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TiVo boss in town with message for Telecom’s rivals

Hybrid TV chief executive Robbee Minicola is in Auckland this week to lobby Telecom's rivals in the ISP market.Hybrid (one-third owned by TVNZ, two-thirds by Seven Media) holds the Australasian license for TiVo.TiVo was launched in New Zealand in November

Chris Keall
Mon, 09 Aug 2010

Hybrid TV chief executive Robbee Minicola is in Auckland this week to lobby Telecom’s rivals in the ISP market.

Hybrid (one-third owned by TVNZ, two-thirds by Seven Media) holds the Australasian license for TiVo.

TiVo was launched in New Zealand in November last year, with Telecom as its exclusive retailer, and only Telecom Broadband customers able to access TiVo’s Caspa service, which offers movies and TV series as pay-per-view broadband downloads.

Telecom exclusivity over
On July 2, Caspa was opened to customers of any ISP.

But there’s still one key advantage for Telecom Broadband – only its customers are offered unmetered data (that is, Caspa content doesn’t count toward their monthly data cap).

Hybrid now willing to partner with all-comers
Ms Minicola, normally based in Sydney, is now looking to partner with any ISP willing to unmeter TiVo Caspa.

On Friday, she told NBR she had already lined up visits with Vodafone, TelstraClear and Orcon. So far, of the big four outside Telecom, only CallPlus/Slingshot is not yet on her appointment list.

Hybrid has already moved to a multi-ISP model in Australia.

Here – where sales have been slow, according to Telecom (Hybrid won’t comment) – Ms Minicola faces some tough meetings. Especially now that, in a turnaround from her original mission, she’s trying to recruit internet service providers.

Orcon boss Scott Bartlett has previously been miffed at what he said was Hybrid’s failure to return calls; CallPlus/Slingshot chief executive general manager told NBR “We’ve been trying to engage with them, and it has not been an easy experience.”

Ms Minicola told NBR Friday that it made sense for other providers to offer unmetered Caspa data, which she said would have "not significant cost to an ISP" as content is cached (stored) locally.

Message for Vodafone
The Hybrid TV boss questioned why “a certain ISP” (read: Vodafone) had chosen to partner Sky TV, which offered only satellite broadcast pay TV plans (despite MySky HDi recorders sporting an Ethernet jack for broadband connectivity, Sky TV suspended its nascent download service. Chief executive John Fellet said it wasn’t feasible at a time when ISPs did not offer unlimited data plans).

The broadband-delivered Caspa was a more natural fit for any ISP looking to partner with a content provider, Ms Minicola said. Satellite broadcast TV, on the other hand, had "no correlation" with an ISP's interests (Vodafone customers on certain plans to get Sky TV MySkyHDi free – it's usually $15 a month – and a single bill from the two companies).

"At the end of the day, 50% of New Zealanders don’t have Sky. If they have a TiVo and Caspa’s on there, they can get all of their [pay TV] content delivered to them via broadband," Ms Minicola said.

TiVo sales
Ms Minicola would not give any update on TiVo sales.

Earlier this year, Hybrid told NBR that 18,000 clips had been downloaded from Caspa by NZ customers - from which - from which NBR extrapolated there were maybe 2000 TiVo set-top boxes in the NZ market - a very slow start, even allowing for its modest sales target (120,000 TiVo boxes within five years).

She did offer that TiVo's Caspa pay-per-view download service has three times as many customers in New Zealand as it does in Australia.

That's in absolute terms, not per-capita terms.

Ouch. Given the minimal impact Caspa's made here, it must be almost off-the-radar across the ditch.

That's bad news for TVNZ, whose $A8 million investment in Hybrid TV hinges on TiVo's success across New Zealand and Australia.

Prime TV listings ... the drama drags on
A TiVo box uses Freeview HD for its broadcast TV feed. Unlike other Freeview HD recorders, TiVo does not offer onscreen listings, which allow one-click recording, for Prime or Maori TV.

Ms Minicola expects progress with Maori TV in September (when MTV chief executive Jim Mather is due to return from leave).

Mr Fellet is still in no mood to fork over the electronic programming guide (EPG) for Prime, home of test rugby delayed coverage, Top Gear, Dr Who and other hit series with the half of the country that doesn’t subscribe to Sky.

The Sky TV boss' official reason is that he’s waiting for TiVo to gain a meaningful presence on Nielsen’s TV rating panel. A visitor from Mars could reasonably assume he’s trying to kneecap what’s potentially the strongest rival to MySkyHDi.

So, how goes the quest to get Prime’s EPG, NBR asked of Ms Minicola (who had a PR minder with her this time, “to make sure I don’t swear”).

“Aaahhhh Welllll. I don’t have it yet. So I guess not very good,” the Hybrid TV chief executive replied.

“If I had it, you’d hear me singing from the rooftops.”

Having a few more ISPs on board for unmetered Caspa data would help the TiVo cause.

And NBR does like competition.

So sign on, guys.

Chris Keall
Mon, 09 Aug 2010
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TiVo boss in town with message for Telecom’s rivals