Sound and Vision: Making the Stream puck available on its own opens up Sky-high possibilities
OPINION: Finally, Sky made the decision I think everyone was waiting for. It’s made the Stream Puck available on its own. Or at least it will do sometime later this year. Rejoice, hallelujah, praise be, etc.
The issue about Sky’s content offerings is that it’s always been skewed to a high price, creating a barrier to entry. Like the many TV packages people sign up to, it becomes more expensive over time with the addition of bolt-on packages and (dreaded) inflation.
Sky Glass tried to remedy that by kind of hiding its costs behind a subscription-based contract, like a smartphone would amortise cost over a period. However, it locked you into a TV that offered a so-so visual performance when you could get better performing TVs at a similar price.
As a value proposition, Sky Glass wasn’t as good as Sky Q, not just in terms of cost but being able to make it a part of your existing set-up. If you wanted Sky Glass, you’d effectively have to make way with any TV and sound system you had given its all-in-one nature. What’s great about the Stream puck is that it slots within your set-up and brings all the content Sky has to offer without (much of) the faff.
The Stream puck should be thought of as like an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Chromecast competitor, a plug and play device that opens the Sky experience to any TV. I had thought that this was what Glass was going to be all along, mirroring the Comcast streaming device that was announced mere weeks before the TV. Sky Glass is many things, and I found it to be ambitious and underwhelming, its Quantum Dot QLED screen is something of a disappointment, especially if you watch lots of HDR content.
The Stream puck places Sky right in the battle where it needs to be, not in the TV market but amongst the streamers. To get Sky you had to install a satellite dish, now you just need access to the Internet and that opens the door to a massive market and audience. The Stream puck is a small, discreet box that won’t take up much space, can plug in and transfer the Glass interface onto any screen and offers a wealth of streaming options. I’m still surprised that this wasn’t Sky’s first idea – an updated and mini version of Sky Q.
It’s on the Stream puck rather than the Glass TV or Q box where I think the Playlist feature makes more sense as a hub, in fact if I were a Sky engineer/designer, I’d probably make Playlist the first thing you interact with on start-up. The other trend in streaming has been personalisation, and as Playlist curates content from a range of apps, an aspect that I don’t think any other streamer does off the top of my head – if Sky added profile support it would be cooking with gas.
This is the fight Sky should have picked instead of winding up at TVs. No matter what Sky did with Glass, they weren’t going to beat the technical expertise of LG, Sony, Samsung, or Panasonic for picture quality.
But as an OTT streaming provider and accessory to TVs, Sky could potentially be in the mix with the Stream puck. To go back to the start of this column, people have held back from Sky because of its price, if the barrier to entry is brought down further, people will be all over the Stream puck.