UK pay satellite operator BSkyB is restructuring its current multiscreen offering; split into Sky Player and Sky Mobile TV; into a new branding called Sky Go. The new service will go live on 6 July 2011. Until now Sky Player has been available to all Sky multiroom subscribers, top-tier broadband subscribers and an off-network subscription £10 per month subscription, all providing access to up to 29 channels, depending on the linear or standalone subscription. Sky Mobile TV by contrast offers eight-channels as a pure stand-alone subscription tethered to particular mobile operators in the UK for all non-iOS devices.
The rebranding into Sky Go will consolidate BSkyB's linear TV service with Sky Player and Sky Mobile TV, simplifying subscription definitions while still offering a service to consumers without a set-top box and smart card. Unlike Sky Player, Sky Go will be available for free for all Sky TV digital subscribers, expanding the reach of Sky's multiscreen platform from multiroom and top-tier broadband - this will eliminate the Sky Player Multiroom subscription tier. This coincides with Sky's release of an HD non-DVR set-top box, possibly heralding an upcoming launch of linear TV and multiroom DVR via a future deployment of home networking. At the same time all standalone Sky Mobile TV subscribers using iOS who are also Sky TV and Sky Sports customers will find the mobile service bundled into Sky Go. Sky Mobile TV will retain standalone subscriptions outside of this.
Sky Go is designed to offer content across other devices in line with that subscribed to in the main linear Sky TV service, but only covering 30 channels initially. The reach of Sky Go is computers, via a browser or application (although the Windows Media Centre version supported by Sky Player is to be wound down), as well as on iOS phone and tablets, covering Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch above first generation. Like Sky Player both the FetchTV OTT set-top box and the Xbox 360 will be supported, branded as Sky, where FetchTV will be treated as one of the two devices registered and Xbox 360 will be treated as a set-top box (not one of the devices). Sky Go will include two registered devices at any time and viewing will be enabled across all devices simultaneously.
In addition, BSkyB have noted that an Android version of the platform is likely soon.
The rather complex transition of BSkyB's three current platforms into something like a single unified subscription is at the crux of the modern multiscreen strategy for pay TV operators. Many services have grown up independent of each other as device-specific services, such as Sky Mobile TV, which is not tied to either the main pay TV subscription or reflective of viewer behaviour and value across screen types (although BSkyB has provided Sky Mobile TV for iPhone uses as a free promotional offer between Setpember 2010 and January 2011). By tying a range of subscriber devices into a bundled subscription package BSkyB is effectively consolidating several disparate strategies into a single branding allowing control of all consumer media consumption from the TV, PC, tablet and phone.
The decision to limit the device reach in the UK to two additional devices around the PC is prophetic - current IHS Screen Digest estimates put an average UK household with 2.1 devices of the mixture of devices Sky is aiming to address (excluding Xbox 360). However, this is expected to grow to almost 3.0 devices per household by 2015 and will be significantly higher once Android and other platforms are included in the Sky reach.
BSkyB's approach to allow simultaneous viewing across these devices and the set-top is also a clear indication of Sky's approach to the consumer as a family unit rather than trying to capture individual subscriptions by device. This is reflective of the pay TV subscription being a shared, household content decision rather than aimed at individual users' devices.
The new strategy also coincides with the recent acquisition of WiFi provider The Cloud, which will allow BSkyB to offer a wide on-network coverage outside of the home, in addition to the on-network reach provided by Sky's broadband network. Currently IHS Screen Digest estimates that Sky Player including Xbox 360 includes a reach of around 7m devices, in addition to 12m set-top boxes. This will rise to almost 13m set-tops by the end of 2011 and 10m devices on Sky Go.
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