Q+A with Lightbox’s David Hine: marketing an ad-free service

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David Hine is head of sales & marketing at homegrown SVOD service Lightbox. He is a marketing man who’s brought 17 years’ business experience to his new role. Entertainment, you might say, is in his DNA.

He was previously sales & marketing director of PlayStation, where his key responsibilities included launching PlayStation 3 & 4 & Vita and a host of blockbuster titles.

In today’s Q+A, he shares insights to the many tricks of the trade, and talks about what it’s like heading up a marketing team for a company operating in a fiercely competitive market. He also addresses the key question of ads.

Before starting with Lightbox, you were in charge of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment NZ for eight years. How did you manage the change?

It was hard to leave, to be honest. PlayStation is an amazing international brand. However, I was very excited about the unchartered waters Lightbox was about to sail into. Challenging the norm and changing the way people watch TV is a very big and exciting task. The TV landscape is constantly evolving and I wanted to be part of the ride.

The team at Lightbox is fantastic. The mix and depth of entertainment experience from both here in NZ and overseas is what has help make us successful, so far. It’s a small and passionate team. You couldn’t ask for more than that.

Lightbox operates in a highly competitive market – What will be the look of NZ’s online/TV services market in 12 months?

Yes, there’s some very large media companies entering this space, so the competition is tough. But we expect that, rather than settling for one provider, households will sign up for a few different services to get the right mix of TV options.

It’s not necessarily a case of winner takes all. Success will depend on your content and on differentiating yourself from the pack. Lightbox is always looking to innovate and to offer something new.

What are the opportunities for national advertisers as Lightbox develops?

Kiwis are discovering the joy of watching TV on their own terms. They love being able to watch episodes back to back, any time and place they like, and they like watching without ads.

That’s something they weren’t getting before, which is why Lightbox is ad-free and why uptake has been so great.

The irony, of course, is that we need to advertise our ad-free platform, and to reach these ‘content capable’ customers wherever they are. Fortunately, the fragmentation of the media market is nothing new and marketers are consistently being challenged to reach their consumers.

That being said, Lightbox Sport is a JV with Coliseum Sports and provides packages for golf, football and rugby. Lightbox does open other avenues for brands by offering both sponsorship and advertising opportunities.

When Lightbox launched, Subscription On Demand Video was a relatively foreign concept for the average Kiwi. How did you get around this? 

Kiwis already watch 20.5 hours of TV a week, on average, which is quite a bit. Changing something as habitual as watching TV is one of the biggest challenges we face.

It’s easy for early tech adopters to try something new, but that’s a big hurdle to those who may be new to the digital world. We ran an educational marketing campaign to teach the market exactly what SVOD was, and to explain the benefits of watching TV online.

The behavioural change has really come down to having compelling shows. Having exclusives like Better Call Saul, Vikings, Outlander and Transparent has been crucial. Some shows are so good, people are more than happy to try new technologies to watch them.

We knew storytelling would be a big part of generating awareness around the content we have so we partnered with bloggers, VIPs and enthusiasts, and TV blog The Spinoff, which has really helped spread the word. Referrals and recommendations are very important in breaking down barriers.  On top of that, we always try to be creative, nimble and experimental in our approach to things. One of the great luxuries of being a new player in a new market is you can try new things.

Do you feel Lightbox can compete against an entertainment giant like Netflix?

It’s a double-edged sword; they have increased competition but it’s also increased conversations about what SVOD is and why it’s great, and we’ve benefited from that bump in awareness of the category.

Lightbox’s line-up is compelling. That’s one of the first things we got right from the get-go. The fact we’re homegrown, locally operated and only serving one market also means that we prioritise our Kiwi customers, and can react to what they want, and Kiwis are responding to that.

Thank you.

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