Netflix Rivals Rush to Crush New Vid-Kid on the Block

Lightbox, Sky and Freeview have unveiled a raft of initiatives on the eve of Netflix’s NZ launch.

Lightbox has cut its monthly fee and announced one of its biggest coups yet, the BBC’s Wolf Hall, Sky is offering a selection of Rialto movies through its Neon service and Freeview has revealed a “smarter way” to watch TV that combines free-to-air and on-demand on a single platform.

Netflix starts streaming its NZ service tomorrow with a range of plans, priced from $9.99 a month for single-stream SD, $12.99 for two-stream HD and $15.99 for four-stream 4K or HD (ultra high definition).

These plans are roughly compatible with its US service but with far fewer library titles.

Even so, they were the cheapest streaming prices in NZ until Lightbox this afternoon announced its $15 monthly fee was reducing to $12.99 from tomorrow — and, by the way, it had acquired more exclusive programming with Wolf Hall, the Christina Ricci crime drama The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, WWII spy thriller X Company and the PlayStation Network’s Powers, a police procedural with superheroes.

All of which made Neon’s Rialto movies announcement seem underwhelming.

But if you’re prepared to pay $20 a month for Sky’s also-ran service, you can now stream in SD movies like Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, Gareth Evans’ The Raid 2 and Jim Jarmsuch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, along with documentaries of the calibre of Good Ol’ Freda and The Queen of Versailles.

But the most exciting announcement was Freeview’s FreeviewPlus service.

Due to launch mid-year, it will enable viewers to switch between live TV channels and on-demand content services using a single on-screen guide.

FreeviewPlus will marry broadcast television with on-demand content so viewers can watch catch-up and premiere shows on the best screen in the house, rather than solely a tablet or other connected device.

Freeview general manager Sam Irvine reckons FreeviewPlus signals the most important advance in free-to-air television since the introduction of digital TV in 2007.

“Online viewing and on-demand are becoming increasingly popular alongside the continued strength of traditional live viewing.

“So bringing live TV and on-demand together to the big screen is a natural next step in Freeview’s innovation path as we look to continuously improve the free-to-air TV viewing experience in New Zealand.”

Meanwhile, Samsung today announced it was launching Netflix, PGA Tour and TVNZ’s all-new OnDemand apps for its smart TVs.

Although the Netflix app will be available on rival Smart TVs, the PGA Tour and new TVNZ OnDemand apps will be exclusive to Samsung’s.

“With this new content app line-up our smart TVs are the only ones on the market that can truly provide more of what our customers want, when they want it,” Samsung New Zealand’s head of marketing Mike Cornwell says.

Netflix will be available on Samsung smart TVs from tomorrow. Samsung also is the first TV manufacturer to offer customers a free six-month Netflix subscription for an exclusive period, from May 1-July 31, 2015.

The PGA Tour and TVNZ OnDemand apps will be live by the end of March.

They join more than 100 content appls aslready available on Samsung smart TVs, including Lightbox, 3Now, Video Ezy, Ezyflix, Spotify, PremierLeaguePass and Pandora.

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13 Responses to “Netflix Rivals Rush to Crush New Vid-Kid on the Block”

  1. I refuse to buy the latest TV just because someone brings out a new feature/service. At this rate you would be replacing your TV every year.

  2. YAY, I have got Netflix and I’m really enjoying it 🙂

  3. As someone who loves HD, how do you find picture quality, Trevor?

  4. I’m not quite sure, Philip, as I have been watching it on my laptop, which actually is HD. If I could watch it on my TV I would have a better idea but what I have watched does look good 🙂

  5. I have no intention to go with any of these streaming options. I am really happy with Sky and between SoHo and The Zone there are a number of great series that we really enjoy watching.

  6. I’m actually only trying Netflix at the moment with the first month being free but I will probably keep it, it’s great that I can also watch Netflix on my tablet as well 🙂

  7. Hi Philip, I have now got Netflix on my TV and it looks really good, I’m really happy with the HD 🙂

  8. Philip: The video quality of Netflix varies greatly depending on the device you are using. On a PC/laptop HD is limited to 720p on Firefox/Chrome. Internet Explorer 8 can get 1080p. I don’t have a computer hooked up to surround sound but I suspect it’s stereo only on PC. On a compatible TV or device like PS4 or a Netflix-capable Blu-ray player, HD material is more readily available, with Dolby Digital plus surround sound. Picture is very good for streamed media, a bit below good HD broadcast TV, not a patch on Blu-ray or similar. Much depends on your device – I used a late model Oppo BDP with Netflix. I’m on the free trial and won’t be signing up. It confirms my initial thoughts that the local library is quite limited compared to the US. Not a problem if you have an ISP with global mode or a VPN 😉

  9. Thanks, thx1138. That’s most interesting. How do you think the HD quality compares to the US Netlfix? Btw, for anyone with older gear, here’s how you may be able to access Netflix without upgrading.

  10. I’m going to sign up at the weekend for Netflix and see if my Apple TV or Chromecast will work. After I get it working in NZ, will try a trial with a VPN service to compare the US offerings.

  11. Great! Let us know how you get on. I hope to spend Easter comparing the streaming quality of Netflix NZ/US (which I’ve been impressed with) and Lightbox.

  12. Netflix is the better experience here. Streams start and play cleanly whereas Lightbox varies day by day.
    The last couple of days my Lightbox has been stuttering all over the place 🙁 Good thing it’s free !

  13. I have no complaints with my picture and sound quality whatsoever in fact it’s excellent, it’s so wonderful watching TV shows in HD which I missed out on before. I really like Longmire and The Returned 🙂

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