Share frustration part 2: what to watch until your TV set catches up

In the last episode we looked at the problems with the file-sharing law, the root cause of illegal downloading (two words: justifiable impatience) and how Mediaworks, through Fast Four and other initiatives, is modernising our viewing habits.

Life is good if you’re a fan of yellow cartoon families or turncoat patriots. The rest of us law-abiding citizens, however, must continue to wait, and wait, and wait.

Is there another, still legal, way to watch our shows? We compiled a list of possible alternatives and sent them Paul Brislen’s way.

Paul’s response: “Of the options you identify only Quickflix is a true alternative. If you look at Apple TV in NZ you’ll find there’s no actual television in there, just movies. Same with Google TV, and the others (Hulu and Netflix in particular) are blocked from New Zealand use because technically they’re only supposed to be available in the US.”

He’s right, you know. At least these options provide some alternative entertainment while we await a truly flexible broadcasting model. And the nominees are:

Apple TV

“Round-the-clock access to endless entertainment” is Apple’s description of their service. The tiny little box links to a big selection of new release and older films to rent for 30 days. Once you press play the rental expires after 48 hours.

As Paul said, you can’t actually stream any TV on Apple TV with the exception of ice hockey (players’ strike permitting) and Major League Baseball (next year for sure, Mariners!).

If you’re after movies, YouTube, and iPad/iPod/iPhone content in 1080p HD, Apple TV is a great buy at $170.


For $14.99 a month Quickflix provides access to a big back catalogue of movies and some old BBC shows.

This is great if you want to rewatch Blackadder or Bob the Builder; not so flash if you’re after new stuff. On the plus side you can pay a little extra to watch films from the same day they’re released on DVD.

It’s some competition at least, and that’s always a good thing. Plus, if you’re on Orcon or Slingshot, watching them doesn’t count toward your data cap.

UPDATE: Just after pressing ‘Publish’, news that Quickflix is in big trouble hit the headlines. Share trading has been halted as the execs clash over the company’s future direction. It would be a real shame if it was to collapse, so fingers crossed. This NBR article outlines the issue and also looks at the pitfalls of TV content being tied up in exclusive deals.

TVNZ/TV3/Four On Demand/iSky

Network-provided services that lets you watch your shows, online, at a time of your choosing. Unless you want to watch it outside the specified time period.

In a big step forward, TVNZ has just announced their On Demand service will be available on Samsung Smart televisions by the end of the year and on mobiles and tablets in early 2013.


An ‘oldie’ but still a goodie. Aside from a tonne of music, you can also rent or buy movies and download podcasts. Once again, though, good luck finding any television shows on there.

Dropping a bowling ball through your television set

Not particularly constructive, but it looks mighty therapeutic.

Is there anything else we can do? Anything at all?

“You can of course,” says Paul, “play silly buggers with DNS settings or set up a VPN tunnel to the US and pretend to have a US IP address to gain access – but I find that just prolongs the nonsense.

“The sooner they learn that we want the content and are willing to go out and get it the better.”

There lies the crux of this matter. When networks can broadcast live sport, and TV3 and Four can play some shows hours behind the States, there’s no reason why we should have to jump through hoops or break the law to see our shows, online, at a time that suits us.

Certain things will help speed this process along. Much faster broadband than we have now would be nice. Akamai’s State of the Internet report for the first quarter of 2012 has us ranked sixth in Asia-Pacific for average connection speed and 46th globally. We’re 10% faster than in 2011, and the Ultra-Fast Broadband scheme means the only way is up.

If the networks’ stranglehold was loosened maybe we’d see NetFlix and Hulu arrive here. Apple TV could start offering, oh I don’t know, TV shows, and Quickflix could further expand their range.

When announcing their mobile On Demand plans, TVNZ’s Tom Cotter said their aim was to “make it easier to watch TV than it is to steal it.” If TVNZ combined this with something like Fast Four, they may find themselves closer to this goal than anyone.

It is getting better, thanks to those who are fighting the good fight.

It just could be so much better still. If copyright holders are serious about protecting their intellectual property then they’ll change things up – and that will, over time, reverberate down the chain to us, the justifiably impatient consumers.

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