Sky is poised to launch its Now TV online pay-as-you-go service “in the first half of 2012”. Given that it’s already May, that means the broadcaster will be aiming to hit the on switch within the next few weeks, if all goes to plan. The timing was slipped into Sky’s quarterly financial results statement, which was released earlier this week.
Now TV is the company’s first major attempt to appeal to customers who don’t want to install a satellite dish or pay an ongoing monthly subscription. The existing Sky Go service is slightly different as it is aimed mostly at people looking to access Sky channels that they already pay for on a mobile device instead, although non subscribers can pay for a month at a time.
The Now TV platform will free-up some of Sky’s content from the conventional dish and set-top-box arrangement. Starting with movies, it will later include sport and entertainment programmes too. Like Sky Go, Now TV will have options for one month’s access at a time or pay-per-view movie rentals. Pricing has not yet been revealed.
Access will be via a web portal, but when the service was initially announced in March, Sky Chief Executive Jeremy Darroch said that “Now TV will be available on a wide range of devices.”
So, beyond support for desktop PCs and laptops, we can expect apps for tablets and smartphones, internet-connected TVs, set-top boxes and games consoles (eventually, if not from the outset).
At the end of April, Sky acquired Acetrax, news of which only filtered out in early May. The Zurich-based Acetrax already has a presence on various manufacturers’ “smart TV” platforms, including Panasonic, Samsung, LG and Toshiba. Users can stream movies as a digital rental or download them to own.
It didn’t take long for commentators, such as PaidContent to see the Acetrax buyout as a “trojan horse” for Sky to break into this area. The PaidContent site quotes Sky as saying, “In addition to Acetrax’s existing platform, Sky will also build on the existing relationships the company has established with connected device manufacturers and content providers.”
Therefore it appears that Sky will use the Acetrax deal to complement and expand Sky Go and Sky Now packages. Now TV will also compete directly against the still delayed YouView, which adds online on-demand content to a Freeview recorder. YouView has been hit by multiple setbacks and is likely to miss any chance of officially launching before the London Olympics.
A high profile, heavily televised event such as this would have worked to YouView’s advantage. YouView is said to be undergoing a closed trial, which could amount to hundreds of thousands of homes once the test boxes roll out fully, but it may not be publicly available until later in 2012.