In an unusual twist for the broadcast sector, New Zealand's dominant pay TV platform Sky Network TV Ltd. said that it agreed to acquire the country's major regional free-to-air broadcaster, Prime Tele

SYDNEY (The Hollywood Reporter) -- In an unusual twist for the broadcast sector, New Zealand's dominant pay TV platform Sky Network TV Ltd. said that it agreed to acquire the country's major regional free-to-air broadcaster, Prime Television, in a deal worth NZ$30.7 million ($20.7 million).

The Commerce Commission, New Zealand's antitrust agency, must clear the deal. Sky said it will provide more information on its plans for Prime N.Z. "when the conditions of the agreement have been satisfied."

Prime is owned by one of Australia's major regional TV networks, Prime TV, while Sky is majority owned by Independent Newspapers New Zealand, which merged with Sky in August. Sky's reach of New Zealand's estimated 1.5 million TV households is more than 38%.

"For several years we have been looking at creating or acquiring a free-to-air network," Sky chief executive John Fellet said, adding that the company has explored other options, like a takeover of CanWest's C4. CanWest also owns TV3 in New Zealand, the major rival to TV New Zealand's two channels.

"Prime has recorded tremendous growth in New Zealand in recent years and the business is now well positioned to reach its full potential under Sky's ownership," Prime's Australia chief executive Warwick Syphers said. "Prime has recently diversified into radio in Australia and is seeking other growth opportunities that may emerge as a result of foreshadowed media ownership law changes in Australia."

New Zealand is very sports-driven for consumers, and Sky added that a "free-to-air channel will give (it) the opportunity to showcase its programs and channels while ensuring that New Zealand consumers can watch delayed free-to-air sports programs, such as rugby, rugby league and cricket in prime time."