John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

NZ joining global move to internet TV services

With the start of Spark's Lightbox service, New Zealand is joining the global wave of internet TV services.

Viewers are offered access to libraries of older TV series and a cheaper alternative to the compiled linear channels like those on Sky TV.

At $15 a month for access to 5000 hours of programming, a Lightbox subscription is less than a third of the price of a basic Sky package.

But Spark will face a battle to compete with Sky, which has had a virtual monopoly on pay TV for 26 years and which launches its own subscription video on demand (SVOD) service this year.

Quickflix and EzyFlix are already small players in the New Zealand market. US giant Netflix is already available via a back-door hook-up, with expectations it will launch in Australia and New Zealand at the end of the year.

Lightbox is going to need exclusive content to stand out from the crowd.

The bad news for them is that Sky is the biggest customer in New Zealand for Hollywood studios and can easily add in exclusive SVOD rights when it negotiates for its main channels.

The good news, Spark says, is that Sky will not want to make its new service too good in case it takes customers away from its main linear channels and more lucrative service.

Maria Mahony is the head of programming for Lightbox and programmes the service from Auckland.

Her Sydney-based colleague, Andrew Lambert, negotiated for the present content and will do the same as they increase their offering.

The $15 monthly price tag means Lightbox cannot spend up large on a mass of expensive exclusive rights.

But Mahony says some exclusive content is important.

"It's important because it gives us something new and fresh for people to talk about and we are already finding out that people talk a lot about their favourite programmes on social media.

But ... just as important is having a quality back catalogue.

"Other SVOD services have offered 10,000 hours of programming at launch date but the quality is not as good."

And of the exclusive shows two - Outlander and Vikings - are expected to get the most promotion.

Mahony says there will be a few nostalgia series which offer a blast from the past.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 31 Oct 2014 18:36:59 Processing Time: 321ms