Sky Unveils Premium Service Sky Q to Allow "Fluid Viewing" Across Screens

Courtesy of BSkyB
Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch

Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch at a press event in London calls the set-top-box and eco-system for premium subscribers the "biggest reimagining" of the company's services.

Pan-European pay TV giant Sky on Wednesday morning unveiled Sky Q, a new premium service eco-system that it calls the "most significant" new product since it launched HD packages about 10 years ago.

Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch and other executives unveiled the service at a press conference in London. The invite had teased the announcement with the tagline: "It's time to set your TV free."

Darroch said the Sky Q, an eco-system of set top-boxes, hubs and apps, will allow for "fluid viewing" across various screens, saying it was the "biggest reimagining" of the company's services.

The new service will be separate from Sky's traditional satellite TV offerings and its previously launched Internet-only video service Now TV. It  includes live and on-demand content, a new remote control and new content accessible via TV screens. 

Sky Q allows families to watch on up to three separate TVs and two tablets, plus do four recordings at the same time without affecting live viewing.

YouTube and Vevo content, along with other online video, from the likes of Red Bull, GQ and Wired, will also be accessible via TV screens in the Sky Q system. Plus, the Sky Q service will bring music to TV sets from the likes of Apple Music, Spotify and people's own music collections.

Sky executives also vowed to set people's recordings free as the Q Sync feature will allow users to save recorded content and access them on their mobile devices outside the home.

Sky Q will launch in early 2016 in the U.K., with Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland in Italy and Germany, respectively, expected to also launch it in the future at their discretion. It will later next year also add Ultra HD 4K video quality, which U.K. telecom giant BT and Roku already offer in Britain, and voice search. Pricing will be announced later.

The service comes with a set-top-box that has a 2TB hard drive to allow users to store plenty of TV shows and movies and 12 tuners so they can record up to four channels simultaneously while watching live TV. Executives said this will allow people to store up to five times the amount of content as today.

With Netflix and Apple vowing people with their navigation, Sky Q is looking to offer people access to content in a way that is more in sync with changing viewing habits. The Sky Q TV guide demonstrated on Wednesday includes programming tabs, such as catch up TV, recordings, top picks, box sets, Sky Store and MyQ, which offers quick access to the latest episodes of favorite shows and on-demand content that users previously paused.

Darroch said Sky Q was the "biggest reimagining of Sky in our history." He said its goal was to give consumers a "brilliant new service" that allows them to consume TV content on their terms and broaden consumer choice with the new premium option. Darroch and his team have been launching new services to target different consumer segments. While Now TV is for people looking for short-term access to Sky content, Sky Q is seen as the company's highest-end premium service.  Sky Q is designed to "help us to keep our customers happy" and offer a new reason to join for non-subscribers, said Darroch.

He said his team wanted to speak to how some consumers have been wanting TV to be offered. "They want TV to be more flexible and more seamless across screens," he said.

Stephen van Rooyen, Sky's chief marketing & digital officer, said the company had to secure added rights from Hollywood studios and other content partners for the service and was targeting "high-consuming customers" with it. While he said that in the U.S. noone seems to have cracked the idea of TV Everywhere yet, "we are creating that idea" with Sky Q that subscribers can have true TV Everywhere.

"Sky customers watch 20 percent of programs on connected devices and Sky Q is squarely targeted at the most demanding of this on-demand generation," said David Mercer, principal analyst, digital consumer practice at Strategy Analytics. "And it needs to be; premium customers are the best bet for increasing revenue, as many people are looking to reduce TV bills - indeed [average revenue per user] across the industry [is] fairly stagnant. Sky Q, alongside Now TV's "buffet" model, means Sky now covers consumers at opposite ends of this spectrum."

He added: "Sky will be banking on the appeal of the new user interface, a tactic that’s helped pay TV companies overseas increase premium subscriptions."

 

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