Today Sky revealed plans to launch a new internet TV service. Arriving by the middle of this year, this service will allow anyone with a broadband connection to access Sky’s programming through pretty much any device: computer, set-top box, connected TV, games console, tablet, smartphone, you name it. And unlike the current Sky Go service, customers won’t have to subscribe: if they fancy watching a film one evening, they can rent only that film; there’s no requirement to purchase a monthly pass.
If you’re a gadget fan, even a casual one, chances are you already have a device that’s compatible with the upcoming service. You probably, in fact, already have a device sitting under your telly – or perhaps inside your telly – that’s ready to receive these programmes.
Apple, it seems, is prepping a brand new Apple HDTV. While we don’t know anything for certain, it’s likely this device will let you access all sorts of lovely TV shows and films, probably through an interface that makes most other interfaces look about as elegant as a bowl of hacked-up pig bladders.
But, and this is a big but… you’re going to have to buy a whole new TV. And being an Apple product (a brand new Apple product at that) it’s highly unlikely to be cheap. Then pile on the costs of buying all this content and you’re looking at a hefty outlay.
Sky’s “box”? Well, like we say, you already have it. And we know all about Sky’s content: not only do you get a bunch of wonderful exclusive TV shows (Mad Men, Game of Thrones) but there are films galore and – and this could be the killer – sport. In particular Premiership football, the broadcaster’s jewel in the crown.
We don’t think Sky will offer football on the same pay-per-view basis as movies (The wording of its announcement implies that it won’t, and it doesn’t seem as though it would benefit Sky financially, when people will already subscribe just for the sake of a few games per season), so you’ll probably have to fork out a monthly fee, but it’s still likely to prove a huge draw to the service for millions of people. Sky Sports with no dish, no cable connection – just your broadband.
Perhaps Apple has foreseen this (hence unlikely rumours that it’s preparing a giant bid for the Premiership broadcasting rights), but perhaps not fast enough: its current Apple TV UK offering is fairly limp (Where the hell is iPlayer?), and it doesn’t seem like any major new deals are in the offing. Content, as the saying goes, is king – but when a company combines the best content with a cheap delivery system, as Sky seems to be doing, it seems like a recipe for huge success.
One thing that could put a spanner in Sky’s works is the issue of HD. People want to watch things in high definition, and the current Sky Go doesn’t offer that. It’s possible: see the BBC iPlayer app on the PS3 for an excellent example. If Sky can manage to deliver a proper HD internet television service, we’ll be among the first to sign up.