Back to the Future for Sky?

Sky TV today previewed plans it hopes will restore its reputation for cutting-edge technology, including 4K delivery.

It was Sky that pioneered widescreen and high definition transmissions, revolutionised time shifting with My Sky, and launched the drama nirvana channel SoHo.

But over the past five years, its visionary prowess has been compromised by factors from within and without, ranging from its failure to invest more in HD services and premium channels to its proposed merger with Vodafone being thwarted.

As one technology commentator observed of media-savvy chief executive John Fellet’s resignation, Sky desperately needs a successor with “digital chops”.

As if to reassure the market it already has these to spare, and to arrest its falling share value, the satcaster issued this rare press release that hints at what the future holds (it follows confirmation Sky will be part of Chorus’ 4K fibre broadcasting trial):

Sky Television outlines plans to deliver to all New Zealanders

Sky Television has today outlined its plans to deliver a range of products and services to meet the viewing needs of all New Zealanders. A copy of the presentation is available on https://www.nzx.com/announcements/316029

The company’s strategy is based on three key areas: content, customer experience, and a targeted range of products and price points to suit all customers.

CEO John Fellet said. “We are focused on the transition to the On Demand world, where many customers can be better served, while continuing to service the large group of SKY customers who rely on satellite-delivered, predominantly linear SKY for their sport and entertainment. Our job is to deliver both types of services in ways that our customers want and need.”

Exclusive content

Our core focus is to deliver great content that matters to New Zealanders. Sports and blockbuster movies remain important, and premium drama is now just as compelling for our customers.

Director of Entertainment Content Travis Dunbar says, “Our long running partnership with US cable giant HBO has been further cemented with SKY’s appointment as exclusive holder of TV and streaming rights for New Zealand, a strong signal that HBO and Sky have a long term investment and commitment to this market.

“This, along with our recently concluded deals with the world’s best studios including FX, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, CBS, Showtime, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Studio Canal, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros ensures that Sky will continue to be the home of some of the best movies and television from around the world.”

Director of Sport Richard Last confirmed that “Sky Sport will continue to offer more sports coverage than most (and possibly all) other sports subscription services around the world. All of the major codes have a number of years to run before they need to be renewed.”

“When I look at our strong Sports production capabilities, our fleet of Outside Broadcast vans, our talented and hardworking staff, the reliability of satellite delivery for Live Sport in New Zealand, our installed base of Sky Sport subscribers enjoying our bundled approach to offering Sport, then I think we have a very compelling offering for the local Sports organisations to showcase their sports.”

Improved customer experience through technology

Content is still king – but it now sits on the throne of products and experiences. Sky is investing in technology (including the Cisco Infinite Video Platform) to enable us to improve the On Demand experience for customers.

Chief Product & Technology Officer Julian Wheeler says, “IVP will be at the heart of Sky’s new platform, and it allows us to offer a range of options to customers over the next 12-18 months.

“We are pleased to be partnering with a global player that is supporting over 100 million set top box customers around the world. It means we can operate like a scaled player and have a features roadmap for customers that matches what is being offered globally.

“The upgrade to IVP means that our customers will see a modern, image driven user interface, with fluid viewing from the phone to tablet and television. It will understand what each customer loves to watch and can make individual recommendations.”

Customers will be able to use a range of devices to access Sky, including a 4K-capable streaming device, a 4K satellite and IP hybrid set top box, the existing Sky Box that hundreds of thousands of our customers already have, plus customers’ own devices as a companion app, and even Sky as a standalone app.

Mr Wheeler says, “We will be able to make SKY accessible to all customers and family members who have different preferences.”

Range of products and price points to suit all customers

George MacFarlane, Director of Strategy, says, “We know we can no longer rely solely on great content and our traditional Sky offering to win everyone.

“So we have developed a much greater understanding of the different customer segments we can serve – including those customers who find our content appealing but want different products and price points.

“Our new technology platform will allow us to meet the needs of those customers, particularly those who prefer the digital experience and are happy to ‘bring their own device’ rather than use Sky’s traditional infrastructure.

“However, we will also keep servicing those customers who are happy with our traditional satellite-delivered, predominantly linear, TV offering enhanced with a My Sky box for On Demand viewing.

“We know this is a large group of customers, and we intend to renew our satellite contract this year to continue to meet their needs, particularly the significant number of New Zealanders who do not yet have access to fast broadband.”

Mobile offerings

“We know that a growing number of customers like to watch on the go, and so we’re making some changes to our mobile offerings,” says Mr MacFarlane.

The Sky Go app has been upgraded to offer customers who watch on devices an image-driven user experience with On Demand movies and shows, catch up TV, box sets and live TV. It will be launched to customers shortly.

Neon will soon have a separate, cheaper TV entertainment pack as well as the current offering which provides TV and movies. Fan Pass, Skys sport-only option, will have a lower priced mobile phone-only offer. Both options will be available mid-year.”

CEO John Fellet said, “Our objective at Sky is to enrich our customers’ lives with an exclusive world class sport and entertainment offering. By building a better understanding of our customers and their preferences, we want to always help them find something great to watch. And we are committed to making our content and experiences available to all New Zealanders through our range of products and pricing.”

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6 Responses to “Back to the Future for Sky?”

  1. Did you attend the investor briefing yesterday? Or peruse the 140 page presentation? Thoughts on the strategy?

  2. No, I wasn’t at the presentation and haven’t read it. So any thoughts will have too wait until I’ve a chance to properly analyse it.

  3. Why have they not done it sooner? Been demanding this for years. 4k content is still nowhere to be seen at Sky TV.

  4. I have my cynical hat on here … but surely this is a lovely carrot to keep the investors and shareholders happy (Sky wouldn’t want those guys jumping off the sinking ship AS WELL as subscribers) – 4K, hybrid wosits, IP doodleies, and new boxes… we have all seen over the last decade how quickly Sky move … or not! (don’t Sky say “innovate”haha) the reality surely is this will be YEARS away AT BEST! Where Sky do rush….(Sky Go, Neon, a new EPG) things backfire badly and Sky anger a lot of people and the EPG was reworked a couple of times and by all accounts still isn’t bug free … Anyhoo – I wont be reading the 140-page presentation … just keep my cynical hat well and truly stuck on my head!

  5. Last I checked the only update to the epg was making the letters bold …

  6. Too little, too late. If you have sky shares sell them now while they are still worth a pittance.

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