Lightbox Shaping Up to Be HD Heavyweight

New subscription video on demand service Lightbox may be a Netflix-lite but it will still launch with NZ’s most comprehensive line-up of online TV shows in HD.

Yet while it will lure many subscribers with its $15-a-month, all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of comedy and drama, Sky TV and the broadcasters will still have first dibs on all but a handful of its shows.

Mad Men, Masters of Sex, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, The Blacklist, Sons of Anarchy, Modern Family, Louie, Downton Abbey, Orphan Black, Doctor Who and The Inbetweeners are among the first series to be announced for the service, which goes live later this month.

What’s not clear is how long subscribers will have to wait between a new season’s free-to-air/Sky run and its availability on Lightbox.

This is subject to the various programming deals and the thicket of rights — FTA, pay, online, interactive – that has to be negotiated for each series.

But Lightbox programming chief Maria Mahony (left) says it will be “fairly quickly” and points to season one of House of Cards as an example: its Lightbox debut will come about six months after its TV3 premiere.

But where Lightbox will have it over other VOD services, like TVNZ Ondemand, 3Now and Sky Go, is most of its content will be in HD and subscribers will be able to binge on complete seasons whenever they wish rather than just catch up with the last couple of episodes of a series they’re watching on air.

What’s more, series that air in SD on channels like Prime or Comedy Central can be seen here for the first time in HD.

On top of this, Lightbox has secured the NZ premieres of Vikings, 24: Live Another Day, Outlander, Alpha House, Betas and Arrested Development, with more to be announced.

Mahony was reluctant to be drawn on how soon new episodes of these would go on Lightbox after they go to air or are streamed in the US, saying it depended on the licensing terms of each deal.

But she says some of the newer series could screen linear TV-style, with new episodes being offered to subscribers as soon as they come to hand rather than as complete seasons.

“For specific shows and where’s there’s more anticipation as they come out, like Outlander, we will stick them up as quickly as we can.

“But we won’t have one hard and fast rule for everything because it depends on their availability from the studios.”

Mahony’s appreciated studio support for Lightbox but says the deals for its exclusive shows were done in a competitive market.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the studios’ support but it’s not in any studio’s interest to give something away just because they like you.”

But she acknowledges Lightbox’s acquisition of the new 24 and Vikings wasn’t due to just making the better bid.

MediaWorks’ restructuring of its deals with Fox and NBC Universal opened up key titles to the market and presented opportunities not possible even a year ago.

“The media landscape is now quite different, and it’s happened quite quickly,” Mahony says.

While Lightbox has mounted an impressive slate for its launch, there’s still a slew of other premium dramas that don’t seem to have been licensed yet for NZ, including The Bridge (US), Low Winter Sun, Black Sails, Red Road, The After, Tyrant, Longmire and Turn.

Mahony wouldn’t comment on the likelihood of these joining the six exclusives Lightbox already has announced — or the possibility it would pick up runs of series that the networks have dropped, like Smash, Chicago Fire, Winners and Losers and Parenthood.

But she acknowledges: “There’s a lot of good content out there … and the free-to-air networks have only so many 8.30 and 9.30 slots.”

While Lightbox doesn’t have to worry about ratings, it will monitor which series are streamed the most, on which devices and how many episodes subscribers view in one session.

“We want Lightbox to be the best service for New Zealanders,” Mahony says, “and if we see a surge of interest in a kind of drama, we’ll make an effort to secure more of that content.”

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2 Responses to “Lightbox Shaping Up to Be HD Heavyweight”

  1. This is great news and hopefully this forces the other VOD services to offer HD streaming and content looks awesome. Thanks Philip for asking about the discarded TV shows and fingers crossed they do eventually pick up those titles at some point.

  2. It seems to be an HD fan in NZ is so gosh darn expensive. I’m fine with having to put up with ads on TV1, 2 or 3. But then we subscribe to Sky but pay extra for Sky Movies, plus pay extra for the HD ticket, plus pay extra for SoHo (note in the US an HBO subscription covers both movies and original programming) and now we’ll have to pay another $15 per month to see Doctor Who in HD … when all along all of these shows and movies should only ever be broadcast in HD. In the long run surely we’ll all be able to pay one subscription and download any HD programme or movie we wish to see. Given the cost of all the content we currently pay for that we don’t want to see, the economics for both viewer and provider should be overwhelmingly beneficial.

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