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Sky TV plans new features for Sky Go app, Sky Go upgrade for My Sky decoders

UPDATE / Feb 24, 2014: Sky TV CEO John Fellet says an Android version of Sky Go will be released in April.

The broadcaster also expects to add more streaming channels later this year (currently there are 10) plus ondemand content.

A number of NBR readers have raised the issue that the iPad Sky Go will only allow one video stream (over a maximum of two devices).

Mr Fellet said this was a restriction placed by content rights holders, and that it had to be a lowest-common denominator situation. If one content provider wanted one stream at once only, then all content had to be subject to that restriction. He said it it was possible the two-device restriction could be liberalised.

A second move will see Sky TV add Sky Go capability to its My Sky decoders later this year via an over-the-air software upgrade, plus a plug-in wi-fi dongle for connecting to a homes internet connection. Where Sky Go for tablets only supports streaming, Sky Go (formerly iSky) for PCs supports on-demand viewing. This capability will be added to MySky decoders. 

At Sky TV's first-half earnings report, the company said 56% of users now have MySky decoders, up from 50% a year ago.

The Sky TV bos also revealed to NBR that his company has been running the numbers for launching a Netflix-style on-demand service in NZ. He says such a move is a serious possibility, but denies it's in reaction to Telecom's pending ShowmeTV launch. Aussuming it is launched, the service will be open to all-comers - in the same manner that Sky's DVD-rentals-by-mail-service Fatso is open to non-Sky customers.

In the US, Netflix - which made $US48 million on $US1.2 billion in its December 2013 quarter, offers all-you-can eat movie and TV series downloads for $US7.99 a month.

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Sky TV finally releases iPad app - pros, cons, what's next

Dec 12, 2013: Sky TV's awaited-awaited iOS app, "Sky Go" has hit Apple's App Store.

That means you'll be able to watch Sky channels on your iPhone or iPad.

The key points:

  • It offers live channels only, not ondemand content
  • There are 10 live-streaming channels (Sport 1/2/3/4, Movies Premiere, E!, UKTV, Cartoon Network, National Geographic, BBC World News)
  • The service supports one continous stream only, which can be viewed on up to two devices at once.
  • More channels will be added over time
  • If a channel is part of your Sky TV package, it's free on Sky Go
  • There is a restriction of two Sky Go devices at any time per Sky TV household
  • There is no HD option; channels are standard definition a la TVNZ Ondemand
  • There are no bumper ads
  • Ondemand content will be added from around June next year
  • An Android app will follow in the new year
  • The current Sky Go app for iPad requires OS7 (the latest version fo Apple's operating system software; it's a free upgrade but won't run on older iPads)

At the same time, the web-based iSky is being re-branded Sky Go, although it remains a separate, more full-blooded sevice, featuring HD options and ondemand content. Sky TV's plan is to intetrate Sky Go (as in the old iSky) into its next major decoder upgrade, due some time next year.

As NBR types, iSky is offline for a six-hour retooling. Sky says it will be back with its new look at "morning tea time" today.

A head-turning feature
The Sky Go app includes the 7-day EPG and remote recording functionality as the broadcaster's existing iOS app, plus frills like social sharing options and parental controls.

Sky TV - which has been keenly watching the success of TVNZ's Ondemand - wants to capitalise on the trend of people having a sneaky extra watch of some extra content on their iPad after they hit the hay, and the general drift beyond tradition TV.

Senior product manager Alex Winter, who previewed Sky Go for NBR, is keenly aware there are more features that could be added.

During a stint in the UK (he returned to his native NZ in 2011), Mr Winter was the Talk Talk representative to YouView (the TV platform created as a joint venture between BBC, ITV, BT and TalkTalk). YouView has a wonderland of features, including a reverse EPG - that is, you can browse back through programme listings for the past 14 days, and watch anything from that fortnight ondemand. It's the next step beyond one-click recording - and the sort of feature that would really turn the heads of the Apple TV and Netflix rebels, and maybe even a few Torrenters.

We'll see more channels, plus ondemand, added from midway through next year. But fancier stuff like a reverse EPG? That's an open question.

Following Foxtel, Sky UK's footsteps
Sensibly, Sky TV hasn't tried to reinvent the wheel. Local app developer Smudge was drafted in to work on the app, but Sky TV also liaised with Foxtel (whose Foxtel Go app, released in February, does have catch-up content), and Sky UK (although Rupert Murdoch's News Corp sold out of Sky TV NZ in March, following majorholder the Todd family out the door, Sky has kept on its product development relationships with Foxtel and Sky UK).

Mr Winter says the interface has been kept as close as possible to that of the MySky EPG, from its grid design and scrolling to opening at the last channel viewed.

Why not ondemand content straight away?

Sky TV says 80% of Foxtel's Go viewing is live-streaming and that sport drives iSky viewing on this side of the Tasman. Live sport is central to Sky TV's business model, and that of any pay TV broadcaster, in age of people sneaking onto overseas online services, or the Torrents. So it's sensible to put a heavy emphasis on appointment-viewing the All Blacks and Black Caps. But long term, ondemand viewing is all about the long tail, so hopefully it won't be too long until catch-up options are added to Sky Go.

Technical issues are apparently not one of the holdups. Sky had some foulups with iSky - among them the mens' 100m final going dark during the Olympics - but it says things are running smoothly since it ditched Kordia in favour of Akamai for online content delivery.

Adaptive streaming will be used for Sky Go (up to a standard definition 1.5Mbit/s) so the livestream; in other words, Sky Go will automaitcally choose a picture quality that suit's the speed of your internet connection. Sky says it was wary that HD content could hit people's data caps (a one-hour TV episode can run to 2GB in full HD), which is a valid point. But it would still be good if people on larger or uncapped plans had the choice.

Clean
Sky corporate communications director Kirsty Way says Sky Go will be "clean". That is, they'll be none of those annoying bumper or "pre-roll ads". Most people are happy with commercial in general, but not so much when they already have to drum their fingers waiting for video to load, and they're paying for the data.

The clean approach keeps things simple and user-friendly, and Ms Way notes there's not much revenue up for grabs in the area regardless. Sky Go is about filling subscribers' wishes for an iPad-friendly platform, and helping to keep them in the fold as new "over the top" options beckon.

So: it's been a long time coming, and there are still some features on the way, but it's good to see Sky finally moving into this space.

Any questions? Let me know or leave them below and I'll relay them to Sky.

Sky TV [NZX:SKT] shares closed at $5.85 yesterday.The stock is up 20.37% over the past year.

RAW DATA: Sky TV's Sk Go presentation (PDF; note: designs, screenshots not final)

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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Comments and questions
34

Sweet, now I can ditch my 2 x multiroom boxes, one in my kitchen and one at the bach. Say goodbye to the $50 I pay every month for that!

Well, maybe not so fast, Goodbye multiroom.

Possibly with one eye on this revenue issue, Sky TV is allowing only two tablets to be logged on at once (and it'll be password protected, as now), and for now it's restricting channels available on the iPad app to just 10.

well, in my case I only really use multiroom for sport, and I only use one multiroom box at a time too, so that covers off the device limit for me.

I've got unlimited broadband so don't care about caps, but even the SD on iSky is better than the crummy standard sky box picture quality.

And will subscribers be able to log-in while they are overseas, on holiday or for work? The iSky's major flaw was it denying access outside N.Z.

Sky TV corporate communications director Kirsty Way replies no, it cannot be accessed from overseas.

Hi Chris,
Just wanted to say thanks for all the follow-up you have done today, providing answers to the many queries from commenters. It is appreciated.
Cheers - and Merry Christmas.

I'm not really interested in set top boxes or gazillions of Sky channels, but I would like to watch the occasional game of cricket / soccer / etc. As Sky is the monopoly coverage provider in NZ, would they consider a 'pay per view' scenario streamed to a Windows pc, internet enabled TV or similar device?

Do we know who has been developing the mobile apps for Sky? Is it in-house development or an external party?

The article quotes Smudge as the local developer

Will you be able to stream it to a TV via Apple TV?

[UPDATE: It is indeed a no. Sky TV corporate communications director Kirsty Way replies, "We have SKY TV for that."]

Confirming, but I believe not from the way Sky TV senior product manager Alex Winter was talking.

He said PremierLeaguePass.com's emphasis on getting people to stream content to a TV had made life complicated for them.

And - although he didn't say it - not offering streaming to a TV will protect Sky's multibox business.

Chris, I thought you could stream anything iPad to TV via Apple TV just by mirroring with Airplay ?

No. PremierLeaguePass complained to NBR that Apple wouldn't approve its iOS app if it included AirPlay support.

that's odd, because I just tried it using Airplay mirroring and it works fine.

It doesn't fill the screen perfectly, but it definitely works.

goodbye multiroom indeed!

Been waiting for this product enhancement for quite a while. I've had a quick play with 'foxtel go' in Oz and it's brilliant. If this is half as good it will a major coup for sky tv. Looking forward to the app being available come Friday.

Will you be able to stream it to the TV from the iPad using the 30 pin connector adaptior and HDMI cable like you can with Netflix etc?

I don't see why not. If plug your iPad directly into your TV using an HDMI adapter, your television will display whatever's on your iPad screen - though of course your iPad is out of touching distance.

Hi Chris

We might be surprised - disappointed I mean.

I know (just need to remember which one) of some broadcasters iPad apps that wont push their broadcast through the 30 pin connector.

I think it is because they want to push the use of their normal transmitted broadcast and only have you use the iPad app when away from a TV.

It might be the ABC app from the USA that I am thinking of.

Shocking timing, can't believe they didn't get the iPad app out in time for the first day at The Basin. Then again, quick peek at the new skygo site suggests maybe that's a good thing, bad toss to lose. Site looks like a minor tidy-up, anything changed under the hood?

There are no feature on the website. It's a simple change in branding from iSky to Sky Go.

The app is available now, have been watching the Blackcaps all morning using it. https://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/sky-go-nz/id767698707?mt=8

Chris,

Could you pass this onto Sky please....

Sky, As you are keen to roll out the MySky units with the bigger hard drives, there are im sure more, and more people including myself who are recording more and nicely filling up their hard drives.

This means that when you go to the planner to find a show to watch, you are sometimes scrolling through 10-12 pages of shows before you find the one you need - this can be problematic as you can miss earlier episodes of shows, and watch a later show when an ealier one has been missed.

Having been in the UK when they rolled out a fantastic new HD EPG guide, the highlight of this EPG was something called 'Series Stacks' whereby shows from a series are stacked together which makes it so easy to find not only the show you want but the episode of the show meaning they are all watched in the order you intend.

Take for example the search facility - here in NZ you can only search on the first letter of the TV show - mobile phone text style.

Other international EPG's you can actually type the entire show name in thus not still scrolling through pages of potentials that Sky EPG thinks you might want - for example - here you can only type "D" for Deadliest Catch - on other EPG's - you can type Deadliest Catch - surely it cant be that much of a leap for Sky NZ to modernise their EPG??

A further example, here in NZ - when you have found something on your TV guide you want to record, or even using the on screen banner to find something you want - once that show is selected if you want to record the series - you need to go into the planner and press the green series link button. In other territories - going through the same process of selecting a show - an on screen banner pops up asking if you want to record once or record series - its these little things that are quick wins for Sky NZ that just make the whole customer experience a little better....

Please google Sky UK EPG for examples of what a customer focussed EPG should look like!

Dick, perhaps you should google the word 'monopoly' to get an explanation as to why this hasn't happened...

Monopolistic companies do not have to be ignorant to what customers want and those things that enhance the customers experience.

Yes, people don’t have to use the Sky - but those that do should be provided with a service that’s contemporary, innovative, comparable with the rest of the world and much more user focussed.

Embracing change, future innovation and doing the right thing for the customer shouldn’t be so shied away from. Sky obtain enough from the NZ public with its monthly subscriptions, its only fair that some of that profit should be ploughed into improving OUR service.

Its nice to see from your last response Sky that your customers are always at the very heart of your decisions. With that flipant, dismissive attitute just demonstrates how great customer service is built on in this country!

Yes, Sky is a monopoly but as technology changes, leaving Sky NZ behind in most cases, that monopolistic position could alter. Then lets see you think of your customers for a change!

Absolutely agree. Unfortunately for consumers TiVo never really kicked off in NZ, as it has (had?) an excellent EPG when compared to the bare-bones offer Sky currently serves up. That may have focussed Sky's attention on the quality of the product experience a bit more.

TiVo is still going - and in fact it's recently added QuickFlix support for online content.

I've been using a TiVo box plus an Apple TV box (for ondemand movies and TV shows) for ages. I'm happy with the setup (see www.nbr.co.nz/itunes).

Hopefully the EPG will keep appearing. TiVo boxes themselves are no longer being sold in NZ. TVNZ switched to backing igloo, which with its lack of recording capability is a pretty limited alternative.

Thanks Sky.....What a nice example of customer service and focus there....well done!

Actually to be fair to SKY, Dick, that was me replying up above, not SKY TV. I was being tongue in cheek but actually at a personal level I 100% agree with your comments, but I'd also add that they should be profiling what each household records and prompting users when similar series start. Much like Amazon does with books. There's nothing worse than hearing about a great new show on Soho, only to find out you've already missed a few shows that explain everything.

So if you dont watch a lot of sport, why would you use the app? Content is king and am struggling to see the value here. Should at least allow you to watch all the channels your subscription allows. Oh and it should allow on demand - thats all the kids do. They don't use PVR at all.

Soon every one will be ditching SKY, has anyone else noticed the amount of ADD's that are now on pay to view TV, it is nothing short of astonishing, in fact there is very little difference now in SKY and STATE run TV, except the $100+ fees per month that we pay, I can tell you if there was an alternative I'd be gone like a dog shot on the bum.

The whole 2 device limit has really got me annoyed. I currently use isky on the work pc and the home mac (when I'm working from home). I would like to be able to continue to use isky on these 2 computers as well as my iphone and my ipad and my wife would also like to put isky on her iphone... This is no longer possible. Only two devices can be connected and devices can only be changed once every 30 days.

So of the five devices I need to use, I have to pick 2 and I can't easily change the 2 I want.

Unfortunately, Anon, it's the folks who spread their isky account far and wide, across cousins and friends etc, who have caused this to happen. As you can imagine, the content providers wouldn't like that. So as always happens in the big wide world, the people conducting shifty and illegal acts ruin it for everyone else.

Sky seems pretty determined to stay about 2 or 3 years behind the curve. It's taken years too long for them to get a mobile platform up and running. This app should have been released with an apology, not a fanfare.

The two device limit is also ridiculous. I might want to have the cricket on my home computer in the morning, my phone when out and about, and on my work computer in the afternoon. And that's without even factoring in my wife's viewing capability.

Gosh, if only there was some other way to get live, streaming sport on an internet capable device....

Hope android app is released very early in new year. So frustrating IOS version out first. I know android covers so many more differing specs in different devices but come on!! :(