Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Spark wants 70,000 Lightboxers by June

Mike McMahon, chief technology officer for the new online TV network Lightbox. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Mike McMahon, chief technology officer for the new online TV network Lightbox. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Spark's new internet television service is aiming to attract at least 70,000 paying customers by the middle of next year.

The venture, Lightbox, has launched in beta mode and is due to become available to the wider public at the end of this month.

Due to have 5000 hours of content, Lightbox gives "all you can eat" access to its content on up to five devices and named hit shows Arrested Development, Outlander and 24 among its "exclusive" offerings.

The service is tipped to challenge existing pay-television service Sky TV and provide an alternative for Kiwis who access overseas services such as Netflix and Hulu through backdoor routes.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter said, when reporting the company's full-year result today, that Lightbox aimed to get 70,000 customers by June 30 next year.

To put that in perspective, Sky had 865,000 subscribers at the middle of this year.

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Moutter did not want to speculate on when Lightbox - which the company has spent $20 million on to date - would break even.

"We launching a new venture we don't know what customer appetite will be like and we're going to have to feel our way as we go," he said.

However, Moutter said if the service was "very successful", Spark could put more money and effort into it.

"If we get a really strong uptake, we'll increase our efforts not just sit on our coat-tails," he said.

Moutter also responded to questions about Spark's plan to build a new undersea telecommunications cable between Auckland and Sydney.

The venture was being done together with Vodafone and Telstra.

Asked to comment on speculation that Telstra wasn't going to participate, Moutter said he wasn't prepared to talk about what the partners were doing.

"It's still progressing through its approval process. Our desire is to invest and get on with the build...hopefully [there will] be some news on that in the not so distant future," he said.

If needed, Moutter said Spark would increase its position in the venture but that it would prefer to have a number of partners.

- NZ Herald

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