Anything can happen day

Wednesday, for those who remember the Mickey Mouse Club or Angel Heart, is “Anything Can Happen Day” and yesterday was no exception.

In just two hours there were three announcements that radically re-shape the telco space. Not too shabby.

First off the ranks we have Orcon’s Genius Go product, which sparks the beginning of the end of a $3bn a year industry.

Genius Go allows you to have your landline number on your mobile phone (or tablet, I presume). The call is forwarded to your mobile over VoIP so works best on wifi as opposed to 3G but means you can be out of the house and get calls wherever you are. Anywhere. Even overseas. Your caller will make a local call to your number and only pay for that call (free from a residential number) not for the call to your mobile or for the international bit.

This isn’t new as such, but Orcon certainly makes it very easy and very cost effective. There’s no call forwarding charge, you don’t have to pay a set monthly fee – if you’re an Orcon Genius customer it’s yours for the taking. Best of all, it integrates with your mobile phone’s contact list so you have the advantages of a mobile device (caller ID etc) without paying those ridiculous fees associated with these basic services on a landline.

Voice is now just an app on the device and, as we roll into the 4G world, that will increasingly become the norm. That little green telephone icon you see on your phone will be replaced with … a little green telephone icon but instead of paying a per minute charge, you’ll just use data for the call. Orcon says a five minute call (most calls last less than five minutes) will take up about 2MB of data. In short, you won’t care terribly much.

So that’s voice calling. Not quite dead yet, but I bet in five years’ time we’ll be looking back on it fondly (or similar).

Simultaneously, Slingshot rather cheekily launched Global Mode, a service aimed at US and UK “visitors” to New Zealand which will allow them to access content “as they would have in their home country”.

That’s right, sign up for Global Mode and Slingshot will fudge your DNS settings so it looks like you’re visiting websites from a US or UK address, and so will allow “visitors” to view Hulu, Netflix and BBC iPlayer content without those pesky geo-block problems.

It’s free for Slingshot customers.

I have no need of such a service as my aunt, who lives in the UK, posts VHS tapes of the latest television shows to me on a regular basis. Good on you, aunty.

Finally, but by no means least, Coliseum Sports Media announced it has bought the rights to the English Premier League football (I’m sorry, I can’t call it soccer) and will screen it online in New Zealand for $149 a season. TVNZ will offer a highlights package on free to air TV, something which reminded Russell Brown of the history between TVNZ and Sky TV.

Finally, we have a real online-first content offering that will provide a driver for UFB, something which has been sorely lacking until now.

Yes, it’ll work on copper but in a world where I’m watching one online event, my wife is doing something else and the kids are both on their devices doing their homework (or similar) we will absolutely need fibre.

There’s not a lot of detail about the Coliseum offering – we don’t know whether it will be streamed in high definition as default for example – but two questions spring to mind.

First off, what about the 25% of New Zealand that will never get a fibre connection? What are they supposed to do when the vast bulk of our content is finally made available primarily online? Can you imagine the uproar from rural New Zealand if and when the rugby bosses wake up to the revenue opportunity and offer a similar package for every All Blacks game? It won’t just be tractors on the steps of parliament I can tell you.

Secondly, the price is a bit wacky. Sure, it’s for a year (and as I mentioned we don’t know the ins and outs of the deal – will you be able to watch any game at any time, for instance) but if I want to buy football, rugby, netball and Canadian ice hockey I’m looking at the thick end of $1000 a year before we even get to TV and movies.

I had a look at Sky TV’s offerings to compare prices. To get everything (all the channels except for the oddball “specialist channels”) including two magazines and a My Sky + box and HD you’re looking at just over $2230 a year. Yes, you get a lot more but that’s really the point of all this – it might not be stuff you want or would ever chose to buy.

The future delivery mechanism for video content is online – that goes without saying (although I do find I have to keep saying it). If the content owners want us to buy TV shows or series, sporting events and movies, they’re going to have to move to a model that lets us pick and choose from what’s on offer and they’re going to have to adjust the pricing to match.

The upside is that shows with a following will do very well. Top Gear, for example, has nearly 300m viewers a week. At a dollar a show I suspect even Jeremy Clarkson would be happy. Get it down to that kind of price point and the move to online will move from a trickle to a flood.