First Look – Spark’s Lightbox

August 22, 2014
2 mins read

LightboxI’VE WRITTEN IN the past on the rights and wrongs of downloading, piracy and copyright. Central to almost any debate on the topic is the need for decent legitimate alternatives to piracy.

It worked with music. Most people don’t want to run afoul of the law when there’s a decent, affordable alternative available. Services such as iTunes, Spotify and Deezer have helped levels of music copyright infringement fall dramatically.

Until now, there’s been little available in the way of legitimate alternatives to piracy when it comes to TV shows and movies. Finite slots on NZ television networks usually equate to a limited selection of content. As a nation at the arse-end of the world, this also means that most of the time, content isn’t seen until months or even years have passed.

That’s changing. Video on demand services such as Quickflix and Ezyflix have been operating for some time. Now a third player is about to join the fray, as Spark’s Lightbox video on demand offering launches this weekend.

I got a sneak peak of Lightbox before its launch. Here’s my first impression.

Look And Feel

Lightbox appears to have taken a feather from Netflix’s cap. Its interface is simple and intuitive, consisting of rows of thumbnails for each show.

Hovering your mouse over a thumbnail brings up a brief synopsis of the show. You’re also given the option to view the show or add it to a watchlist for later viewing.

Content is searchable and divided into categories. These consist of Comedy, Crime, Drama, Factual, Reality and Sci-fi/Fantasy. Parents can also set restrictions around which content is available to younger viewers.


There’s been a lot of speculation that the service would struggle to compete. Speculation aside, there’s a good selection of content available. Shows range from US sitcoms such as Arrested Development to Vikings, along with UK content such as Doctor Who and Ashes To Ashes.

I was also pleased to see a solid science fiction line up. Having long been the poor cousin of broadcast content, it is great to see Firefly, Doctor Who, Orphan Black and The Fades given their own space.


With good DSL line speed I didn’t see any hiccups streaming content. Before any content was viewable I had to install Microsoft Silverlight. Once done, content streamed without a stutter or glitch in what looked like pretty decent 720p or 1080p HD.

This said, the Lightbox service is in its beta phase. Performance could change once it launches, and large numbers of people attempt to access its servers. Performance will also vary depending on your broadband speed.

Value For Money

All told Lightbox represents reasonable value for money. Fifteen dollars per month provides access to a solid selection of content and the 30-day free trial also gives punters a chance to try before they buy.

With competition in the video on demand space heating up, us viewers look like the potential winners. PAT PILCHER



Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.


  1. “Lightbox appears to have taken a feather from Netflix’s cap”. Really? You probably mean “Lightbox appears to have taken a leaf from Netflix’s book”. If you want to be taken seriously you need to do better than that!

  2. Suffice to say I thought this would be a good alternative to Sky, seems I was wrong, I signed up for lightbox about over an hour ago and I’ve yet to get to watch anything. It just stalls and then goes back to the beginning. Tried some of the trouble shooting options in help and still no cigar, I also resent that I have to download something to watch. I then tried on my phone and I can’t install silverlight as it’s not available for my device. Add on to that the disappointment the shows on offer aren’t worth $15 a month and I’m glad I didn’t have to pay to find this out.
    I’ve lost over an hour of my life that I’m never going to get back, big disappointment Spark.

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