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Orcon has followed its larger stable mate Slingshot in launching a "Global Mode" — a one-click option that makes it easy for non-technical people to access movie and TV streaming services like Netflix that are usually blocked to New Zealanders.
CallPlus bought Orcon in June, and added the ISP and its 60,000 customers to its stable that already includes CallPlus, Slingshot and Flip.
All up, the group now has around 220,000 customers, giving it around 12% of the ISP market, third behind big boys Spark and Vodafone — neither of whom is presumably interested in a Global Mode, although neither do they do anything to stop their customers who want to use third-party tools to access the likes of Netflix. Spark has its own Lightbox service set to launch August 28, while Vodafone partners with Sky TV on its house-brand decoder).
I'm glad to see Global Mode extended to Orcon. You can't un-invent technology. Local contenders will never win by complaining. They have to compete by offering a decent amount of content online, then make it cost-effective and convenient to access. And they need to exploit areas netflix doesn't cover, such as back-catalogue local content (hat tip to Quickflix there), news and sport.
I'm does make me wonder how Orcon fits as a standalone brand in the CallPlus group, however.
On June 20, as the sale went through, CallPlus CEO Mark Callander told me the positioning was
- CallPlus - business brand
- Slingshot - mass market
- Orcon - tech savvy, early adopter
- Flip - budget
That was all pretty straightforward, except for the fact that with its Global Mode, Slingshot was looking more early-adopter friendly than Orcon. Now they've both got Global Mode. And it's on the cards that Orcon's Genius VoIP product will be extended to Slingshot customers.
It looks and feels like a merger of two ISP brands is looming, and I'm guessing the smaller Orcon brand will be subsumed. Somewhere, Seeby Woodhouse will frown, but bigger is better when you're competing against Spark and Vodafone's scale, and Sky TV is jabbing at you from the sidelines.
Sky TV, TVNZ and MediaWorks recently refused to run a Slingshot add that made a brief mention of Global Mode, citing Copyright Act and Fair Trading Act concerns. CallPlus earlier told NBR that the legality of its sevice had been vetted by Lowndes Jordan partner Rick Shera; Mr Shera told NBR that accessing NZ was the online equivalent to parallel importing.
"Parallel importation of legitimately purchased content is clearly legal and specifically provided for in both our Trade Mark and Copyright Acts," Mr Shera said.
His comment echoed a Chapman Tripp statement to NBR in 2012 as Maxnet's Fyx launched a short-lived Global Mode service (shuttered after it was brought by Australian company Vocus, which refocussed Maxnet on the corporate market and data centres).
New Orcon boss
On a possibly related not to the above theory ... CallPlus has also announced that Greg McAlister (Orcon CEO at the time of the takeover) has left the company.
Orcon is now headed by Michael Shirley with the title of general manager.
Shirley was previously GM of Flip, and before he joined CallPlus mid-way through last year he was The Company Formerly Known as Telecom's head of mobile broadband.
The new guy in charge of Flip is Scott Hoogerbrug, again through an internal promotion.