Lord, bring on the day when set-top boxes are like fax machines - antique devices thrown in the junk cupboard, with floppy disks and tape recorders.

New technologies are filling a gap while we wait for an integrated, seamless TV service delivered from the cloud. Surely it is just around the corner.

In the meantime, Freeview and Vodafone announced initiatives this week, both involving new set-top boxes - or versions of them.

Yesterday, Freeview unveiled plans for its upgraded Freeview Plus, integrating the user interface for live broadcast and On Demand.


Freeview chief executive Jason Foden says the relaunch in December will create a more pleasant and seamless experience for On Demand users. Currently, commercials are inserted at set points, so breaks can occur at inopportune moments. The relaunched Freeview will stop that, Foden says.

The changes will not affect standard Freeview customers, only those who use the internet-capable Freeview Plus box.

Vodafone TV

On Monday, Vodafone launched its own new service, Vodafone TV, which delivers free TV online.

Vodafone consumer director Matt Williams acknowledges the questionable longer term future of set-top boxes, but he sees the smaller Vodafone TV device as more than a standard set-top box.

The only other countries that have the technology are Spain and Portugal.

The price of the new box and broadband package has not been specified, but it is expected to be marketed in two weeks.

It may be a boost for Vodafone and Sky. But in my opinion, there must be questions about what sort of unique offering Vodafone will deliver consumers, in return for them signing up to a 12- or 24-month broadband package.

The main feature appears to be the ability to move seamlessly between devices, such as a smartphone, tablet and television. Yet that is already available for Netflix customers. In addition to unlimited broadband, a Sky subscription and applications like Netflix,


Vodafone TV also provides easy access to free to air TV, including on demand content.

Local Lightbox

Spark made submissions to the Commerce Commission against the proposed merger of Vodafone and Sky TV, which was rejected, partly because of potential dominance of the wholesale programme market.

Since then, Spark has taken a wait-and-see approach to change in the pay TV sector, and about developing its own TV offering through Lightbox.

Spark appears to be happy with around 750,000 Lightbox users, most of whom are getting it free as a sweetener for Spark's broadband package.

Lightbox risks being shut out by the global TV offerings. The only way it can stand apart and appeal to consumers is with more local content. To that end, it has been in talks with at least one major production company, South Pacific Pictures, about local content.

Green all over

One of the most astonishing aspects about coverage of the election is the extraordinarily positive coverage given the Greens and two new MPs.

First it was Chloe Swarbrick. Then, special votes saw Labour's Angie Warren-Clark and the Greens' Golriz Ghahraman becoming MPs.

Labour's Warren-Clark is a former head of Women's Refuge in Tauranga, but received much less coverage than the Green MP, with her status as New Zealand's first refugee MP.

Indeed, the new Green MPs have done astonishingly well compared to other new MPs.

The trend to soft coverage reached its peak on the Radio NZ youth website, The Wireless, which commissioned Meg Williams to interview the new MP.

The item declared that "Meg Williams has a strong connection to the Green Party as Young Greens co-convenor and has been a member of the party for three years."

Williams is allowed her say. But why did RNZ commission a young Greens activist to write about a new Green MP?

RNZ head of digital media, Glen Scanlon, said Williams' background was declared.

She had not covered policy issues, and RNZ would not rule out similar items where activists get to interview allied politicians.