From iPad to … SkyPad?

Sky is poised to launch an app that would let subscribers view their favourite channels on a smartphone or tablet – but will this hi-tech be at the expense of more hi-def?

This week it emailed respondents to an earlier focus group survey a final batch of questions eliciting their interest in such a service.

Channel access would be based on users’ Sky subs and streaming would be uncapped via Wi-Fi or 3G.

The service would include a TV guide and search functionality, and the ability to send recordings to subscribers’ My Sky PVRs.

Sky’s plan to offer free streaming suggests content won’t be in HD.

Moreover, such an initiative is in line with Sky seemingly giving its second-screen ambitions more priority than new HD linear channels.

While this month’s overdue reconfiguration of channel numbers hopefully signals it’s about to embark on an aggressive rollout of new channels, don’t bank on an HD upsurge given Sky’s launched only eight exclusive, full-time HD channels since going HD five years ago.

And so far its HD focus has been on sport, sport and more sport.

Its newest HD channel, Sky Sport 4, was preceded by ESPN’s conversion from SD, and the only other innovations have been the pop-up channels for specific events, like the Olympics, Formula 1 racing and the Masters golf tournament.

Alas, the excellent alternative Masters coverage, in which viewers could follow not only the main event but also key players’ hole-by-hole progress and the fortunes of Amen Corner, is not being replicated for this weekend’s fifth, unofficial golf major, The Players Championship — despite its notorious island hole being tailor-made for such treatment.

While Sky can’t confirm pop-up coverage for other sporting events, it does have undisclosed plans for pop-up movie content.

That’s good news for movie subscribers who get less than half the bang for their HD buck that sports subscribers do.

The latter can now view up to five channels in 1080i for their monthly $10 HD Ticket (plus pop-ups) whereas movie subscribers’ HD options remain limited to two.

But at least that’s two more than can be viewed by those who want to watch entertainment, lifestyle or documentaries in HD (besides the double pay-wall charging for SoHo).

Sky says it will announce more channels this year but can’t indicate how many of these will be in HD.

While the popularity of the HD channels and increased HD penetration favour HD expansion, Sky says costs are a major impediment.

These include the content itself or conversion of SD content, changes to the Sky playout and headend equipment, and bandwidth costs that are four times higher than SD.

“On top of that, we have finite capital to invest over a huge number of opportunities,” spokeswoman Kirsty Way says, “like launching new channels, new technology for customers like set-top boxes or apps or online offerings, internal capital requirements, production upgrades etcetera … the list is long.”

Expect Sky’s tablet/smartphone app to be the start of something much bigger, with its next My Sky box including a Wi-Fi connection for streaming exponentially more library content.

“It will allow access to hundreds of hours of content, like you see on iSky but more,” Way says.

“I’m not sure about HD at this point in time. There is no reason it can’t be if delivery — UFB or Internet — is good enough and customers pay for the delivery of it.”

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One Response to “From iPad to … SkyPad?”

  1. Sky is a joke. They make good profits but are reluctant to re-invest in areas that matter. HD TV has been around for over 20 years and they still have to think about it ? With the arrival of Ultra HD TV, the more they dilly dally, the more they will get left behind.

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