Big ISPs free to zero rate Quickflix: Sky TV

Quickflix CEO says company in discussion with ISPs on unmetering content

Quickflix CEO Chris Taylor says some ISPs’ contracts with Sky TV restrict them from zero-rating its online content streaming service, but the pay TV provider says that major broadband providers are free to unmeter their rivals’ traffic.

Orcon and Slingshot have announced its customers can stream movies and television programmes from the new content provider and it won’t count towards their data allowance. However, Taylor says it is his understanding that other ISPs have reseller agreements with Sky TV which prevent them from unmetering Quickflix’s content.

Sky TV spokesperson Kirsty Way says that Telecom, TelstraClear and Vodafone are not restricted from unmetering content, as long as the ISPs treat traffic to iSky in the same way. The ISPs are not, however, able to partner with any other company offering content such as "Hollywood movies".

"There is certain content that even when you partner with us you are free to go and seek yourself. Things like music and user generated content and other things that partners have asked us specifically if they could do on their own," Way says.

Telecom chief marketing officer Jason Paris says he is currently in discussions with Quickflix.

"Customers with 100GB per month on our Total Home Broadband plan could stream over 100 movies and TV shows from Quickflix every month, so we are confident our current plans provide the right amount of data for anyone looking to use Quickflix or a similar service," he says.

"We also review our data offerings regularly to ensure we are meeting our customers’ needs as new services like Quickflix arrive in New Zealand."

Taylor says a standard definition movie would consume around 1GB of data and a high definition movie 2.5 GB. A minimum speed of 1.5Mbps is required to stream movie content from the Quickflix site. It should take around 10 seconds to begin streaming, and once the stream starts there is no buffering, he says.

“We see broadband caps moving quite quickly. They’re already moving, so how long this will be an issue I’m not exactly sure. In the first instance with Orcon and Slingshot, we’ve got ISPs that are demographically suited to the sort of clientele that would be interested in our service. “

Taylor is familiar with the New Zealand market as he was the CEO of Prime TV before it was bought by Sky TV. He has also worked for Telstra, launching its IPTV offering. Quickflix has 150 employees in Australia and one – former media and technology lawyer Paddy Buckley – in New Zealand.

Sports channels

Taylor says that Sky TV has “been given an enormous free kick” by the lack of regulation in the New Zealand market, pointing out that there is no “anti-siphoning” legislation with regards to popular sport.

“In Australia, the sports that are material to Australians are protected. So they don’t have to pay through the nose to watch live sport that they love. There has been no regulation against Sky in that regard and as a result Kiwis are paying a fortune to watch, for instance, rugby.”

Currently Sky TV’s ISP partners must buy the entire entertainment package, and can’t pick only the sports channels. Way says that if they sold individual sports channels “it would be a very high price.”

“I understand the Australian market is different from ours. Quite simply, this market is quite small and our sporting codes just wouldn’t exist with a Pay TV operator in New Zealand to fund them.”

Quickflix content offering

Despite the Time-Warner owned HBO channel having a 15.7 percent stake in Quickflix there is currently no HBO content available to its New Zealand subscribers.

Way says that Sky TV's output deal with HBO (makers of drama series such as Game of Thrones and Treme) gives it a limited window of exclusivity, but she could not say for how long that lasts.

Taylor says there are currently 350-400 movies available to New Zealand Quickflix subscribers, along with BBC series such as Fawlty Towers and Little Britain. The content for its subscribers is, on average, around four years old.

The company intends to keep its introductory price point at $9.99 a month “for months, not days” but will eventually raise it to $16.99 a month.

So is it good value, Computerworld asked.

“You’ve got 50 percent pay TV penetration in this market, people are paying upwards of $60-$70 to have Sky movies and you’re telling me that $16.99 for unlimited access to 400 movies is bad value?” Taylor replied.

Taylor will be “pretty happy” if Quickflix could get 20 percent penetration in the New Zealand market by the end of 2016.

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