VodafoneTV shuts down soon: what are the alternatives?
If you use VodafoneTV, you need to decide quickly whether you’ll switch to Sky, Freeview or streaming.
After five years, Vodafone ends its experiment into TV content delivery on October 30. If you’re a customer, here are some paths you can take.
Launched in 2017, VodafoneTV was billed as a way to unify all the different ways we watch TV – free-to-air channels, paid Sky content, and streaming services such as Netflix – through one device. It made streaming more accessible for people accustomed to live TV, and vice versa.
Originally for Vodafone broadband customers only, the device was put on general sale in 2019.
Sky is really the only option in this country for premium, linear TV (that is, live shows as opposed to on-demand). If you’re one of the VodafoneTV customers who accessed paid Sky content and you’re now hooked on international rugby or Shark Week, you’ll have to continue your subscription directly through Sky. You’ve likely already been contacted and encouraged into a new contract – just try not to get talked into something more expensive.
Sky is launching its own internet-connected box very soon, which offers a similar experience to VodafoneTV. It combines satellite broadcast TV with the benefits of an Android TV operating system, such as Chromecast support and third-party apps from the Google Play store. The new Sky box was supposed to be ready in July, but we haven’t heard anything yet.
If it seems fishy that Sky’s box is coming along right when Vodafone’s is disappearing, we think so too – but both parties told us it was a coincidence.
Long-time Sky customers will receive boxes first as they roll out, but they should be available for new customers by September.
Streaming apps or Freeview
The end of VodafoneTV is a good time to stop and consider whether you still need linear TV. There are so many services for streaming in 2022, including special interest ones like Acorn TV ($8/mo) for British drama and Curiosity Stream ($5/mo) for documentaries.
You might be just as happy choosing a few of them as you are having everything in one place (and it’ll almost certainly cost less). If there are Sky-exclusive shows you’re worried about missing, you might find them on Sky-owned Neon ($16/mo).
For the occasional show you just have to watch in real time, like the 6 o’clock news or the Married At First Sight finale, apps like TVNZ On Demand and ThreeNow let you watch live as well. You can even stream the Prime channel for free through the Sky Go app.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to stick with curated TV channels but want to save money, there’s always Freeview.
All you need for an on-demand future is a smart media player to plug in to your TV. We’d recommend the new Chromecast with Google TV ($110), although the SmartVU SV11 player ($149) comes with built-in Freeview which makes it the closest non-Sky substitute for a VodafoneTV box. A regular Google Chromecast ($69) from 2018 is the cheap option, but requires you to use a phone or tablet as a remote. They can all be found in tech stores.
What does Vodafone think you should do?
Vodafone doesn’t mind what its customers do once its service shuts down, but it has provided Sky with the details of VodafoneTV customers with Sky subscriptions.
Aside from that, Vodafone’s focused on issuing partial refunds and collecting boxes to recycle. Refunds range from $75 up to $179, depending on when you bought your box (if it was given to you as part of your broadband contract, you won’t get anything). If you’re a customer, log in to vtv.nz to claim your reimbursement. You can also request for Vodafone to send you a prepaid envelope to return your box for recycling.
Why is VodafoneTV being pulled?
While Vodafone’s PR is vague, blaming a “changing content landscape”, a spokesperson told us that VodafoneTV had been running at a loss as it never reached the expected number of customers.
Vodafone NZ proposed a merger with Sky NZ in 2016, which would have increased VodafoneTV’s profitability and likely prolonged its lifespan. However, the merger was rejected by the Commerce Commission in 2017.
Freeview On Demand is also ending
Also meeting its demise at the end of 2022 is Freeview’s service that brings together on-demand content from Three, Māori TV and RNZ.
All of the content that currently lives on Freeview On Demand will still be available – but you’ll have to track it down in the ThreeNow, Māori+ and RNZ apps instead.
According to a Freeview spokesperson, a key part of the decision to retire the app was to enable the broadcasters – Māori TV, RNZ and Discovery – to better cater to their audiences and provide a consistent user experience within their apps.
It’s a bit annoying to have to flick between apps more often – but we had to do that already, since TVNZ content was pulled into its own TVNZ On Demand app in June 2021.