Sky TV considers adding SoHo, Super Rugby passes to struggling igloo

UPDATE Nov 11: A survey that closed today (see screen grabs right) indicates Sky TV may soon bolster the struggling igloo with new sports and entertainment content.

The survey says igloo is thinking of "throwing SoHo into the current channel mix."  It also floats the prospect of day, event or season passes for major sports like Super Rugby - and asks people what they would be willing to pay.

Sky has been in the igloo driving seat since joint venture partner TVNZ sold down its stake a couple of months ago (see below).

While the content moves would not address igloo's main drawback (an igloo settop box can't record anything), the addition of SoHo would add to the service's content appeal (igloo offers the usual line up of Freeview channels free, plus a selection of Sky channels for $25 a month pre-pay if you buy a set-top box, or on a 12-month contract if you get an igloo decoder free).

And depending which major sports events are added, a day or multi-day pass would address another key social media gripe - that igloo doesn't have m.

SoHo costs $9.99 a month for Sky TV subscribers. The igloo survey asks people if they would rather pay an (unspecified) price for Soho only, or have it available if they paid $15 a month for pick-and-mix pack of other channels as well.

Super Rugby is uses as the example for for a question on day, event and season-pass options for major sports. The survey seeks to establish how much people would be willing to pay for such pay-per-view "passes" (NBR was sent static screen grabs from the survey, if you were surveyed by Sky and want to blab about the pricing options offered in the survey's drop-down menus, by all means email ckeall@nbr.co.nz).

While igloo already features pay-per-view sport, it appears ad hoc. It's never clear how many All Blacks or Super rugby games will appear (though a cynic would say it will never be many, since Sky TV would rather upsell people to its fully-owned My Sky and a Sky Sports package proper).

The sequence of the igloo survey hints that Sky has already decided to add SoHo and more sports options to igloo, and is now at the stage of trying to gauge what subscribers would be willing to pay for them.

But apparently that's not the case. Sky TV spokeswoman Kirsty Way tells NBR, "We have no plans to add SoHo to Igloo, or for sport day-passes as we stand today. The future could be different, I’m not ruling anything out."

Ms Way declined to comment on igloo subscriber numbers. The service's first-year customer target was earlier downgraded from 50,000 to 19,000. It will celebrate its first anniversary in December as the digital TV switchover ends.

igloo's failure to gain traction is politically awkward for Sky TV. Success for the joint venture would have given the appearance of more competition the market. But analysts say igloo's stumbles won't have any material effect on Sky TV. igloo is low-cost, utilising existing spectrum and content rights, and (intially at least) requiring customers to pay for settop boxes.

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igloo's latest price: free

UPDATE / Oct 4: The igloo decoder - launched at $199 and later chopped to $99 on slow sales - is now available free to those who commit to the $25 a month service for 12 months.

Last month, joint venture partner TVNZ sold down its igloo stake (see below).

It did not want to bankroll a shift in retail strategy suggested by partner Sky TV.

Pundits also see TVNZ seeking more flexibility to introduce paid ondemand content via the Freeview platform - which, unlike the stunted igloo, supports recording functionality.

Neither Sky TV or TVNZ will comment on igloo numbers, but both have taken multi-million write-downs on the service, whose initial target was 50,000 subscribers in its first year. That target has now been revised downward to 19,000.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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