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Sound and Vision: Sky Live is a great idea, but is it too late?

OPINION: I’ve been travelling around London for the past week in the blazing sun (poor me), bouncing from event to event and looking at products I can talk about and others that I absolutely cannot (at least not now).

One of the products I can talk about is Sky Live, which is a new device from the British broadcasting company. The name is initially confusing as you wouldn’t envisage a product from the name but more a service or something along the lines of ‘Super Sunday’, or even Sky News Live (which Google search seems to think you’re looking for when you type it in), but that in a nutshell is what Sky is pitching with Live – an experience.

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Having been announced at the same event when Sky Glass appeared back in October 2021 and then disappeared for a while, the initial observations were that it was a version of Microsoft’s ill-fated Kinect, but I think that’s an unfair comparison. Sky Live seems to know its limitations better than the Kinect did but it also has a much more specific idea of who its target audience is, which is primarily families.

Sky Live has kicked up some debate, as you’d expect, and one of the questions that our explainer mentioned was whether the device was too late to the market. You can understand why that would be one of the main reactions to its announcement. The features and apps launching with Sky Live are ones that were big aspects of the pandemic: Zoom video calling, at-home exercise, interactive games to keep kids occupied and ‘watch together’ streams. It all sounds like features that would be great if we were still isolated from one another.

I’ve noticed in the last few years that TV brands have been making much more noise about adding bespoke cameras or attaching web cameras to a TV to expand its uses. Sony has its BRAVIA CAM (which provides some interesting audiovisual features) and Samsung has been talking about productivity and web calls through third-party cameras, but they all feel as if they were gearing up for a permanent change in lifestyle habits where the TV would be the centre of operations in a household. That never really took hold and I wonder if the same issue would apply to Sky Live.

Sky Live Video Call
credit: Sky

I think what it’s offering would work regardless of whether we’re in a pandemic or not. I’m in a WhatsApp group chat where there’s always messages flying about whenever there’s a big football match happening, and if that type of behaviour is built into our interactions with others then why not have a camera that allows you to ‘see’ other people and get their reactions in real-time? Gyms are also getting more expensive, so again, why not have your personal fitness trainer to put you through the paces in your own time?

However, I think that a) people want to be outside, not in their homes and engage in the same space as others and b) for some of these features to work like a watch together, we’d all need access to both Sky Glass and the Sky Live camera – most of us are more than happy with our current set-up rather than buying into Sky’s ecosystem.

There’s going to be a market for this given that Glass is (at least according to Sky) the best-selling TV in each of its sizes in the UK. Sky Glass is one of our biggest TV reviews in terms of page-views and I’d guess it’s the same for other websites, but Sky Live is more of a niche product and I wouldn’t expect it to garner as much interest given that it is, essentially, an accessory. I think Sky Live would make sense for a family to get, but outside of that group, I’m not sure there’s as big an appeal for it.

Making it standalone from Sky Glass and not embedded into the TV is a risk as not everyone will take up Sky’s offer, regardless of whether you can get it for what sounds quite cheap at £6/month, as it doesn’t really take into account all the other add-ons that can pile up when subscribing to Sky.

There’s a case to be made that Sky Live might have missed the boat, but I wouldn’t bet against the company from pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, and setting the standard where others have so far stumbled.

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