TVNZ's 'Karaoke High' debuts first on Web

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Pubcaster TVNZ will use the Internet for the first time to launch a local drama ahead of its broadcast premiere here next week.

The first episode of "Karaoke High" will be streamed on tvnz.co.nz beginning Monday (Dec. 11), a week before it airs on TV2.

Although TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis claims TVNZ is taking the lead with the initiative, free-to-air rival TV3 was the first Kiwi network to stream a local drama when it launched "Maddigan's Quest" at the start of the year.

However, TVNZ is expected to ramp up its online content over the next six months as it makes more local and foreign shows available for downloading in a territory that's lagged behind the U.S., the U.K. and Australia in digital TV developments.

"While our two channels are our core business, and will remain so, we are entering a new age that transcends television and it's appropriate that TVNZ as the public broadcaster should be trailblazing new ways to bring exciting stuff to viewers, on every screen," Ellis said in a statement.

Traditionally, it's been pay TV satcaster Sky that has led the digital evolution.

It was first to announce it would broadcast in high definition, starting in early 2008, and next year will upgrade its set-top PVRs to offer true video-on-demand as well as the ability to book programs over the Internet.

TVNZ and TV3, meanwhile, are part of a FTA FreeView consortium that will launch in two stages next year.

The satellite service will start in the first quarter and the digital terrestrial service in the fourth.

Both networks are looking to broadcast in high definition on the latter and will keep their new FreeView channels exclusive to the platform.

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