July 15th 2012
The first thing to say about the press coverage around the NOW TV launch is that everyone seems to be making the same mistake in saying that Sky have launched their ‘first’ Over the Top (OTT) internet TV service. It isn’t their first. Their SkyTV web service has been available as a ‘monthly ticket’ web sign up, on your laptop, iPad, iPhone, connected Freeview box and Xbox since 2009. They just haven’t marketed it very heavily.
We are not talking about SkyGo for mobile devices, which has always been a complementary service for people with an existing STB based subscription. We are talking about SkyTV online, which is a service you can sign up for, online, with a credit card on a renewable monthly subscription. (Although it must be said that their web site blurs the distinction between these offerings).
SkyTV via the web also has a bizarrely high price point, and no marketing profile, but it exists. NOW TV is, therefore, their SECOND foray into the OTT market. What’s more, they haven’t discontinued SkyTV with the launch of NOW TV. So, as well as asking how NOW TV compares to LoveFilm and Netflix, we need to be asking why NOW TV is different to SkyTV on the web.
The NOW TV promotional blurb talks about a future launch on connected devices and games platforms, including Xbox, where SkyTV already exists. So Xbox is going to be the point of contention. The SkyTV service on Xbox always felt more of an R&D project than a fully backed Sky service. It gave Sky some great headlines, and created some really interesting service features that we expect to roll out into the mainstream STB service over the next few years. However, it is going to be very interesting to see how the two services sit together on the Xbox – if that is what Sky plan to do.
Our feeling is that the way to understand the difference between these two is to view SkyTV as a service put into the market by BSkyB – ie the ‘platform’ part of the company. It feels like a whole TV platform delivered over the web. NOW TV on the other hand is a content service from the Sky ‘channels’ or Sky Media part of the company. A subtle distinction perhaps, but whenever we discuss Sky, we always recommend treating those two parts of the company as separate entities.
The NOW TV launch also asks some interesting questions about their Acetrax acquisition. Acetrax is an OTT movie service on Samsung connected TVs currently available in 8 countries including the UK. (So effectively, Sky’s THIRD OTT service in the UK). Our assumption is that Acetrax will be used as the core of the NOW TV service for connected TV’s in the UK and will be rebranded NOW TV on our connected TV sets.
Admittedly, not a simple a story as the Sky press releases would have us believe, but interesting all the same.