The offer, announced in January, means that non-Sky TV members can now access the company’s portfolio of sports channels without being tied down to an expensive monthly subscription.
All six Sky Sports channels are being offered at £9.99 for 24 hours of unlimited access ($15.80). That figure sits on top of the current subscription rate for NOW TV, priced at $14.99 ($27.30) per month.
It’s a notable price increase over the streaming services offered by Netflix and Amazon-owned LoveFilm in the UK, but NOW TV does have some exclusive features, such as Sky Movies, which promises to release the biggest titles 12 months before its competitors.
The idea is that the £9.99 flat rate is a cheaper and more flexible option for accessing Sky Sports. That’s certainly true, given that the Sky Sports Pack is currently £21 ($32) per month on Sky, on top of one of the basic packages which normally costs around £20 ($30).
If you plan on watching the English Premier League every weekend, shelling out £20 on a weekly basis isn’t the most cost-effective solution. For the big occasions, however, or a gathering where the cost can be split across multiple people, it could prove to be a popular solution with sports fans in the UK.
Sky Sports is known in England for its extensive football (or soccer, for you American readers) coverage, although it’s also one of the few British broadcasters to show golf, cricket, tennis and rugby on a regular basis.
It also has Sky Sports News, one of the only channels dedicated to breaking news and live updates, as well as Sky Sports F1, a channel dedicated entirely to Formula 1 motorsport.
NOW TV is available on PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Roku and YouView streaming boxes, as well as via a native app for iOS and Android devices. However, despite being backed by BSkyB, the service has failed to resonate with the British public. The service had 25,000 subscribers as of December 2012, which is dwarfed by the one million subscribers that Netflix picked up in the UK during its first seven months of operation.
There’s many reasons as to why NOW TV is struggling. Alongside its Sky Go and Sky Go Extra services, its possible that BSkyB is failing to communicate the potential of its service to new customers. Netflix is also pushing its new exclusive TV show, House of Cards, with extensive marketing materials, grabbing the public’s attention and most of the headlines.
Sky Sports could be part of the solution, but unless NOW TV can offer an affordable and superior proposition to Netflix and LoveFilm, it will continue to struggle to gain ground in the UK.
Image Credit: LGEPR/Flickr
It has been a phenomenally successful Olympics for Great Britain & Northern Ireland, securing third place in the gold medal table behind the might of the USA and China.
But rowers, cyclists, runners and boxers aside, it has been a massive event for broadcasters too, in what the BBC was touting as the first digital Olympics. And its success on this front couldn’t have come at a better time.
One of the unlikely winners of the BBC’s coverage was VPN providers, in particular AnchorFree, which saw its VPN software downloads grow by 1,849% in the US alone since the Olympics started. Were viewers really clambering to get access to the BBC’s online coverage?
24 simultaneous live streams online via a browser, and across a slew of mobile and set-top box (STB) apps. This was in addition to the four channels through digital TV. If you didn’t want to miss a minute of the action, well, you didn’t have to.
This was juxtaposed against the much-criticized NBC coverage over in the States, which let viewers watch live online through MSNBC and CNBC if they were a paying subscriber, or they could watch on TV…at the mercy of NBC’s tape-delays. The broadcaster often didn’t transmit the action as it happened due to time-zone differences, opting to keep it for prime-time instead – more viewers means more advertising revenue.
It’s also worth mentioning its ringside coverage of the boxing – having gained the privilege of being the only media company allowed to broadcast from so close to the action, this ended in farce, after being asked to leave their position for disrupting the judges. The commentary team apparently then stormed off, refusing to take their position in the main media booths alongside everyone else.
Oh, and in related news, the Independent’s LA correspondent Guy Adams was kicked off Twitter temporarily after he tweeted an NBC Exec’s email address, encouraging the public to contact him to vent their spleen. This followed a barrage of criticism from the journalist directed squarely at NBC’s door.
To summarize, in the UK the BBC generally received warm praise for its holistic, cross-platform (free) coverage, and over on the other side of the pond NBC has been heavily criticized for its coverage, despite the network trying to spin a different yarn.
This is all old news now though, and we don’t want to dwell on well-worn arguments. But what is really worth considering here is the impact the BBC’s coverage will have on its future as a broadcaster. More specifically, will it help it ingratiate itself to the next generation of TV-watching licence-fee payers?
We’re approaching a crossroads for TV in the UK. BSkyB has launched a major game-changer in the form of Now TV, a pay-per-view offering that’s currently service up movies to the masses, though will eventually open its doors to Sky Sports (football). This is in addition to the existing optional subscriptions through BSkyB, Virgin and BT.
The BBC, if you didn’t know, is funded through the TV licence fee – an annual tax (for want of a better word) that everyone must pay if they wish to watch television. Regardless of whether they actively consume BBC content.
I’ve long argued that the TV licence fee must be preserved in the UK. Among many other arguments, I previously wrote:
“The BBC TV licence costs buttons – it’s only £145.50 a year. That’s £2.80 a week per UK household, which is less than the cost of a pint of beer (where I live, at least…). It’s a minor tax, and surely you can forget about that for the greater good? But over and above all this, the BBC offers everyone a little respite from the commercially-driven media that permeates every nook and cranny around the world. In the UK, the BBC is an ad-free zone, and it must remain so.”
The gist of the argument was that you get a lot of bang for your buck. And as with National Insurance, everyone pays for it regardless of how much they use the services their money pays for. We shouldn’t underestimate the value of ad-free TV.
When money rules the roost, the best interests of viewers are often not at the forefront of decision-making. We saw that with NBC – they could’ve broadcast the key Olympic events live, and also shown them during prime-time. Everyone would’ve been happy then, right? Well, with less people watching during prime-time, advertising suddenly doesn’t cost so much, so this wasn’t a priority.
With the BBC, this isn’t an issue because advertisers don’t enter the fray.
There’s little question that if the BBC ‘model’ was introduced as an idea today, it would be blocked at every hurdle. It is very much a remnant from a bygone age, and there probably is a little bit of nostalgia involved for its defenders. But the Olympics have shown that there is still a lot of life left in the BBC, so long as it can continue to provide value for money.
There are other challenges too, ones that must be addressed. It would be remiss of us not to mention the impact the Olympics has had on other UK broadcasters, including BSkyB. Unlike other sporting tournaments, for example the UEFA Champions’ League and the FIFA World Cup, the Olympics was the sole property of the BBC in the UK. As Adage notes, “TV advertisers are suffering in the UK, because commercial broadcasters’ audience share is tumbling during the games.”
Perhaps some of the coverage should’ve been spread around broadcasters, given their respective audiences will likely have plummeted during some of the bigger events. The way things stand, the BBC is likely to fall under increasing scrutiny and pressure from the other big guns, for holding an unfair advantage over them. The BBC has guaranteed income and doesn’t have to worry about pleasing advertisers, while the rest of the pack do.
However, as we’ve seen over this past fortnight, the BBC is doing a pretty good job of evolving – bridging the halcyon days of yore, with the digital delights of the 21st century.
We’ve previously reported that the BBC’s Perceptive Media experiments could transform TV forever, something it unveiled for the first time last month. And just last week The Next Web was privy to some of the current developments with Super Hi-Vision, trialed by the BBC for the Olympic Games. Here’s roughly what it looks like:
Just to recap, Super Hi-Vision is ridiculously hi-res televisual entertainment that should be hitting our livingrooms some time around 2020.
There will still be many detractors, but with its Olympics coverage, I can’t help but think the BBC has gone some way towards ensuring that the licence fee remains in place for at least another generation.
Read this article: The Olympics could safeguard the BBC for another generation of UK TV viewers
BSkyB, the UK-based, News Corp-controlled pay-TV provider, today posted record profits for the year, rising 14 percent to £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) in the 12 months that ended June 30. Full-year revenues were £6.8 billion ($10.4 billion), a rise of three percent on 2011. Earnings per share were also up: they are now at 50.8 pence ($0.79), a rise of 22 percent.
While BSkyB has built its business on a satellite-based pay-TV service hooked on exclusive sports broadcasting rights, it’s laying groundwork for how it will ensure it remains a dominant company even as people move to new platforms: BSkyB also revealed the value of its investment in streaming-box provider Roku, announced yesterday — it’s $10 million — and gave a bit more detail on a £30-million plan for rolling out its service to Roku and other OTT services via its new non-sub Sky NOW TV product; as well as an update and expansion of its Sky Go service, its OTT play for existing subscribers, which now has 2.7 million monthly unique users. And BSkyB also announced today some international expansion: it will begin to offer its triple-play service of broadband, phone and pay-TV in Ireland.
Overall, it was a strong set of results for the company after what has been a difficult year PR-wise — an attempted full takeover by News Corp got scuppered after UK officials stepped in in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and worries of News Corp dominance; and it lost chairman James Murdoch in the process. On the soft-news positive side, it did cap things off well, with the Sky-sponsored cycling team winning the Tour de France last week.
Average revenues per user are up to £548 , churn is down to 9.9% and it added 57,000 new customers bringing its total to 28.4 million users across all products. Within that it said it had 10.6 million customers using Sky pay-TV, and four million taking its broadband service.
Some of the highlights for new digital services:
– The plans to go triple-play in Ireland — extending its existing pay-TV service via a wholesale agreement with BT — is to build on a product that has served BSkyB well in its home market. Back in May, during its last set of earnings, BSkyB announced that it had overtaken Virgin Media as the UK’s biggest triple-play provider. The Irish product will initially cover 1.6 million homes, the company said.
– Further digital investment. But while Sky has revealed strong results for the past year, it is also laying the groundwork for more further investments ahead. It says that it will invest £30 million ($46 million) in marketing in launching its OTT service NOW TV on new platforms. Those will include iPhone, iPad and Xbox “within the next month”; on YouView “when it launches” and other platforms like Sony PlayStation 3 and Roku “later this year.” It is already available via PCs, Macs, and some, but not all, Android smartphones. It didn’t specify the costs to develop the service, and whether those have been reflected in this year’s or next year’s results.
– Sky Go, BSkyB’s OTT play for existing subscribers featuring live and on-demand video, “continues to resonate strongly with customers”. Sky Go now has 2.7 million unique users, a rise of five percent on the last quarter. Today, Sky announced that it would add eight kids channels, including Disney and Nick Junior, to the service: the service overall features TV from 32 channels, a film library of 450 titles, and a movie rentals service. BskyB says that it will continue to expand Sky Go in the next year to cover more platforms and more features, “such as pause and rewind, search and personal recommendations.”
We knew that BSkyB was launching its pay-as-you-go Internet TV service this summer, but the exact details around the launch, including the date, weren’t known until now.
At a launch event in London today, Sky announced that Now TV will be going live from Tuesday July 17 (tomorrow), for Windows PCs, Macs and Android mobile devices. It will be arriving for iOS devices later in the month, followed by Xbox, PS3, Roku later in the year. Other devices will be receiving the service in due course.
The announcement of a new brand was an interesting move, and was indicative that it sees two distinct customer-types, and isn’t seeking to get everyone on a permanent, paid deal. “Having 2 brands will allow us to meet the needs of two distinct market segments,” said BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch. “It will be a flexible, more spontaneous offering. It will be powered by Sky, offering the best, exclusive content all from a provider they can trust. Any notion that Sky is just a satellite broadcaster should be out the window now.”
This launch of Now TV shouldn’t be underestimated, as it could lead to a lot of people giving up their main subscription, in preference for an online offering that lets them simply watch the occasional movie or sporting event. At launch, the service will be limited to movies only, costing from between 99p and £3.99, with a £15 pay-monthly Sky Movies Pass also being made available.
At launch, ‘now on DVD’ titles will include recent releases such as We Bought a Zoo, The Woman in Black, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, This Means War and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
If you hadn’t noticed, this potentially deals a massive hammer-blow to the likes of LoveFilm and Netflix, which have often been criticized for their lack of extensive, quality movies. With Now TV, Sky is promising five new movies each Friday, available at least 12 months before other online subscription services, and it says that around 75% of the top 100 movies will be made available.
The Sky Movies Pass will offer unlimited access to the whole Sky Movies collection, covering 600 movies from the major players such as Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros., and Universal.
Here’s the real kicker though, one that could potentially transform the TV sports market in the UK.
Now TV will be expanded to include sports, including the lucrative English Premier League, which it recently secured the rights to (alongside BT) through to 2016. Moreover, it will also cover the UEFA Champions League, England Test cricket, Heineken Cup rugby, ATP tennis, the Masters from Augusta and much more. After Sky Sports, Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts and Sky Living, will be added too.
It’s also worth noting that, in addition to the previously mentioned services, Now TV will also be launching with YouView when it rolls out later this month. So if you’re looking to use the service on a TV-optimized platform, then that could be one small thing working in YouView’s favor when it launches for a chunky £299 later this month.
YouView is a joint venture between some of the UK’s biggest TV and broadband brands, including the BBC, ITV, BT and TalkTalk, and it brings together catch-up TV services together on one platform. Its announcement last week was met with general derision, given the time it took to hit the market, the price and the fact that it was seemingly just souped-up Freeview. But with Now TV on board, and the potential for other content producers over time, YouView could gain traction if it can land on lower-priced set-top boxes.
Regardless, Now TV is a big deal. It marks Sky’s move from a subcription-based TV model into the mass TV market, targeting the 13m members of the UK population who don’t want to commit to a long-term package.
As we noted earlier today, Now TV poses a huge threat to the likes of LoveFilm and Netflix, with its fairly extensive collection of movies available either on a per-play basis starting at £0.99, or through an affordable-but-not-cheap £15 unlimited monthly pass. Sky’s venture into the subscription-free on-demand movies space is a no-brainer really, given that competition is really starting to heat up here.
But it’s worth focusing on the other big elephant in the room. Sky Sports is arriving on Now TV later this year, which means that the lucrative English Premier League and Champions’ League will be opened up to anyone with an Internet connection. No contracts, no long term commitment…nothing.
In addition to the football, this means you’ll also be able to tap England Test cricket, Heineken Cup rugby, ATP tennis and the golf Masters from Augusta. This is a massive move for BSkyB and could ultimately transform the way we consume sport in the UK.
While it was already known that Now TV would include the English Premier League, there hasn’t been too much of a song-and-dance made about it thus far. But in Sky’s launch announcement today, reading it again in black-and-white really hit home the impact this service could have on TV sport consumption in the UK.
Football is the most watched sport in many parts of the world, and the UK is no different. But there are varying levels of fandom – from the dyed-in-the-wool season ticket holders, all the way down to the glory-hunting cup final attendees.
BSkyB has been beaming live football to TVs around the UK since the inception of the English Premier League in the early nineties. Over the past two decades, a new kind of football culture has been born, with many fans priced out of attending live matches and forced instead to catch their footballing fix in the local pub.
Given that we do love a small tipple here in the UK, there will always be a demand for pubs to fork out for the pricier ‘public’ Sky Sports licence. People do enjoy watching their favorite team in a lively atmosphere, after all.
But for casual fans who just want to watch a game of football without having to head to the pub, Now TV offers a perfect alternative.
While the actual pricing of Sky Sports on Now TV has yet to be revealed, I would imagine a standard English Premier League match would maybe cost somewhere in the region of £10. Even if this is a little short of the mark, it will still work out less expensive when you factor in what you end up spending in the pub. And if fans club together to pay for a match at home, well, it could work out very cheap.
Longer term, when more people have connected TVs, set-top boxes or simply an HDMI cable to hook their laptop to their TV, this could really transform the sports TV landscape in the UK. It may be too early to say that this will threaten the existence of the football/pub culture across the country, but I’m sure landlords will be watching this development with interest.
Watching football in the pub isn’t just for casual fans of course – plenty of people either can’t afford it, or won’t commit to a home Sky subscription. But the thing is, plenty of people do.
Sky Sports is such a lucrative product for BSkyB. I’d hazard a guess and say that a large proportion of Sky subscribers are in it purely for sports. I’d even go as far to extend that to football only. Can you imagine if BSkyB ever lost the rights for the English Premier League? It would lose a large chunk of its subscribers over night (or, as soon as their contracts expired).
With work commitments, families and life generally getting in the way, I also reckon a lot of people only watch a fraction of the footballing schedule available to them at home. With Now TV, this is a massive carrot on a stick for fans to not renew their contract, and simply pay for games that they do have the time to watch.
Granted, over the course of a season, you will almost certainly save money with a Sky Sports subscription if you watch every game. But if you only manage to watch one or two games a week due to other commitments, you will likely be better off just paying per match.
It’s thought that there are currently 13m people in the UK without a subscription TV service, so BSkyB is targeting a large market here. However, I can’t help but think it will also lose a large swathe of its current subscribers when Sky Sports eventually lands on Now TV. All those fans who, season-after-season, decide to keep their subscription just for those handful of big sporting events throughout the year, will likely jump ship.
Now TV really could transform how we consume football in the UK. I’d also imagine that sales of YouView, Roku, Xbox, PS3, iPads and all the rest will jump sharply as a result of this new service.
All this leaves me with one lingering question though. The movies-on-demand services makes perfect sense for BSkyB, but I don’t really see that it needed to offer a pay-per-view service for football. Yes, the demand for it is certainly there, but from its own perspective, the money it makes from pubs and private subscriptions must be phenomenal compared to what it could lose from opening its walled football garden.
That said, there is a sizable market for picking and choosing which games you watch, so any losses it does incur could well be recouped – and more – through Now TV.
However it pans out for Sky, the ability to pick and choose which football matches you watch will be welcomed by fans across the country. Of course, the value of the service will all depend on how much Sky decides to charge for individual matches, but it could change the way we consume sport forever.
See the article here: Pay-per-view English football? Here’s why BSkyB’s Now TV is a game-changer.