Telecom to launch internet TV

TOM PULLAR STRECKER
Last updated 07:25 25/06/2014

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The battle for the eyeballs of a new generation of tech-savvy television viewers is heating up with Telecom set to launch an internet-television service.

Launch director Simon Hoegsbro said the Netflix-like service, called Lightbox, would be available "within weeks".

Priced at $15 a month, tt will be open to both Telecom and non-Telecom broadband customers, but Telecom customers would be offered an undisclosed discount.

The service will be free of advertising and will let subscribers watch TV shows over the internet at a time of their choosing. Films might be added later, Hoegsbro said.

Programmes could be watched on internet-connected devices such as computers, laptops and tablet computers.

Lightbox will compete with another subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service that Sky Television plans to offer by the end of the year, as well as with existing services Quickflix and Ezyflix and, unofficially, with United States-based Netflix.

Hoegsbro said he couldn't compare Lightbox with Sky TV's forthcoming SVOD service as Sky had not yet provided details of its programming or pricing. Sky has said its service will offer television shows and films, but not sports which spokeswoman Kirsty Way said were best viewed live.

Lightbox will launch with 5000 hours of television, including drama series Vikings, Mad Men and 24 - Live Another Day starring Kiefer Sutherland.

In many cases it would offer all the series of shows from their first episode, so viewers could enjoy a ''box set experience'', Hoegsbro said. The full line-up of shows will not be revealed until Lightbox launches.

Between 20,000 and 30,000 New Zealanders are believed to have signed up to Netflix, even though that is against the company's terms and conditions as Netflix does not own the rights to stream shows over the internet in New Zealand.

Sky TV chief executive John Fellet said last week that he did not believe Sky and Telecom's launch of SVOD services would prevent Netflix coming to New Zealand.

But Telecom spokesman Andrew Pirie said he had doubts. "The question is whether they will bother. The more successful we and competitors such as Sky are with our products, the less inclined we imagine they will be. New Zealand is probably a marginal market for a company like Netflix in the first place."

Neither Telecom nor Sky were able to confirm whether they had seen Netflix bid against them for the rights to stream programmes over the internet in New Zealand to date.

Telecom chief executive Simon Moutter said in May that Telecom's television service would have an annual budget of about $20 million.

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