Will Sky Become Happier Place for HD Viewers?

When can My Sky + customers expect the HD service Sky UK delivers?

 

Sky TV’s new, ongoing “online research community” hopefully signals the first steps towards an improved HD service to rival pay-TV subscriptions in the UK and Australia.

Sky launched the initiative this week when it invited subscribers to answer a 10-minute online survey about how they “watch TV in the Internet age”.

Prizes ranging from a lunch with three All Blacks to iPad minis and shopping vouchers were dangled as incentives to complete the questionnaire.

But subscribers frustrated with the level of service from Sky would have needed no encouragement to voice their views.

As the driver of digital TV in NZ, Sky doesn’t deserve demonisation.

But now that it’s reaping the rewards of hefty and risky investment strategies with  50% household penetration, it’s sacrificing innovation for bottom line-driven decision-making.

Given the global financial crisis, that approach may be as prudent as it is pragmatic but risks undermining customer loyalty and alienating early adopters who will quickly switch to the next digital nirvana if their needs are not being met.

Sky’s emphasis is on luring new customers, with fantastic deals that longstanding My Sky + subscribers find galling given how much they paid for their “happy place” installation or channel packages.

It’s time Sky rewarded these customers with their own special deals or better still, offered them more bang for their buck with a bigger range of channels and more in HD.

It’s unbelievable that the last HD channel Sky launched was more than a year ago – and then SoHo came with a fishhook: $10 a month on top of an HD Ticket when in comparable territories similar channels were being bundled as part of HD packages.

It would be revealing to know how many subscribers re-appraised their subscriptions and, like myself, ditched other channels to take SoHo.

I dropped Movies permanently and now only sporadically subscribe to Sports. So, in exchange for milking me for another $120 annually, Sky missed out on the $540 I had previously been spending as a subscriber.

Had Sky not charged extra for SoHo, I probably never would have reviewed my overall spend.

Sky’s strategy also cost it goodwill on my part – none of which has been recovered by its reluctance to spend more on bandwidth and programming with new HD channels or even SD channels that offered fare more compelling that The Shopping Channel or sitcoms so ancient on Comedy Central that not even the networks would consider them for off-peak.

It’s unacceptable that four years after going HD, Sky’s HD Ticket still buys access to only a handful of channels largely split between two genres: movies and sports.

That’s not good enough when top entertainment and documentary content that could screen in HD on UKTV, The Box, BBC Knowledge and Sky’s own free-to-air channel, Prime, withers in SD.

Likewise, when is Sky going to take an HD feed of at least one of its news channels? The fact that CNN still screens here in 4:3 suggests it won’t be a stop-press priority.

Here’s hoping the new year also brings expanded My Sky + storage of up to at least 1Terabyte.

Sky counterparts in Australia and Britain already offer 1TB and 2TB options — or up to 350 hours of HD recordings vs 130 for My Sky +.

But then they also offer up to 10 times as many HD channels.

Whereas Sky’s survey asks subscribers to rank which of the 65 SD and HD channels they most like, Sky in the UK has 65 HD channels alone — plus a comprehensive on-demand service that provides seven-day catch-up viewing, TV box sets and hundreds of movies in addition to the premium movie channel programming.

Sky UK subscribers also get their Sky + boxes for free when they upgrade to the service whereas Sky NZ uses its Sky + option to extract more upfront from existing customers.

Sky also needs to start offering more flexible channel packages. Why should HD Ticketholders have to pay for second-tier SD movie channels like MGM and TCM when all they want is the premium HD movie channels?

And if Sky expects subscribers to pay extra for the likes of Arts and Rialto, then, like SoHo, they should be available in HD, too.

With stunning advances like Ultra HD on the horizon, it’s imperative Sky stops snoozing on its laurels — otherwise its focus on low-cost, second-rate initiatives like Igloo will continue to leave its HD customers out in the cold.

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5 Responses to “Will Sky Become Happier Place for HD Viewers?”

  1. I can’t agree more, I really do think we need more HD channels, including Prime … we are so in the SD dark ages 🙁

  2. I would not hold my breath. I did not receive the survey even though I am a multi service customer. As stated, one HD channel in a year shows where the priorities aren’t.

  3. Lack of HD channels on Sky is very frustrating. They added a stack of extra HD channels for the Olympics and Prime was upgraded to HD for the Olympics also. Surely then Sky could run Prime in HD full-time and add an extra couple of HD channels.

  4. If not demonisation, then at least a good stab in the backside with a red hot pitchfork. Sky has treated its subscribers like cash cows from day one. Sky has missed the HD boat. For viewers that want HD material there are much better sources than broadcast TV.

  5. I agree with thx1138, because Sky and network TV are well behind the game, we all have alternative means. I went home to the UK and had a look at their offering. 3D is being added now rather than just HD.

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