My Box NZ owner Krish Reddy told the publication he was selling Android boxes loaded with Kodi software and augmented with third-party addons.
Without any hint of fear, he stated that these devices enabled customers to access movies, TV shows and live channels for free, after shelling out a substantial US$182 for the box first, that is.
“Why pay $80 minimum per month for Sky when for one payment you can have it free for good?” a claim on the company’s website asked.
Noting that he’d been importing the boxes from China, Reddy suggested that his lawyers hadn’t found any problem with the business plan.
“I don’t see why [Sky] would contact me but if they do contact me and … if there’s something of theirs that they feel I’ve unlawfully taken then yeah … but as it stands I don’t [have any concerns],” he said.
At this point, Reddy said he’d been selling the boxes for just six weeks and had shifted around 80 units. To get coverage from a national newspaper at this stage of the game must’ve been very much appreciated but Reddy didn’t stop there.
In a bulk advertising email sent out to 50,000 people, Reddy described his boxes as “better than Sky”. However, by design or misfortune, the email managed to land in the inboxes of 50 Sky TV staff and directors, something that didn’t go unnoticed by the TV giant.
With Reddy claiming sales of 8,000 units, Sky ran out of patience last April. In a letter from its lawyers, the pay-TV company said Reddy’s devices breached copyright law and the Fair Trading Act. Reddy responded by calling the TV giant “a playground bully”, again denying that he was breaking the law.
“From a legal perspective, what we do is completely within the law. We advertise Sky television channels being available through our website and social media platforms as these are available via streams which you can find through My Box,” he said.
“The content is already available, I’m not going out there and bringing the content so how am I infringing the copyright… the content is already there, if someone uses the box to search for the content, that’s what it is.”
The initial compensation demand from Sky against Reddy’s company My Box ran to NZD$1.4m, around US$1m. It was an amount that had the potential rise by millions if matters got drawn out and/or escalated. But despite picking a terrible opponent in a battle he was unlikely to win, Reddy refused to give up.
“[Sky’s] point of view is they own copyright and I’m destroying the market by giving people content for free. To me it is business; I have got something that is new … that’s competition,” he said.
The Auckland High Court heard the case against My Box last month with Judge Warwick Smith reserving his judgment and Reddy still maintaining that his business is entirely legal. Sales were fantastic, he said, with 20,000 devices sold to customers in 12 countries.
Then something truly amazing happened.
A company up to its eyeballs in litigation, selling a commodity product that an amateur can buy and configure at home for US$40, reportedly got a chance of a lifetime. Reddy revealed to Stuff that a Chinese investor had offered to buy his company for an eye-watering NZ$10 million (US$7.06m).
“We have to thank Sky,” he said. “If they had left us alone we would just have been selling a few boxes, but the controversy made us world famous.”
Reddy noted he’d been given 21 days to respond to the offer, but refused to name the company. Interestingly, he also acknowledged that if My Box lost its case, the company would be liable for damages. However, that wouldn’t bother the potential investor.
“It makes no difference to them whether we win or lose, because their operations won’t be in New Zealand,” Reddy said.
According to the entrepreneur, that’s how things are playing out.
The Chinese firm – which Reddy is still refusing to name – has apparently accepted a counter offer from Reddy of US$8.8m for My Box. As a result, Reddy will wrap up his New Zealand operations within the next 90 days and his six employees will be rendered unemployed.
Given that anyone with the ability to install Kodi and a few addons before putting a box in the mail could replicate Reddy’s business model, the multi-million dollar offer for My Box was never anything less than a bewildering business proposition. That someone carried through with it an even higher price is so fantastic as to be almost unbelievable.
In a sea of unhappy endings for piracy-enabled Kodi box sellers globally, this is the only big win to ever grace the headlines. Assuming this really is the end of the story (and that might not be the case) it will almost certainly be the last.