Sky is in the process of preparing for some major changes to its business model, according to reports. The satellite TV company is concerned about the threat posed by internet-based services from American companies like Google, Apple, Amazon and Netflix.
According to UK daily newspaper The Telegraph, a special division has been created at Sky to work on a plan known as Project Ethan. The proposed changes will see Sky’s services being increasingly delivered via the cloud – rather than set-top boxes – and are set to start rolling out in 2016.
Sky+ vs Sky Go
Currently Sky operate separate recording and on-demand services. Sky+ allows programming to be recorded locally on the hard drive of a customer’s set-top box, whilst Sky Go delivers shows via smartphone, tablet and web apps.
Project Ethan will see recordings stored in a data centre rather than locally. The advantage this will offer is the possibility of pausing viewing on a set-top box, before resuming the programme on an internet-connected device, such as an Android tablet.
Combining satellite and internet broadcasting
Whilst the internet will clearly play a much more significant role in the way Sky delivers future programming, the company still plans to make heavy use of satellite broadcasting. In an interview with Stuff magazine earlier this month, Luke Bradley-Jones, Brand Director of TV Products at Sky, made it clear that internet broadcasting does not currently scale well for the company.
“Although we’ve got major broadband operators it still costs more than satellite downlink, which is essentially zero incremental cost for the bandwidth we have,” he said.
“If you’re dealing with a serious number of simultaneous live views or a major number of on-demand views of a given asset the economics are still preferable for satellite.”
Despite the fact that Sky will very much continue to be a satellite broadcaster, a fresh focus on the cloud means that the internet will also play a central role in the way customers access programming.
Problems with Sky Go
If Sky+ and Sky Go are effectively merged, the more streamlined approach is likely to be good news for Android users. Services like Sky Go were a distant pipe dream when Sky launched its current digital TV platform back in October 1998.
The likes of an on-demand offering have had to be built on top of existing infrastructure. By contrast, competitors such as Netflix have been designed from the ground up to integrate into the connected world that is rapidly developing.
Whilst Sky Go is by no means universally despised, its Play Store reviews do not compare well to Netflix’s app. And over on Sky’s own forum, there have been a raft of complaints posted about various issues.
To Sky’s credit, the complaints have not been ignored and usually receive a prompt response. A Community Coordinator recently assured a complainant that the company are aware of issues with the service.
“There has been a lot of software updates lately which has impacted a bit on the devices but our technical team have been working round the clock to get everything sorted,” a forum representative from Sky stated.
But despite the proclaimed work-rate of Sky’s developers, updates are slow to be rolled out to the public.
The Sky Go Android smartphone app has not been updated since December 2013, whilst the tablet app was last revised in January this year. Therefore, update frequency does not compare well to similar services like BBC iPlayer or Netflix.
Investment in the future
The Telegraph article points out that Sky will spend up to £70 million this year upgrading customer’s equipment in preparation for the launch of Project Ethan.
By making the internet a core part of how Sky delivers its programming, developing services like Sky Go, or a replacement, will become more straightforward. There will also be additional investment in infrastructure such as data centres, which will in turn improve reliability and performance.
[via The Telegraph]