Imagine a service where you can dial up the media you want, get it for a fair price and instantly play it on the screen you want to use at the time (TV, tablet, phone, computer). And you can do all this without having to install strange anti-piracy software and without any “not in your country” restrictions.
It does exist… just not for everything.
Spotify, Rdio, iTunes, Google Play are doing this exact thing for music. They all have varying models for delivering you the content – some require a paid subscription, some get you to pay for individual tracks. But it’s the same end result: you get the music you want.
For decades the music industry has railed against every new medium for their products. The internet will kill the music industry! CDs will kill the music industry! Tapes will kill the music industry! Phonographs will (probably) kill the music industry! Of course none of these things happened and the music industry is doing fine and the new services seem to be doing well for artists.
[Spotify in December 2013 said], for instance, an unnamed “global hit” album generated $425,000 in revenue from Spotify during the month of July, while a Top 10 album generated $145,000.
Spotify pointed to an unnamed “global star” to which it paid $3 million in individual royalties over the past year, a sum it expects to double in 2014. It added that this particular artist wasn’t its most played artist and that their other stars were paid more than $3 million in 2013.
Both Google Play and iTunes have a service that scans your music collection at home and makes a cloud-based library of all the songs you own. It’s so damn convenient!
If you like sports, especially American sports, then you have heaps of options. All of these sports services offer the ability to watch games live and on demand for a yearly (or monthly) subscription.
NFL Gamepass (American football), NHL Gamecenter (ice hockey), NBA TV (basketball), MLB.TV (baseball) have been running for a long time. The MLB and NFL versions are often called the best streaming sports services available. If you like tennis then the ATP World Tour and WTA have a digital service called TennisTV which offers live games and on-demand for a week after the match has been played; its main problem is that it doesn’t have the Grand Slams.
And of course Premier League Pass (based on the NFL model) has given New Zealand football fans a chance to see their favourite team play each week. As an odd by-product of this broadcast deal, TVNZ gained the rights to show some Premier League matches on free-to-air television.
The ANZ Championship showed netball games live via an overseas distributor Livesport.tv. The service is restricted for Australians and New Zealanders, but as we know, it’s legal to get around geo-blocks in New Zealand (see our Digital Living guide for help with that).
Finally if you like rugby, the IRB shows a lot of matches live and on demand online and for free! For example the current Junior World Cup being played in New Zealand can be found there, alongside Sevens matches and the Pacific Nations Cup. It’s not Super Rugby, Tri-Nations or Heineken Cup, but it’s pretty good.
Services like this allow us, the consumers, to watch what we want without a network telling us what we’re allowed to see and when. And the really cool thing is if you only want to sign up for the play offs of some sports, the subscription is cheaper (at time of writing the NBA and NHL finals are $40 and $10 respectively).
I personally use the NFL and MLB service and have never looked back (Sky only broadcasts two American football games a week during the season and five baseball games). Both of these services can be streamed through my TV, in full HD and on demand (so I can go back and relive great victories).
If you wanted to subscribe to all of the sports services I mentioned it’d cost you: $1025.04 per year including the cost of an Unblock-Us subscription to access tennis and NRL (helped in part by the fact that NFL Gamepass is free to New Zealanders). Naturally that price drops considerably if you aren’t a fan of American sports like I am.
For comparison, an annual subscription to Sky Sport with HD coverage (again, I am gobsmacked that Sky makes you pay extra for the “privilege” of watching HD content) costs $99.74 per month ($1196.88 per year).
Movies and TV
For movies you actually have quite a few options in New Zealand. Apple’s iTunes store, Microsoft’s store through the Xbox, Quickflix, even the new Samsung Smart TV’s come with a built-in video-on-demand store.
All of these options offer you what you’d expect from a video store: new releases and older films, in HD, and available to watch when you like for roughly $3-$7. Some services, like iTunes, allow you to buy the movie, so you can watch it anytime you like.
If you want to watch TV shows… tumbleweeds
Quickflix offers a smallish selection of TV shows; mostly older BBC shows, though they have added some more recent fare, such as Hannibal, Orphan Black, and The Walking Dead. These “premium” options, tend to be “purchase to own”, rather than watchable as part of the separate subscription fee.
TVNZ and TV3 offer on-demand services for some of the shows they own and have the rights to stream (for example, The Simpsons isn’t available). The main downside of these services, though, is the lack of full seasons (usually only the most recent 3 episodes are available) and the lack of previous seasons. TV3’s new promotion with House of Cards, a show made by Netflix, slightly bucks this trend, with all episodes of season 2 being available at once.
In the US, Hulu.com has been showing TV shows for a few years now in both free and subscription versions. Netflix has a large number of older TV shows, anywhere from classics through to 2013 seasons, alongside their brand new series, like Orange is the New Black. Amazon Prime offers a similar service including back catalogues of HBO series.
So it’s clear it can be done, but we still have to wait for it to arrive here… tumbleweeds
About the author:
Hadyn Green is a geek. He loves shiny new tech and the chance to try to break it. Because it's the kind of thing people ask, here is the tech Hadyn currently uses. Phone: iPhone 5s Tablet: iPad Air. Music player: Spotify. Headphones: Sony MDR-G55 (for walking because I hate earbuds) and Beats Studio noise-cancelling (for sitting at my desk and tuning out the world). E-Reader: Kindle Touch. Gaming: PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360. Internet Service Provider: Snap.