Spark launches Lightbox television this month

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 15:20 14/08/2014

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Spark's subscription internet television service, Lightbox, will start on August 28.

The service will be open to Spark broadband customers and customers of other internet providers, with a 30-day free trial. After that it will cost $15 for 30 days.

Spark, formerly Telecom, has obtained rights to 5000 hours of television content for the service, including first-run exclusives for well-reviewed series Vikings and Outlander.

The programming can be watched at any time over the internet, providing what Lightbox describes as a "box-set experience" for viewers.

Sky Television has announced it will launch a rival subscription internet television service, separate from its broadcast pay-television service, by the end of the year.

It will include exclusive content from United States studio HBO, but spokeswoman Kirsty Way said today it was unable to provide any other details.

Mark Blair, an Australian-based vice-president of US video technology company Brightcove, said services such as Lightbox could benefit from the impending arrival in New Zealand of low-cost digital media players such as Google's Chromecast.

Brightcove supplies the technology used to deliver Television New Zealand's TVNZ OnDemand service.

Chromecast is a wi-fi device about the size of a USB stick that sells in the US for US$35 ($41) and plugs into the HMDI socket of a television set.

It can be used to receive programming streamed over the internet, acting as a bridge between the TV and a home computer.

Programming can be relayed to the TV either via an app on the computer or by simply mirroring the content being played through a Chrome web browser.

Such digital media players were now sufficiently cheap that an internet TV service provider could consider locking them to its own content and giving them away to subscribers, Blair said.

Chromecast was being used by "early adopters" and had yet to take off in Australia, he said.

However, Blair forecast an "explosion" in such players and in hybrid TVs and set-top boxes such as Australia's FreeviewPlus devices that could seamlessly switch between broadcast and internet TV without viewers needing to be aware that was happening.

"I suspect next year in New Zealand you will see both traditional broadcasters and new entrants – ones like Lightbox and new niche content providers – looking to use those devices," he said.

The result would be that it would be easier for businesses to get into the TV game, he said. "That is one of the things that is exciting about this."

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