Vodafone CEO Russell Stanners and Sky TV CEO John Fellett at the launch event in Auckland.
You need a fast fibre connection to use the new-look Vodafone TV. Less than 100Mbps won't cut it. That means a UFB connection or Vodafone's own FibreX alternative.
You also need a Vodafone broadband account. The service is company exclusive. CEO Russell Stanners says he hopes customers who like the look of Vodafone TV will reward his company with their business.
Vodafone has offered a TV service for some time. Its 2013 earlier incarnation was, in effect, a version of Sky TV's My Box reworked for the internet.
The new version is something
else. The hardware is a puck-sized box packaged with a
remote control. In some ways it is like Apple
It's not about the hardware
There's not much to the hardware because there doesn't need to be much. The cloud does all the heavy lifting. An Amazon server stores all TV shows, movies and other video. It could be in Australia, but it could be anywhere in the world.
Cloud storage has the vast catalogue of material and the user's own saved program choices.
There are also mobile clients for phones and tablets. Stanners says, you might be sitting at home watching the All Blacks test on a large screen before going on a trip.
When your taxi arrives, you can press pause on the big display. Load yourself in the car and resume watching the game from the point where you stopped en route to the airport. Pause again, dump your bags and find a seat in the lounge before getting back to watching the game on your tablet.
Stanners says the experience is seamless
and brings all the screens together. Vodafone wasn't able to
show the hand-off at the Auckland event to show off the
product. Yet staff were able to show how well Vodafone TV
works on big screens and on mobiles. It is impressive and
like all impressive technology has a faint whiff of magic
Reverse electronic programme guide
Using the cloud has other advantages. There's no likelihood of running out of local storage. And there's a powerful reverse electronic programme guide.
This makes it easy to find the shows you want. One neat twist is you can use your mobile phone to cue big screen content. It's a form of on-demand programming. Armed with the reverse programme guide, you can search back through the last week or so to find shows that you may have missed. The actual timespan wasn't discussed.
Vodafone TV uses the company's
proprietary intellectual property. The company has a similar
product in parts of Europe. Stanners says there has been a
huge amount of local input into the service on sale here.
Not least, is the work clearing the rights with content
owners to build the reverse electronic programme
Vodafone TV: made for Sky merger
The TV-as-a-service product was already in the pipeline when Vodafone planned to merge with Sky. It shows what Vodafone was able to bring to the party. Sky, meanwhile, owns the bulk of content. It will all be there on Vodafone TV, but it's isn't an exclusive relationship. The device is able to run apps and from day one there will be Netflix, YouTube and content from Mediaworks. TVNZ will join them soon after.
Vodafone was coy about the precise launch date and the cost. Stanners says it will be soon. There was a whisper at the event that soon means the next week or two. We could have the new Vodafone TV before we have a government.
wouldn't talk prices, but Stanners says they will be
competitive. Again, the word around the event is that it
won't be expensive. There will be add-ons, some premium
content and extras like Netflix subscriptions. At this stage
customers will have to buy Netflix themselves, but Vodafone
may yet offer it.
It doesn't stop there. Stanners says one advantage of Vodafone's approach is it makes distribution easy for smaller content providers. He says that means we could see the emergence of Wayne's World-like niche channels.
The event made it clear there is still a strong relationship between Vodafone and Sky. Vodafone TV delivers most of what a merged operation could have achieved. It does so without causing regulatory ripples. There is no legal compulsion for Sky to offer the same content to other broadband suppliers.
Vodafone TV puts the company in a strong competitive position. It should be able to grow its share of the broadband market. Yet even with stellar growth it will struggle to match Sky's satellite reach. It goes places fibre doesn't.
Fibre is important to Vodafone TV. You need a solid, fast, reliable connection for it to work.
Chorus and the other fibre
companies have graphs that show how fibre uptake took-off.
It happened first when Spark introduced Lightbox. Then,
again, when Netflix opened in New Zealand. There were two
clear inflection points.
It wasn't only uptake. The graphs also showing how much data users download. These also turned corners at the inflection moments. Expect a similar effect as Vodafone TV kicks in.
Close Vodafone watchers may have spotted a theme with the company in recent months. Vodafone group product director Sally Fuller was in town earlier this year. The main thrust of her presentation was that we're moving to: "Everything-as-a-service". She says the ownership of things is on the way out, instead we buy outcomes.
This is something you could miss in Vodafone's TV announcement. Yes, it is a flash new product. It has the capacity to delight customers and win business from rivals.
At the same time it is another step closer to "everything-as-a-service". This is the future world Vodafone refers to in its advertising. Vodafone TV is more than a product, it is a strategy.
Vodafone TV — television in the cloud was first posted at billbennett.co.nz.