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Sound and Vision: How would a Sky TV work?

Ahead of Sky’s announcement in October, speculation is rising as to what it could be about.

Some suggest Sky could be doing away with satellite dishes altogether. Others think a streaming service could be in the works and another mooted idea, according to a report in The Financial Times, is that Sky could launch its own TV.

But how would it work? Can it work? Let’s spit ball a few questions and look at some of the permutations surrounding Sky’s own brand range of TVs.

Sky has developed great hardware, but it hasn’t always worked out

Sky has plenty of experience with hardware. The original Sky+ box was a trendsetter, and the Sky Q box is just as influential. When it launched it offered a meld of sleek design and class-leading features that offered bang for your buck. Every new set-top box since has cribbed design elements from it, lest they come across as looking old-fashioned. If Sky did end up creating a TV, you’d hope they’d do something unique.

But then there was the Sky Soundbox. Created in partnership with French audio brand Devialet, it was a mostly solid effort that only had appeal for existing Sky Q customers.

Thus, you’d think a Sky TV would walk the same lines – why else would you make one? But if so, it may struggle to appeal to customers outside of the Sky fold. Sky has also invested heavily into establishing the Q platform, so to dilute that with a TV model would seem… peculiar.

How much would it cost and what performance would it have?

The one thing that won’t surprise anyone is that cheaper TVs sell more – and that’s to the chagrin of those who make them. The more expensive the TV, the more room there is for profits.

And the UK market is very competitive. Over 8 million TVs were sold in 2020, with interest in smart TVs rising thanks to emergence of apps such as Disney+. But despite the pandemic creating a surge in TV and online viewing, research suggests customers purchased smaller, more affordable sets.

Sky Q is a premium service, and what complicates matters is the existence of a subscription. Like the Fire TV Edition, would you purchase the TV and then pay subscription fees for access? Or like a Sky Q box, would the TV be essentially ‘free’, and you pay for the package over a fixed period? If you didn’t want the TV anymore, would you be able to sell it / give it away?

And would this TV be an affordable or premium set? Amazon enlists the help of JVC, Toshiba, and Pioneer for its Fire TV Editions, but is also making its own Amazon-built TVs, with prices ranging from cheap to more expensive depending on the size.

An affordable HDR TV won’t pack a better performance than a more expensive one. As such, Sky would back themselves into a corner as picture quality is only as good as the TV you’re watching on.

Does it make sense to launch a TV?

Launching a TV could be a messy proposition in terms of creating a clear, concise message to customers. Right now, you get a Sky Q box and access to the TV/film packages with the opportunity to add various add-ons (such as a Sky Q mini box for multi-room). A TV may confuse matters. Do I need the TV and the box? If the TV works on its own, would anyone bother getting the box anymore?

Alternatively, Comcast – who own the Sky European operation – announced a streaming stick for Sky Q customers in Italy and Germany. Supporting Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, that looks like a suitable bite-size alternative to a Sky Q box, like the NOW streaming players from a few years back.

So rather than a TV, wouldn’t a streaming player that condenses all of Sky’s library make more sense? The pandemic saw a rise in interest for streamers from Amazon and Roku, and with the Fire TV 4K Max and Roku Streaming Stick 4K on the way, that appetite doesn’t look like abating.

Imagine if Sky did that? For those who don’t want a box but do want the Sky experience, plus the other apps on the platform, for a monthly sub. Imagine if the NOW service streamed in 4K rather than requiring a ‘Boost’ plan to watch in HD? Sky has content that’s not as easily available elsewhere with its Sky Atlantic and Comedy channels. If the streaming wars are being defined by content, Sky has plenty of it.

Alas, we don’t know what Sky has in store. But I’m hoping Sky is thinking outside the (TV) box for whatever ‘magical’ reveal they have in store.

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