Satellite broadcaster Sky has written to its customers to inform them that it is expanding its Sky Store service to a number of platforms, including Android. As a result of the changes, movies purchased or rented through the service can now be watched on smartphones and tablets.
The service is not restricted to existing Sky customers and is available to anyone – over the age of 18 – in the UK and Ireland. Sky Store is now a rival to the likes of Google Play, at least as far as movies are concerned.
Sky is believed to be planning to move much of its existing service to the cloud and it is likely that the changes to Sky Store are part of this overall strategy. A cloud-based service could mean that Sky customers will be able to start watching a recorded TV show on their large screen at home, and finish viewing it from a tablet on a train, in the future.
Sky’s free DVD offer
There is a lot of competition as far as movie sales and rentals are concerned. But one aspect that sets Sky Store apart from its rivals is that it sends customers a DVD copy of any digital movie they purchase.
Prior to the changes, anyone who purchased content from Sky Store had access to it on their set-top box and also received a traditional hard copy as well. But now customers are able to watch their movies on smartphones and tablets too.
Whilst Sky is the only major UK and Ireland player that offers a hard copy to complement digital purchases, the reverse scenario has been possible for some time. Thanks to UltraViolet, a number of DVDs and Blu-rays are able to provide digital copies of films.
When it owned Blinkbox, Tesco used to promote the fact that it was also possible to access a digital copy of many of the DVDs and Blu-rays sold in its stores. This was all thanks to Blinkbox’s support for UltraViolet.
No Chromecast support
The Sky Store app does not offer support for Chromecast, or any other screen mirroring technology. It is not even possible to play back movies via a HDMI connection.
Sky has addressed the issue, stating in its Play Store listing: “Sky Store doesn’t support video output/screen mirroring due to studio restrictions.”
Interestingly, though, a Sky representative has also commented on the issue in response to a customer review, explaining:
“Unfortunately this is not something we support at this time. We are constantly looking to improve the Sky Store experience and hopefully this is something we will be able to address in the future.”
Whilst this is a fairly generic customer service response, it is interesting that Sky appears not to have told its representatives to rule out the possibility entirely.
Although Sky Go – an app providing access to the company’s on-demand library – also has the same restriction in place, Sky Store is a very different offering.
Any UK or Ireland resident can rent or buy movies through Sky Store. As a result, it competes directly with the likes of Google Play, Blinkbox and Sainsbury’s Entertainment, whereas Sky Go is only available to subscribers.
Moving away from the big screen
There was a time when Sky Store was primarily a place for Sky’s subscribers to rent newly-released movies, for watching via the company’s set-top box. The changes to allow the viewing of content on mobile devices are a significant departure from that philosophy, as Sky tries to adapt to the differing ways we now consume content.
The changes extend Sky’s policy of providing a free DVD with purchases, as any content that is bought will also now be available to view on mobile devices.
There are some limitations with Sky Store that are worth bearing in mind, although thankfully they are not overly draconian.
Only four devices can be registered for watching content. And whilst it is possible to watch the same movie on more than one device at a time, there are some restrictions in place.
For any content that has been purchased outright, the title can be streamed to a maximum of two devices at a time. In addition, it is not possible to stream rentals to more than one device at a time.