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

Plus: MySky decoders to get Sky Go upgrade.

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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