Last week, shortly after the release of Telecom's Lightbox offering, Quickflix announced an agreement with South Pacific Pictures that gave the veteran in New Zealand's SVOD market rights to over 120 hours of local content via full seasons of Go Girls and Outrageous Fortune.
Given that Lightbox's head of programming and local content Maria Mahony said to StopPress that she was currently in talks with local film distributors to secure a deal to screen several local shows, this announcement by Quickflix will no doubt be competitive blow to the newcomer—even more so, because South Pacific Pictures is thought to have been one of the companies that Mahony was negotiating with (a Lightbox spokesperson would not comment on this point, saying that it was commercially sensitive).
Quickflix NZ managing director Paddy Buckley says that the company has been eyeing local shows for quite some time, and claims that early results suggest his team has made the right move.
"Local shows have always been on our radar because Kiwis are justifiably proud of their film and TV work," he says. "Viewing stats over the weekend were great and confirmed what we already knew, namely that there is real interest in this type of content, so there’s more to come from us in this space."
Buckley says that Quickflix will also be adding further shows owned by South Pacific Pictures to its lineup, but would not comment on which shows this might include.
In addition to Go Girls and Outrageous Fortune, South Pacific Pictures holds the distribution rights for Shortland Street, The Brokenwood Mysteries, Nothing Trivial, Step Dave, White Lies, The Almighty Johnsons and The Blue Rose.
Given that the deal penned between Quickflix and the South Pacific Pictures is non-exclusive, Lightbox could still potentially add any shows owned by the production house to its lineup. However, for this to be commercially worthwhile, the newcomer might have to avoid overlapping content on account of the fact that Quickflix is more affordable (Quickflix costs $12.99 a month while Lightbox will cost $15).
This move by Quickflix illustrates that it's willing to put up a fight against Telecom and Sky, and Buckley says he doesn't necessarily see it as a bad thing that corporate juggernauts have entered the Kiwi market.
"We operate in a sector that is set for huge growth as the necessary elements come together in NZ: good broadband infrastructure, increased availability of uncapped broadband plans, and growing general awareness about video on demand. We’ve all seen the success of overseas operators so Sky and Telecom getting involved locally is no surprise at all. In fact, we see it as a validation of our model and believe that they will help educate the public even more," he says.
Buckley is also quick to point out that there some key features that differentiate the Quickflix service from that which is being offered by Lightbox.
"I can’t comment on Sky’s plans until we know more but, importantly, there are several features that make us different from the Telecom service," he says. "As well as being cheaper, we offer movies as part of our subscription service because we know Kiwis love watching a movie, particularly on a Friday or a Saturday night, and our viewing stats are clear on that."
A Lightbox spokesperson confirmed that the service will not be offering movies on account of the fact that the organisation's research has shown that "the majority of SVOD content is TV shows".
In contrast, Buckley says that Quickflix has an extensive catalogue of movies that are available to subscribers at no additional charge above the monthly subscription. He does however add that certain new releases carry an additional fee.
"We ... offer latest release movies on a pay-per-view basis and you don’t even need to be a Quickflix subscriber to watch them," says Buckley. "For example, right now anyone with a broadband connection can watch Frozen, 12 Years a Slave, Lone Survivor, Her and many more ... This is an important point because we also know that not everyone wants to commit to a monthly subscription fee – some people just want to pay and watch."
Buckley says that the final feature that separates Quickflix from that being propositioned by Lightbox is that the service can be accessed across a variety of platforms.
"Quickflix has apps embedded on all major smart TVs and home theatre systems (Samsung, Panasonic, LG and Sony) as well as on game consoles (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One) and mobile apps on iOS, Android and Windows 8. Most viewing is still done on the main screen, so that is why we have worked really hard on smart TVs and game consoles. As far as I’m aware, Telecom’s service will not be available on those devices when it launches, so viewers may struggle to watch on the main screen without additional cables or an Apple TV."
While convenience will certainly play a part in terms of determining which service Kiwis choose, the SVOD space remains a content battle. At the end of the day, the service that can secure the most attractive lineup of shows will ultimately win the monthly subscription fees of Kiwi consumers. And given that Sky and Telecom have significant financial muscle, they could possibly throw large sums at new shows.
So how much is Quickflix willing to spend on new shows and how does Buckley believe his company will be able to survive in this increasingly competitive market?
"No comment on exact numbers," he says, "but we are able to benefit from an economy of scale by virtue of operating on both sides of the Tasman that Telecom is not, so that evens the playing field up. Of course, Telecom have a huge marketing machine, but as I’ve mentioned above, they’ll be doing us a favour in many respects and we fully expect to benefit from the increased awareness they will generate."