UK Satellite pay-TV operator, BSkyB, has unveiled a new paid extension to its Sky Go service called Sky Go Extra. The new service costs £5 per month for Sky TV customers and will allow users, dependent on their TV subscription, to download TV shows and movies to their PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet.
Sky Go Extra will allow users to download shows for up to 30 days, with shows being deleted 48 hours after the commencement of viewing, with each show or movie being restricted to two downloads per account. In addition Sky Go Extra doubles the number of registered devices to four for downloaded content (compared to the streaming Sky Go service, which still allows only two registered devices per account). The service is being offered as a free trial until the end of March 2013.
The extension of Sky Go to allow users to download content follows a similar move by UK public broadcaster the BBC in September 2012. The additional functionality offered by Sky Go Extra is aimed at providing increased flexibility for Sky Go users. Consumption of video via tablets and smartphones is the fastest growing usage segment for Sky Go, and offering consumers the option to download will help deal with two issues with the current streaming service - caps and charges for 3G/4G services and situations where mobile streaming is not viable (e.g. due to lack of signal). For example, a typical UK 3G subscription has a data cap of 500MB per month, which would permit the streaming of just two hour-long programmes per month at typical bitrates.
Sky Go Extra has been positioned as an opportunity to watch Sky's premium catalogue of movies outside of the home in a partly defensive move to counter the threats of Netflix and Lovefilm in the UK and Ireland, neither of which offer a download option at present. IHS Screen Digest estimates that Sky Go monthly users at year end 2012 reached 1.7m, compared to a combined user base of Lovefilm Instant (both standalone and bundled users) and Netflix of 2.2m. With both rival services adding content and purchasing movie and TV rights in competition with Sky, (Lovefilm's latest signing Channel 4's archives to their service in January 2013), Sky Go Extra offers additional functionality to consumers as well as Sky's superior movie catalogue.
The new service will also partly be in competition with the more traditional digital rental services, such as iTunes and Google Play; although the movie rights that BSkyB owns fall into a different window to those on iTunes or Google Play. For more information on movie windowing please read IHS Screen Digest's report; A window of opportunity: Online video providers and changing movie rights windows.
The positioning the service around movies runs counter to the current usage of Sky Go. The service was initially marketed around the "summer of sport" in 2011 and IHS Screen Digest understands that despite recent gains in non-live usage on the service, live sport views still represent the bulk of consumption. Sky is looking to further boost non-live consumption as well as expanding usage of Sky Go beyond the core sports demographic; however segregating the download option into a separate tariff is unlikely to dramatically change the Sky Go demographic.
In addition, the lack of additional video content in the Sky Go Extra tier will limit demand for it as a paid-for service. Many pay TV operators elsewhere in the world, including Comcast with its Xfinity TV app, offer a download option free of charge. While Sky remains in strong position in the UK TV market, with a unique content portfolio, it is likely that once competing subscription video services begin to offer equivalent download options, Sky will have to follow suit. The window for a paid-for Sky Go Extra service based around downloads is likely, therefore, to be brief.