This morning, Sky was very pleased to announce the arrival of Now TV, its online movie streaming service that aims to soak up some of the UK market that currently doesn’t want to lock into a Sky contract, but does want to watch a good movie.
But with some platforms not-yet supported, HD only available on the Xbox and TV and sports still to come, is this more of a soft launch? After a one-on-one with Simon Creasy, Director of Now TV, we’d say yes. Moreover, though, we can say what’s on the cards for the near future and beyond…
The talk of the launch was that Sky’s not yet managed to bring HD streaming to Now TV. When we spoke to Netflix earlier this year, the company’s cloud architect and streaming guru Adrian Cockroft said that Netflix’ adaptive bitrate tech (that allows HD at the top end) was the result of years of constant development. According to Creasy, Sky’s not quite there yet – but HD is coming:
“With the Xbox, we’re pushing to get 720p, and we’ll continue to evolve. A lot of it is either rights or technology, protection, etc. It’s something we’re working on, it’s something we’re developing. There are ongoing talks with both studios and the platforms themselves.”
“What we’ve focussed on to start off with is that the experience is as uninterrupted as it can be. We’ve been working really hard on the adaptive bitrate to make sure that the streaming is as good as possible. That’s the first point. When we come to the main TV, we know it’s really important.”
A cheap, dedicated streaming box
Connecting through a console is all well and good if you’ve got one, but what about those untapped customers without? Sky’s breaking onto the inexpensive Roku box, but that got us wondering: are there plans for Sky to launch its own cheap, puck-like wireless streaming box? Quite possibly…
“We want to be on as many devices as we can and get onto that main TV as best we can,” says Creasy. “We’re working on getting onto the Roku box as a first pass.” But it doesn’t stop there.
“If that Roku or Apple TV approach is a low-cost way to getting people online then that’s great. At its heart it’s a service that can use devices you’ve already got – we don’t expect people to have to go out and buy new equipment.
“But,” – and it is a big ‘but’ as far as we’re concerned – “if we find that there’s a growing demand for these low cost ways to get [Now TV] onto your TV, then we’ll definitely look at that as well.”
An inexpensive Sky-branded Now TV box? Seems like a no-brainer for non-Sky customers without consoles.
A change in pricing
At launch, Now TV will set you back £15 per month for the full pass, which will offer you unlimited streaming. One thing that’s been sort of lost in the hyperbole, though, is the fact that when TV and Sports streaming arrives, it won’t be covered by that cost.
“We want to stick to a flexible, no contract access,” said Creasy, diplomatically. “We’re not ready to talk about the cost for the Sports and Entertainment packages yet, but the Sky Movies package will stay as the Sky Movies package. It won’t be affected by the Sports or Entertainment package. If you just want movies, you just come in and get movies.”
In other words, if expect Sky Sports and Entertainment packages to fetch a similar monthly price each.
On Netflix, when you stop watching a movie or show on a console and pick it up on your phone or tablet, it remembers where you were. Now TV? Not so smart. Or not yet, anyway.
“As of launch there isn’t bookmarking, but there will be very very soon,” Creasy confirmed to us. “What we’re launching is very much a core service, and we want to get feedback about what’s important. We think bookmarking is very important, so we’re working to roll that out in [a number of weeks]. We’ve got quite a few features that we’re thinking about adding.”
Now TV goes social
He’s not lying about having “quite a few features” in the pipeline. From reading between the lines, what’s launching tomorrow is the bare bones of what Now TV is going to become. For example, it’s on the brink of getting a whole lot more social:
“At the moment you can’t log in with Facebook Connect, but as we develop over time we may make [Now TV] more social. There’s no Zeebox interaction at the moment but we have that in our armory and, if that’s what we hear back from consumers that they want, to make it more social, then we’ll make it more social.”
A lot of what Creasy told us alluded to consumer feedback taking a starring roll in shaping Now TV. Want to see it bend to your will? Start using and start shouting about it. “Because we’re solely online,” Creasy concluded, “we can adapt and develop really quickly.”
From this morning: Now TV launches