Unless you subscribe to Sky, you quite probably hate it. After all, it doesn’t half do well at hoovering up many of the most interesting drama, documentary, film and sport programming. So if you don’t have it, you could easily resent it for making you wait for so long before so many programmes eventually find their way onto Freeview.
As of Tuesday July 17th, though, people who can’t afford or just don’t want a Sky subscription suddenly found themselves able to watch Sky content anyway, under a totally different and much more affordable financial arrangement. For it was then that Sky launched its debut video streaming platform, Now TV.
The potential impact of this launch on the streaming landscape really can’t be overstated. Plus, of course, it gives Sky a potentially vast new outlet to help maximise the revenue from its huge - and expensive - programming ‘stock’.
So what exactly is Now TV. First up, it’s aimed not at existing Sky subscribers (who can already stream Sky content via the impressive Sky Go platform) but at the 13m broadband-connected households who haven’t previously taken a pay TV service from any provider.
In content terms, in these initial stages Now TV is entirely focussed on Sky’s extensive library of films, making the service an instant and significant rival for LoveFilm and Netflix. But intriguingly, Sky is also promising to extend the content available through Now TV to include its sports content before the year is out. The potential for being able to access - live in many instances - such Sky ‘crown jewels’ as Premiership football matches and England Test Cricket matches without having to subscribe to Sky’s broadcasting platform will sound like manna from heaven to die-hard sport fans.
Now TV doesn’t stop there, either. For Sky is also saying that after the Sky Sports stuff has gone live, Now TV will also start carrying some of Sky’s premier entertainment content from Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts and Sky Living - including US shows as well as Sky’s home-grown stuff.
TV to come
This promised future TV content is crucial, of course, when you consider that both of its main streaming service rivals offer plenty of TV content alongside their film libraries.
Also critical to Now TV’s success will be its pricing structure. Which is actually rather complicated. In essence, the service comprises two different pricing approaches: ‘Pay & Play’ where you pay separately for each film you want to watch, and a £15-a-month Sky Movies Pass (with a 30-day Free Trial to kick you off).
The pass gives you unlimited access to more than 600 movies within the Sky Movies collection, including up to five new and exclusive Sky Movies Premieres every Friday.
However, the Movie Pass does not include the very latest titles available only through Sky’s Box Office broadcast service. These - which currently include The Woman In Black, Safe House, This Means War and, um, Jack and Jill - are only available via the Pay & Play system. So if you’re a Movies Pass subscriber and you want to watch one of these very latest titles, you’ll still have to pay £3.49 for the privilege.
The Windows game
This might seem annoying on paper, but in reality it’s unavoidable. For the fact is that these films that are only available via Box Office on Sky’s broadcast channels are still in their ‘DVD release’ window, and so can’t be included at this stage within any monthly streaming package. LoveFilm includes some premium (extra payment) content for the same sort of reasons.
These titles will, of course, eventually slip into the Sky Movies Pass arena once they move from being Box Office titles into being titles available at no extra charge as part of Sky’s Movie Channel package.
Where things start to get really confusing, though, is that you can actually also get a lot of back catalogue titles through the Pay and Play service - more than 1,000 according to Sky - with prices as low as 99p a pop. But these don’t appear the titles available through the Movie Pass!
In fact, the Pay & Play back catalogue titles are those not being shown anymore on any of Sky’s movie channels but which Sky has retained PPV rights for.
Looking ahead, there’s no pricing information on how the future sport and TV content will fit into the package pricing wise. It seems likely that the live sports stuff will be presented in pay per view form, with the possibility of older programming being available within the current Sky Movies Pass monthly payment - or a ‘modified’ version of it.
As for the TV shows, again it’s possible that the very latest stuff will only be available via pay per view, with back catalogue stuff being available within the terms of the monthly pass. But this is all total guesswork, so you should probably just strike it from your minds and wait to see what actually happens!