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Sky to make its full-flavour satellite TV bouquet available without the satellite, with a broadband-only streaming equivalent for 2018

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Sky in the UK is going to launch a broadband-only version of its full satellite TV service next year. The indications are that this will not be an attempt to carve out another market segment alongside its Pay Lite offer – NOW TV – and the full-flavour satellite Pay TV bouquet. Instead this is about technical diversity: giving customers who do not want a satellite dish, are not allowed one (e.g. in conservation areas) or do not have access to one (e.g. in multi-tenant buildings) the chance to sign-up to the full-flavour Sky television offer.

There is a precedent for this. As we reported here, Sky Italia made its complete service – meaning the full content line-up including in HD –  available over broadband to Telecom Italia customers, with the content delivered as streamed video using HLS adaptive bit rate streaming rather than over classic IPTV. That was a jointly branded service and Sky Italia sent subscribers a ‘My Sky HD’ decoder.

Sky has released only minimal details about its forthcoming UK broadband-only offer so it is not clear if it will be limited to Sky Broadband customers or made available over other broadband networks. Customers for the new service will receive the Sky Q set-top box, now the default device at Sky UK. Sky is not saying whether this will be a new IP-only version of the device or the existing box with what would be an unused satellite front-end. Sky Q, which represents the new generation platform for Sky, complete with sophisticated whole-home multiscreen viewing, is currently in around 600,000 homes.

The company said today: “We announce plans to launch Sky TV without the need for a satellite dish for the very first time in the UK. The move will see millions of homes, currently unable to install a satellite dish, be able to enjoy the best entertainment on Sky. Delivered through a box over broadband, the service is expected to launch in the UK in 2018.”

David Mercer, VP and Principal Analyst, Digital Consumer Practice at the strategy/research firm Strategy Analytics, sees this as a significant indicator of where the market is heading. “The availability of Sky Q without a dish will confirm that the future of TV is IP-based. It is unlikely that the IP version of Sky Q will initially be 100% equivalent to the dish version, and it will clearly be dependent upon a fast broadband, high or unlimited data service, which Sky is likely to bundle at attractive rates. But it will help extend Sky Q’s reach to homes which cannot – or prefer not to – install a dish, and in the longer term may become the preferred model.”

Ted Hall, Senior Principal Analyst at research company IHS Technology, views the initiative as a response to pressure on the traditional satellite business. Noting that Sky is attracting new customers online, he says: “One response to this is the planned launch of a pure-online version of the flagship Sky Q offering – though the size of the niche this service will appeal to is questionable.”

Another notable example of a Pay TV operator that has made its full ‘traditional’ bouquet available over broadband is CANAL+ France. The company wanted to make its full Canal+ premium channel line-up and full Canalsat satellite bouquet available to its pay DTT (digital terrestrial) subscribers. As there was no capacity to do this via the DTT network, the company upgraded its DTT set-top boxes to receive channels (well over a hundred) using HTTP adaptive bit rate streaming.

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