Sky is demonstrating how Pay TV operators can expand their presence in the home with new and innovative equipment, and compete with the best retail brands to take centre stage in the entertainment experience of the future. This autumn the company will ship its new Sky Soundbox soundbar to customers in the UK and Ireland.
This is not your average soundbar. The company has teamed with Devialet, a leading name in audio, to develop and co-brand a product that is not just high-end but specifically tailored to the television platform. When paired with Sky Q (Sky’s DVR/multiroom/multiscreen gateway and client platform), customers will enjoy ‘Sky Q Sound’ – exclusive sound modes designed by Devialet that automatically refine the audio for a range of Sky entertainment and sports.
Furthermore, assuming the quoted general retail price is an honest reflection of its shelf value, Sky Soundbox is heavily subsidised for Sky customers. They can buy the device for £249 (if you are a Sky Q Multiscreen subscriber) or £299 (for other Sky subscribers) instead of £799 for non-customers.
This launch is significant. As we report elsewhere, there is a real likelihood that Pay TV operators and broadband service providers will deploy more customer premise equipment in future, not less. This is an example of that. New battle lines are developing, too, where service providers will have to fight retail giants to maintain their central position in the home. Retail soundbars are a potential threat to Pay TV as they could literally push the operator set-top box off the shelf below the television set (more on that here, too.)
This launch also acknowledges a fact that Pay TV operators are sometimes shy about: many of their customers are on high incomes, love their technology, and buy top brands for everything. We hear a lot about cord-cutting and price pressures for content packages, but there is a market for what some people have termed ‘luxury Pay TV’. That ‘luxury’ does not have to involve the content package itself – you can deliver it through your equipment.
Stephen van Rooyen, Chief Executive Officer, Sky UK and Ireland, says, “Sky Soundbox is the Ultra HD of home audio.” His company claims it is taking the TV experience to the next level with audio quality that surpasses many of the best home cinema systems. The all-in-one speaker unit is compatible with Sky+ set-top boxes and standalone TVs, as well as Sky Q.
This is the first time Devialet has partnered with another brand. The audio technology inside the soundbox was developed for the highly acclaimed Expert Pro amplifier and Phantom wireless speaker from the CE manufacturer. Sky Soundbox combines six woofers and three full-range speakers and uses the walls in the home to reflect ambient sound around the room.
“The result is spatial surround sound, offering the immersive, 360 degrees experience normally expected from a full home cinema system, without the need for a subwoofer or extra speakers,” Sky declares.
Sky Soundbox offers dynamic volume management, analysing incoming audio in real-time and adjusting volume levels to ensure clarity – from quiet dialogue to explosive action. Users can select a number of manual modes that best suit their needs, including: Dialogue Enhance mode, ensuring speech is clear and defined; Late Night mode, decreasing bass and further enhancing quiet whispers; Kids mode, giving parents control over the maximum volume levels.
van Rooyen adds: “Sound is a vital part of visual storytelling, whether you are watching the season finale of your favourite drama or an epic Premier League clash. Great TV deserves great audio.”
Quentin Sannié, Chief Executive at Devialet, says: “This first partnership illustrates our ability to pursue our vision to enable revolutionary experiences through audio, and bring them to the widest number of people through partnerships with like-minded companies who are looking to challenge the status quo.”
This launch is notable, too, for the fact that non-Sky customers can purchase what is effectively a co-branded CE device from the company. This reflects not only on the quality of the Sky brand, but also its confidence.