Fight over Prominence on Smart TVs

Fight over Prominence on Smart TVs

An industry fight is underway over TV apps having pride of place on new Smart TVs.

While the Federal Government is preparing to legislate on ‘Prominence’ there are mounting arguments, with corporate dollars at stake, over whether Free to Air networks should be given priority on home screens.

Free TV, togther with ABC and SBS, back a move to make FTA apps discoverable.

But the Subscription TV sector, led by Foxtel Group, is against government ruling on app priority. This week full page ads against the idea were taken out in newspapers.

Not just the placement is at stake, but it could also impact Search results, favouring FTA over Subscription / Streaming. Such moves could cost advertiser dollars….

For:

“Australians know that they are not being given a fair go when it comes to the services they are offered on their connected TVs. They are worried that instead of being offered the local TV services they want to watch, they are being steered in the direction of services that favour the commercial interests of big tech and TV manufacturers,” said Free TV CEO Bridget Fair.

“It’s a matter of choice and the choice should be made by the viewer. It’s not choice if your TV is set up to deliberately make it hard to find your local TV channels. Viewers should be able to easily find all the services they want and then decide.

“Claims by Foxtel that the Government is trying to control your viewing or limit search results are utterly misleading. This whole issue is about putting the viewer in full control, not being served up incomplete viewing choices based on who has paid the most money to be in the line-up,” she said.

“The research clearly shows overwhelming consumer support for prominence.

“Free-to-air TV is built on universal free access for all Australians to news, sport and other culturally important content. But to continue creating the moments that unite the nation, Australians have to be able to find it. And that is under serious threat. Our local free TV services are becoming increasingly hard to find on connected TVs, with deep-pocketed foreign giants buying the best real estate.

“Our local free TV services are delivered to all Australians for free. Free TV networks invest billions in fresh and unique content each year and they need to reach millions of Australians each day to generate the advertising revenue that keeps those services free. But TV manufacturers want to charge local TV providers up to 30% of revenue just to be present on the TV screen. That money would come directly out of Australian content,” she said.

“To protect Australian stories and the services that make them and to continue experiencing moments like the Matildas’ stunning FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign, we need to protect Australians’ ability to find them. It’s what the people want.”

New research from Free TV reveals widespread support for ensuring all Australians can access free TV services on connected TVs. The survey of 2,075 people conducted by Free TV and Seven West Media found 78% of people with connected TV sets believe it is important they can easily find free TV services. Only 8% said it was not important.

Other key findings included:

84% of people want to receive a free service option before the paid option when they are looking for something to watch.

81% of people did not agree with the idea that local free TV services should have to pay a TV manufacturer for visibility on the home screen.

81% also said commercial interests should not dictate where TV services appear on a connected TV.

Most people don’t customise their connected TV home screen because they are not confident about being able to do it. They rely on TV manufacturers to do it for them. In fact, 83% of people think a connected TV should come with free services already installed.

Against:

An ASTRA spokesperson said, “Millions of Australians rely on subscription TV services and we are very concerned that the Government could take control of what and how these Australians watch their TVs with new Prominence legislation. Research shows the overwhelming view of Australian consumers is that they want to control the TVs they own and spend thousands of dollars on annually. It is their choice. ASTRA has a responsibility to protect Australia’s right to decide how they watch their content and that the shows and apps they love and subscribe to remain accessible to them. This campaign intends to raise awareness of this issue and galvanise Australians who love their TVs and the content they pay for to act now.”

ASTRA research commissioned in August and October claims the overwhelming view of Australian consumers is that they want to control the TVs they own:

When given the choice, 94% of Australians said they don’t want the government controlling the order and layout of the apps on their TV.
73% of Australians want the ability to customise the order and layout of the apps on their TV themselves, followed by (21%) Australians who want manufacturers and service providers to do that for them.
80% of Australians believe the choice on what they watch should be their own.
1 in 2 Australians (50%) with a smart TV don’t know how to change the layout and order of their apps.
Australians on average spend up to $2000 on their Smart TVs every year in addition to the multiple streaming apps they subscribe to.
Australians who pay to watch content want to decide where they watch it. 87% of those who pay for a streaming service agree if a sporting event is shown on both free and paid TV, they should have the right to choose which one they watch.

*Source Smart TV Study, conducted by YouGov and commissioned by Foxtel, between August and Oct 2023. Sample of over 1000 Australians aged over 18 and nationally representative were surveyed. Frequent streamers are people who stream content 5+ days per week.

The following interview took place on SKY News between host Tom Connell and Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Patrick Gorman.

CONNELL: Okay, just one final topic. This is for you, Patrick, in particular. It’s to do with Smart TVs, so just about every Australian has one. And that Labor is looking at changes on so-called ‘Prominence Laws.’ So, when you turn on your TV for the first time, what order are the apps in? Which matters. And of course, it matters for companies, including ones that we’re showing on Binge and so on. What’s your view on this? Should Australians be free and TV companies be free to have those apps in whatever order they like? Or should free TV, for some reason, get prominence?

GORMAN: Well, Tom, we went to the election saying that we recognised that there was an important role to play in the Australian Government taking steps to ensure that those free-to-air networks that have served Australia for many decades do continue to serve Australia. They tell Australian stories, they are some of the largest funders of Australian content and production. They give fantastic media careers to many and so we took that to the election. Michelle Rowland has been working on that policy ever since. We hope to be able to legislate in the near future. We recognise that there are always, in these things, there are a range of different views and that’s why we’ve gone through a very thorough consultation process to make sure that we hear all of those views and we land it in a way that’s right for the Australian people. And what I think the Australian people want is a system that – we’re not taking anyone’s apps off these Smart TVs. They come with gigabytes and gigabytes of memory. Now, you can put as many apps on as you like, but let’s recognise the important and unique role that free-to-air broadcast television has played in this country for decades and let’s make sure that we continue to have those benefits for the future.

CONNELL. So, on that and what it could means, you said Australians, you know that they can fit as many apps as they want, would at least be a first principle that if you get the TV and you want to change the app or whatever it be to have certain ones more prominent than others, you can lock in your own settings? You wouldn’t be locked into free TV as the first five, no matter what, and that can’t be changed?

GORMAN: Well, this is where we all have our own television experience. I could talk about the Smart TV I have, and the free TV app is one particular button – it says ‘terrestrial TV’. And so how you would do that across the various different ways? We’d try and have some legislation that would clearly mean that it’s reasonably consistent across all of the different brands and manufacturers. And I’d point out again: this is about requirements on manufacturers who bring products into Australia.

CONNELL: Yeah but when you say that – but this is about configuration, right? And if that’s so, it might come in a certain way. But surely if you’re sitting at home and you decide to, if you watch a lot of Sky News and a lot of AFL footy, don’t know what households would possibly do that, apart from my own but, you know, you configure it how you want. I mean, you still want people to have choice on their Smart TV, don’t you?

GORMAN: And I think the idea that this takes away all of that choice is wrong. It’s about make sure you’ve got prominence for those Australian free-to-air networks. That’s something I think is quite reasonable. You know, I’m sure if you could have a standalone Paw Patrol app, that’s what my kids would want to have. I’m sure others would have different requests, but just making sure we protect that free-to-air TV, I think is a pretty reasonable thing that most Australians would understand why we took that idea to the election and why we’re acting upon it now.

astra.org.au/advocacy/prominence