Commercial video on-demand classification

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What is commercial video on-demand?

Commercial video on-demand (CVoD) content refers to visual media content that is accessed online on-demand by a user who has paid a fee. This includes both:

  • Subscription video on-demand - Visual media content that is accessed online on-demand by a user who is paying an ongoing fee for access (e.g. Netflix); and
  • Transactional video on-demand - Visual media content that is accessed online on-demand by a user who pays a one-off fee for access on services (e.g. Google Play Movies).

Some CVoD providers have a mixed model of both subscription and transactional video on-demand services for example NEON.

Amendment to the Films, Video and Publication Classification Act 1993

The department operates under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 (The Act) which provides classifications and ratings for publications. The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification (Commercial Video on-Demand) Amendment Act 2020 has included CVOD providers.  As a result, providers of CVoD content will be required to display labels or classifications on their content.

What are the timeframes for the CVoD amendment?

The CVoD labelling requirements came into effect on 1 August 2021 with requirements taking effect in two stages.

Changes commencing from 1 August 2021

From 1 August 2021, specified CVoD providers will need to display labels on all new content that is added to their platform.

Changes commencing from 1 February 2022

From 1 February 2022 (six months after the Act coming into force), specified CVoD providers will need to display labels on content that was made available on their platforms before 1 August 2021 (pre-existing content).

The benefits of including CVoD in The Act

The amendment to the Act will ensure that specified CVoD providers that make content available in New Zealand display labels that support viewers to make informed viewing decisions. New Zealand viewers will be able to see consistent ratings and adequate content warnings on these services, which will help minimise the risk of harm from viewing inappropriate content.

CVoD labels provide information about the content’s rating or classification, and a description so that consumers are given adequate warning of harmful themes prior to viewing or purchasing content.

The Department’s role in CVoD

The Department is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Act. The Department’s Digital Safety Group is responsible for regulation and enforcement activities under the Act, including the regulations of the CVoD labelling regime.

Our regulatory approach is based on the Department’s “Minimising Harm - Maximising Benefit” strategy. We are mindful that specified CVoD Providers may be familiarising themselves with the new requirements and responsibilities of labelling content under the Act. Our initial focus as regulators is to increase awareness and understanding of the new requirements and provide guidance where necessary. We will take a reasonable and pragmatic approach with Providers that are actively working towards compliance. Our actions are supported be the enforcement provisions of the Act that can apply in cases where compliance cannot be achieved.

As the CVoD labelling comes into effect, we expect Providers to become more aware of their legal obligations and comply with the New Zealand legislation.

Other agencies roles in CVoD

The below organisations have key roles under the Act, including the CVoD labelling regime:

The Classification Office

The Classification Office is responsible for making decisions about the classification of content and supports the Chief Censor in the approval and review of specified CVoD providers’ self-rating systems. You can find out more information about this process on the Classification Office’s website.

You can contact the Classification Office at:

The Film and Video Labelling Body 

The Film and Video Labelling Body is responsible for issuing labels for films (e.g. cinematic release, DVDs and CVoD content). They can also issue labels in cases where CVOD providers choose to submit content rather than to self-classify. For more information you can contact the Film and Video Labelling Body at:

The CVoD labelling requirements

The Act Regulations 20AA to 20AAC will require specified CVoD providers to display CVoD labels on their content. Specified CVoD providers are listed in Schedule 4 of the Act. To comply with the new requirements, Providers are able to:

  • use an approved self-rating system to issue labels for content they make available that do not have an existing rating or classification under the Act; or
  • submit content to the Film and Video Labelling Body for a CVoD label to be assigned.


Image of the Commercial video on-demand document

Commercial Video on-Demand: An overview of the regulatory requirements for specified providers

This document provides in-depth information of the new requirements and exceptions for specified CVoD Providers.

A high-level overview of requirements for specified CVoD Providers is detailed below.

The self-rating process

One of the key CVoD changes enables specified CVoD providers to issue CVoD labels for their own content using a self-rating system which needs to be approved by the Chief Censor. You can find out more information about approvals and reviews for self-rating systems on the Classification Office’s website.

The labelling body process

Specified CVoD providers will be able to submit content to the Film and Video Labelling Body as an alternative option to get labels issued for their content. Film and DVD distributors currently use this process to get appropriate labels issued for films they distribute and exhibit in New Zealand.

Before submitting content to the labelling body, specified CVoD providers should check if a label already exists for that content. If a label exists, then they can use that label information. If a label does not exist, then providers should submit content to the labelling body.

The labelling body can assign the rating, rating symbol and description (if any). In some cases, content may get referred to the Classification Office for classification, as per standard process for the labelling of other film and publications.

CVoD labels

The CVoD labelling requirements were developed and tested with specified CVoD providers to make it workable for online-based and various digital platforms. This means that CVoD labels may not look exactly like the labels you would see on DVDs or at the cinemas in New Zealand. CVoD labels should still use familiar age classifications and display clear warnings to allow viewers to make informed decisions.

A CVoD label consists of:

  • a rating and corresponding symbol (e.g. “Unsuitable for audiences under 13 years of age” and the symbol “13” in black inside a red square); or
  • a classification and corresponding symbol (e.g. “Restricted to persons 16 years and over” and the symbol “R” or RESTRICTED); and
  • a description for the content, if any (e.g. Horror, Sexual Violence and Drug Use).

The display of CVoD labels

Regulations 20AA to 20AAC prescribe CVoD labelling requirements.

Specified CVoD providers are required to clearly display label information in the following circumstances:

  • at the beginning of the content (when it starts playing for viewers);
  • on the title pages of CVoD content (where viewers choose to view, hire or buy certain content); and
  • on ancillary content (e.g. deleted scenes) that merit a higher rating or different description from the main content.

The CVoD labelling requirements allow specified CVoD providers some flexibility in how they display label information, to account for different screen layouts and system requirements, and also provides exceptions to requirements under certain circumstances (as noted in the high-level overview of requirements).

Updating the Classification Office’s film database

The Classification Office is required to provide and maintain a publicly available database of films that have been labelled under the Act. To ensure it is kept up to date, specified CVoD providers are required to notify the Classification Office as soon as they can after they, or the labelling body, have issued a new label to content. This notification must include information like the title of the content, its year of release and label information.

Payment of an annual CVoD provider levy

Specified CVoD providers are required to pay an annual CVoD provider levy to the Classification Office, to fund costs to administer and support the CVoD labelling regime.

The annual levy amount that must be paid by each specified CVoD provider is $57,200 and is prescribed in Regulation 6 of the Levy Regulations.

Providers that are removed from Schedule 4 of the Act or no longer make CVoD content available in New Zealand, may be entitled to a part or full refund of the annual levy. These entitlements, including situations when a provider is added to Schedule 4 or becomes a specified CVoD provider, are set out in Regulations 8 and 9 of the Levy Regulations.

How to make a report about CVoD labelling

If you encounter content from a CVoD Provider in New Zealand that you believe is displaying incorrect information or labels, you can report it to the Digital Safety Group by emailing ClassificationAct.Compliance@dia.govt.nz.