for inclusion on TiVo.

She would not comment on whether she believed Maori TV's decision to withhold them was related to tensions between Maori TV and Television New Zealand over Rugby World Cup broadcasting rights, but says she does know "it has nothing to do with Hybrid".

TVNZ owns a one-third stake in Hybrid.

Hybrid Television owns the right to TiVo in New Zealand and Australia, but is not tied to the box and plans to let people access its video-on-demand service Caspa through other devices, such as internet-enabled televisions, computers and mobile phones, Ms Minicola says.

"We will soon be outside of TiVo as well. I will laugh five years from now about what is happening with Sky and Maori TV because in the scheme of things, it is so petty."

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Tags tivonew mediaHybrid TVSkyprime

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