In the lead up to the release of Netflix on 24 March, Vodafone has become the exclusive communications launch partner for the company in New Zealand and is trumpeting the arrival via a promotion that will give Vodafone subscribers on one of the available 24-month Red+ mobile plans six months' access to the subscription video on-demand (SVOD) platform (the promotion is available until 30 June).
The competitiveness between the SVOD players, which is only set to increase with the arrival of Netflix, is starting to drag in the telcos as they each vie to offer the subscribers the best service.
Spark essentially kicked this off by offering all of its broadband subscribers 12 months' access to Lightbox. And now Vodafone has followed this up by giving its consumers the choice of either Netflix or Neon, depending on which deal is chosen.
Vodafone has drawn a line between the two promotions by focusing the Neon deal on broadband subscribers and the Netflix one on mobile users. And, as explained in a Vodafone release, the aim of the new promotion is to encourage users to stream via their mobile devices:
"Armed with Vodafone’s reliable 4G mobile network, customers will be able to unlock a world of movies and TV series while on the go. Using smartphones, tablets or laptops, Netflix members can choose from a range of content including original series such as family thriller Bloodline; and the globe-spanning adventure series Marco Polo as well as local movie favourite, ‘The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.’ With new episodes added regularly, Netflix members can start watching on one device, pause and resume on another."
Vodafone's consumer director Matt Williams said in a release that the recent Vodafone digital usage and attitude survey of 655 respondents showed that 41 percent of the red telco's customers stream content at least once a month, and this trend is likely to become more common as the SVOD market matures further.
"We’ve got New Zealand’s largest 4G network so our customers can have the best seat in the house on their mobile," says Williams.
The issue of whether Vodafone does have the biggest 4G network recently spilled over into a billboard squabble, which saw Spark release a billboard last year in which it claimed to have the biggest network. As evidenced by Williams' reference to Vodafone having the largest 4G network, it seems this issue is yet to be settled.
Despite the pair of promotions being focused in different channels, it is a bit unusual given that Neon and Lightbox will be in competition with one another in the SVOD market. And this problem is exacerbated by the fact that a Netflix subscription can also be accessed via laptop at home (something that's likely given that mobile data bundles are still quite limited).
StopPress asked Sky's head of corporate comms if the broadcaster saw this as conflict of interest, but she said that Sky is "comfortable with this announcement" and that it would not impact on its ongoing relationship with Vodafone.
Vodafone's consumer director Matt Williams shares similar sentiments, saying that the Netflix deal would not impact the telco's relationship with Sky.
“We have a strong relationship with Sky that’s been in place for many years, and we actively promote their great entertainment packages to our customers," says William. "Through this relationship, we deliver New Zealanders great value offers – which include Sky TV, Sky Sports and Neon packaged with our broadband plans."
He also said that that it was part of Vodafone's strategy to give its costumers access to the digital entertainment they want.
"We work with a number of partners to deliver this and let our customers choose the package that suits them best," says Williams.
"When we got chatting with the Netflix team, we thought this offer made sense for our customers. Vodafone have partnerships with Netflix across the world, and extending the relationship to New Zealand was a natural step.”
In taking this step, none of the telcos have established a partnership with Quickflix NZ, the longest running SVOD provider in the market. However, the company's managing director Paddy Buckley says that he is currently in talks with several internet service providers and close to finalising a deal.