Monday, 8 December 2008

The pipe's the limit for SKY

Rupert Murdoch's Sky has revolutionised TV watching in the UK, bringing multi channel TV to the masses, in ways that seem unimaginable for those of us who remember the heady days of growing up with two BBC channels (1+2) plus ITV. 

In those days, the term 'water-cooler TV' did mean millions watching the same event, because choice was so limited.

Now, we live in an age of increasingly niche audience viewing habits, where even the long-running soaps have seen their audience figures decline comparatively.

From its initial offerings Sky has grown to dominate the pay TV market, sucking up many sports rights along the way, and transforming the fortunes of players and the experiences of audiences. Today's sports coverage is far slicker and soccer players' fees far more lucrative than anyone could have envisioned.

Technologically, Sky has continued to innovate, offering a hard disc recorder (Sky+), high definition variants, and now it is making another push into a new frontier.

Since the BBC launched the iPlayer more than a year ago, TV pundits have wondered how long it will take for a full convergence between online usage and TV viewing to occur.

Late last week Sky announced that it was now launching the Sky Player. For a monthly subscription that will be less than the cost of a satellite feed, users can watch live channel packages online, as well as download movies and other entertainment shows, using a proprietary player, that uses Microsoft Silverlight as the backbone for its Digital Rights Management. 

Mac users are catered for, but without the downloading facility for movies and entertainment. The Sky website says this will be coming in due course. I'm not sure if Mac users get a discount for the reduced service, but I intend to find out this week and will report back.

Either way, it represents a fascinating acknowledgement that audience tastes are changing and that for some people online delivery works better. This might be because people want to take downloaded shows to work, users spend more time online so this might be a way of generating revenue from those deserting the traditional sit back approach of conventional TV, or it might represent a chance for those in love with the service to maintain viewing habits wherever they might be.

What is certain is that the combination of advancing broadband availability, falling subscription costs, and rising audience acceptance of media delivery via online channels, is likely to fuel a rise in the viewing of moving image content on computer screens.

Is there a spanner in the works? Well, possibly there is. British Telecom (BT) is complaining that the media regulator, OFCOM, has capped the rates it can lease its lines to third parties at too low a rate. It's claiming this will hamper investment in new broadband infrastructure. The government has seen fit to bail out our banks. It will be interesting to see if it's prepared to invest in the backbone of our country's technological improvement.

1 comment:

Don said...

I love reading your blog. You make the complex comprehensible, and you take a field that is outside my usual realm of thought and make me think about it. That's fun!

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