Can CASPA Spook Sky?

Does CASPA stand a ghost of a chance against Sky TV?

TVNZ thinks so – that’s why it invested $8 million in 33% of Hybrid Television Services, the licensee of TiVo in NZ and Australia.

Hybrid has used the belated launch of TiVo in this part of the world – a decade after it revolutionised US viewing habits – to tap a much more lucrative market than just PVR junkies.

It’s targeting video on demand, or VOD, as the future of home entertainment, and is expanding its aggressive rollout of CASPA, a downloading service that initially was exclusive to TiVo, beyond the media device to any that can be connected to the Internet.

It turns out that was always the game plan of Hybrid and TVNZ – and clearly plays into TVNZ’s digital strategy of being on every screen.

“We started this two-year-old business wholly owned by Channel Seven over here in Australia and then TVNZ’s one-third purchase of our business was to build the CASPA platform,” Hybrid chief executive Robbee Minicola told

“Their investment was to entirely build the CASPA platform with the view of being an OTT [over the top] solution across multiple devices in both countries … It has always been our intention to do this. TVNZ’s investment was supporting this vision.

“That’s really critical. People might think, ‘Why did TVNZ invest in TiVo?’ They actually invested in Hybrid TV to build the CASPA platform, and TiVo was one part of it — but CASPA was the major part of their reason for investing.”

Minicola believes viewers will tire of paying Sky TV a monthly subscription of $100-plus just to secure sports coverage.

“The consumer’s pretty bloody savvy now. Long-tail linear channels of crap after crap after crap after crap that collate to 50 channels of ad infinitum repeat content that are delivered to me whether I like it or not, that I pay a pretty penny for every month, versus saying, ‘Hey, this is the TV show I like and I’m going to watch this episode after episode in an ondemand environment, and it’s advertiser-funded, I don’t have to pay a monthly fee for that?’ I actually think that is going to win.”

Already CASPA is reorganising its 4000 hours of content into sponsored genre channels, the first being Cadbury Bella, and as early next year may offer VOD programmes not only in HD and 3D but also for free if they include advertising.

“Although CASPA content is still VOD, it’s actually organised according to channel genres with a sponsor, and that sponsor stays with the channel for 12 months,” Minicola says.

“So over the period those channels will start populating with sponsors. Those sponsorship dollars go into us investing in more content for that channel. Eventually we’ll be launching our ad-funded content, which means within those channels you’ll have the choice to either watch that VOD episode or let an advertiser pay.”

Minicola acknowledges Sky’s ace always will be sport. “I cannot beat sport. I’m the first to say it. I’m not arguing that …

“I’m saying as more devices become Internet-connected, and as more OTT solutions like CASPA get out there, the customer’s going to scratch their head and say, ‘What in the hell am I doing? I’m paying a $100 a month for the luxury of watching sport in my living room when, dammit, I’d rather go to the pub anyway, and get away from the wife and the kids to watch my sport, and the family can watch whatever they want, and we save $1200 or $1300 a year.”

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