After speaking at the OTTtv World Summit, Richard Wray, BSkyB’s IPTV technology applied research manager spoke to DTVE about how the UK pay TV operator has evolved its OTT strategy since launching Sky Player in 2006.
How is Sky using OTT services to increase engagement with customers?
At Sky, we currently take advantage of the opportunities offered by OTT in three specific ways.
Firstly, OTT enables us to package high quality pay TV content in new ways. For instance, our internet TV service Now TV takes advantage of the OTT opportunity to provide easy and flexible access to Sky content across a range of internet-connected devices with no contract, no set-up costs and no installation. Reaching out to the 13 million customers who haven’t previously taken any form of pay TV service, it helps us reach new customers with our premium pay TV content.
Secondly, delivering TV through the internet enables us to add even more value to a Sky subscription, through our award-winning multiplatform TV service Sky Go. Available at no extra cost to all 10.4 million Sky TV customers, it means that that our customers can access content in line with their subscription across a wide range of smartphones, tablets, games consoles and computers.
Thirdly, OTT provides us with new opportunities to enhance what the core Sky Plus set-top box experience. New experiences we offer this way include providing customers with a choice of different camera angles during Formula 1 races via the Sky Sports App for iPad, to letting fans of our most popular entertainment shows access bespoke in-app content through in-built Zeebox functionality within our hugely popular Sky Plus app.
What steps has Sky taken to deliver services on multiple platforms?
Having launched Sky Player on PC and Mac all the way back in 2006 and placed ourselves at the vanguard of viewing on the move through Sky Mobile TV, we’ve been involved in making our content available through multiple platforms for some years now. Such early innovations built the foundations for the huge success of Sky Go, which now offers up to 43 channels live and on demand and was used by more than 2.8 million unique users between June to September this year. Alongside this, we’ve developed a wide range of apps, including Sky Plus, Sky News for iPad and Sky Sports for iPad – and of course launched Now TV.
What are the most effective ways to monetise OTT services?
From our perspective, one of the biggest opportunities of OTT lies in using it to add value to our core Sky Plus service. While satellite continues to be the best way of delivering high volumes of content – especially HD and 3D – OTT provides a way of piling even more value into a Sky subscription, giving customers the flexibility so they can take Sky TV with them on the move, alongside hundreds of hours of on demand content, from the newly-launched BBC iPlayer on Sky Plus to the latest Hollywood movies.
What future OTT trends are you anticipating?
One of the things that will be interesting to monitor is whether advances in distribution technologies on mobile – such as the roll-out of 4G – will lead to changes in viewing patterns. Our research shows that viewers are more likely to watch longer-form content through WiFi (one of the reasons why we offer our Unlimited Broadband customers free access to more than 14,000 WiFi hotspots across the country), so we’ll be watching with interest to see whether something like 4G will also help grow viewing on the move.
What role should social media play in the evolution of OTT services?
We never forget that customers have a choice, which is why we continually focus on ways of making the experience of watching TV through Sky as good as it possibly can be. One of the ways we’ve enhanced this experience is through our range of companion apps, which allow customers to virtually gather round their favourite sports or programmes in a ready-made online community. By integrating social media into our range of apps, we can help viewers get closer to our content, creating a deeper and more immersive experience that customers really value.