Sommet turns sports-feed back on for Kiwis
Free-to-air sports are about to make a comeback on New Zealand TV screens, with the soft launch of Sommet Sports on Freeview at the end of this week.
And with Sommet Sports will come some new-look advertising designed to minimise disruption and viewers' enjoyment - including internet-style banner ads.
Sommet Sports promises to offer Australian Rules Football (AFL) as well as the beautiful game, including the Scottish, German and Chinese FA cups and the Argentinian league and German Bundesliga. On top of that is world snooker, the New York and Melbourne marathons, San Francisco's Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, kickboxing, extreme sports and more.
Once testing is complete the station will go live on Freeview channel 14.
In the meantime it would be making trial broadcasts, checking its systems and building its content, general manager Mark Cathie said.
Sommet Sports is an independent broadcaster that came to exist when, two years ago, a few friends were lamenting the loss of free-to-air sports in New Zealand. It plans to deliver a range of sports from around the world and from within New Zealand, 24 hours a day.
"As we grow we hope to increase our New Zealand content in local codes," its material says.
"As we are a cost-efficient entity we would be seeking to partner with these codes to determine creative ways that we can bring them to a free-to-air arena at costs that are manageable without compromising reasonable broadcasting quality."
Cheekily, they say they have no competition.
"Kiwis have no other free to air fully dedicated sports channels in New Zealand, and subscription-based service providers offer a wide mix of content genres, not just sports."
The business will be funded solely through commercials, but with a twist. Sponsors will be offered internet-style banner advertising to increase their visibility and to reduce ad breaks.
"We're very much up for experimenting," Cathie said. "We want to be able to keep the viewer engaged in ways they haven't been able to on free-to-air."
That met a mixed reaction from ad agencies last week with Colenso BBDO's Nick Garret describing the plan as "insulting, invasive and stupid".
More positive was Todd Mcleay, Whybin\TBWA CEO.
"If internet-style banner advertising is going to give Kiwis access to a genuinely new sports TV format with great content, and free of charge, then it's likely the advertising will be tolerated by consumers," he said.
"The key will be to find a balance that ensures advertisers still derive value, without Sommet Sports creating the very interruptions to broadcasts they're hoping to avoid.