Since the pre-Easter news that four big content companies, Mediaworks, TVNZ, Sky and Spark through Lightbox, were threatening legal action against ISPs offering services like GlobalMode, I’ve been mulling on what all the pieces of this puzzle are.
There is of course the immediate legal question offered up by the threatened legal action. Are ISPs aiding and abetting copyright infringement by offering this non-New Zealand face to the public?
There’s a question about exclusivity: should content sales-people be offering, and putting a premium, on so-called “exclusive” license rights for their material when the Internet provides endless ways to work around such rights?
There’s a question about ubiquity: is the NetFlix CEO right when he is quoted saying his biggest wish would be to offer the same set of content everywhere and at the same time?
Related: if he got his way, would there be any role left for local content aggregators and providers like our four protagonists?
There’s also a question about public expectations: how do people feel about companies trying to make it a bit harder for them to pay for content they want to watch?
Sometimes there’s a question about confusion: people generally go to offshore services when they can’t get the content they want – or how they want it – locally - how does that behaviour compromise revenue or rights of local providers?
There’s a question about value: where can local content aggregators win and add value in a global market place that sees them outgunned in terms of content purchasing budgets?
I think that last question is the most important one, given how significant these content plays are for the broadcasters and apparently for Spark too.
I’ve had quick looks at Lightbox (thanks to a courtesy pre-release trial from Spark) and at the on-demand offerings of the TV broadcasters.
The latter in particular don’t always allow people to do the binge-series-watching that seems to be a preferred way of consuming series of TV content these days. With TVNZ on demand, you can often only see one or two episodes.
More broadly, what do local firms have that foreign ones don’t?
Audience knowledge and cultural context would be my starting point. New Zealand-based content aggregators should know Kiwis better than people offshore, and should be able to select content bundles that appeal – and be able to market them – in ways foreign firms can’t match.
Because besides that – what else is there? Locals are never going to be able to afford more content; they are unlikely to be able to use better tech to get the content to screens; it seems unlikely they will be able to offer higher quality of service given foreign providers are getting better at this.