TVNZ buys stake in regional TiVo licensee

Acquires 33% stake in Hybrid Television Services

SYDNEY -- New Zealand broadcaster TVNZ will take a 33% stake in Australasian TiVo licensee Hybrid Television Services, Hybrid's majority shareholder, the Seven Network said Thursday.

The deal, for a reported AUS$8 million ($5.5 million) plus unspecified air time, will see the state-owned broadcaster launch the TiVo personal video recorder in NZ later this year. The TiVo box will carry all free-to-air digital TV channels, including those under the New Zealand Freeview HD banner, as well as broadband content, pay-per-view movies, on-demand TV and games.

"Our investment in Hybrid Television Services is an investment in the future commercial success of TVNZ," TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis said. "It marks a further step in our transition from a traditional broadcaster to a multiplatform digital media company with diverse income streams, operating in the Australasian market."

Last week, TVNZ announced it was cutting about 90 jobs as part of an NZ$25 million ($12.8 million) cost-cutting drive.

The Seven Network launched TiVo in Australia in July. Here, the box retails for AUS$695 ($480) with no ongoing subscriptions. A similar model will be used in New Zealand.

Seven has not yet revealed how many boxes it sold here but the rival box sold by pay TV outfit Foxtel is reportedly outselling TiVo.

"We were selling more IQ's (Foxtel's personal video recorder) in December than TiVo did in six months," Foxtel CEO Kim Williams said last week.

Foxtel announced Thursday that it had its IQ box in 540,000 homes in Australia, about 38% of its installed pay TV base.