Telecom lifts lid on its Lightbox TV

Telecom has shone a light on its new TV service but is not saying when it will start.

The new internet-TV venture is called Lightbox and will be available in 90 per cent of New Zealand homes with broadband internet connections.

It will compete with subscription video-on-demand services Quickflix, Ezyflix and an unnamed new Sky service.

Lightbox's head of programming and local content, Maria Mahoney, said the streamed programming would be available for a free seven-day trial which would enable customers to test the service and whether their broadband was up to the task.

The Telecom scheme has attracted a lot of interest because the company is taking on Sky TV, which dominates pay TV.

But it is not yet clear whether Lightbox will be able to secure top TV shows ahead of Sky.

Lightbox will stream TV content online for $15 a month. Sky has not revealed its prices.

Neither Telecom nor Sky TV have given a start date for their services.

Sky owns rights to many of its shows on the upmarket Soho Channel, but Lightbox has named only three shows of its shows.

The headliner is Vikings, a drama which has played on the History channel overseas.

The Telecom operation also has rights to the latest series and back copies of the long-running series 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland, and non- exclusive rights to series one to six of the slick US drama Mad Men, which has been on Soho.

Ms Mahoney said Lightbox would initially have series programming only, but would expand to include movies and possibly sports.

Lightbox is starting with rights to around 5000 hours of programming but Ms Mahoney said this would be increased.

Like Quickflix, Ezyflix and the new Sky streaming service, Lightbox does not require a set-top box.

Customers who register can watch programming on up to five designated devices such as computers, iPads and Airplay on Apple TV. There is no contract or installation cost.

Ms Mahoney acknowledged that streaming programming would eat into broadband data allowances.

She said data caps were getting bigger, but the company was also talking to Telecom's Xtra and other ISPs about deals on bigger data caps.



The problem isn't so much that the individual viewer will pay more data charges, but that the whole broadband environment will go down to dialup speed.

Retail broadband contracts specify only maximum speed: if everyone is watching video, the speed will be heavily reduced due to the shared broadband connections. Each broadband customer shares their connection with 150 or so others, meaning they get their 12 'Mega bits per second' divided by 150.

12,000,000 divided by 150 equals 80Kb/ps, which is slow dialup.

The upshot is that lightbox will only work if it fails to attract many customers: the minute it gets mass uptake it will stop working for broadband viewers. It also means that broadband will cease to be any use for anything at peak periods, which may be more of a concern for those who take it for granted.

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