Sky's the Limit
The UK has been sleeping through much of the mobile TV phenomenon - but it may be about to wake up thanks to Sky’s budding mobile TV service.
Sky originally launched its mobile TV service in 2006 but after much fanfare and anticipation it never quite took off like many in the industry had hoped or predicted. Sky Player, Sky Anytime on PC and Sky Broadband have all come and gone but the latest incarnation of Sky mobile TV – ‘Sky Go’ seems to have a bit more sparkle.
After several false starts Sky has been forced to re-brand and repackage its potential Golden Goose to rejuvenate a flat market. With Sky Go users can watch live and on demand video content from their mobile phone, tablet or even their Xbox 360 via a broadband or Wi-Fi internet connection. Current Sky customers can enjoy Sky Go for no extra charge while non-Sky users pay a modest £15 per month for the Sky Go monthly ticket.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that mobile TV is a phenomenon in certain parts of the world; it has been integrated into civilisation and lifestyle in countries such as South Korea and China. In the UK, however, mobile TV standards and providers have failed to make any significant impression. The reasons for this are plenty and the explanations tired, but having picked the brains of industry brain child’s such as Christian Harris, Gorillabox CEO, and Ronan Jashek, VP of Marketing Siano, it seems the origin of the failure of mobile TV in the UK is fairly clear – no risk, no reward.
With the current state of the economy some may be willing to give the political class a free pass on dropping the ball with mobile TV but the lack of consolidated political/governmental unity to drive the investments in mobile TV has meant broadcasters like Sky have been fighting with one arm strapped behind their back. Worse still is that there has been a kamikaze business model in place from the get go, with the model used in the UK being paid, without any endeavour to first attract the users with a free service resulting in a miserable adoption rate of what could have been (and may yet be) a game changing technology. While all these handicaps still remain, a developing ‘on the go’ culture across the UK has evolved to such a level that mobile TV may yet force its way in through the backdoor. The mass adoption of portable media such as smartphones and tablets has meant companies such as Sky have a better opportunity than ever before to make their TV packages an ‘on the go’ phenomenon. Ofcom reported a staggering 81.6 million mobile phone subscriptions in quadrant 4 of 2011 in the UK showing just how portable communication has become across Britain.
With over 10 million subscribers to its TV service, Sky has had a stranglehold on the UK TV market for decades. Sky made over £5 Billion in revenue for the nine months ending 21 March 2012 and is comparable to Apple on a smaller scale by constantly revitalizing and updating its iconic TV packages. With the current smartphone and tablet frenzy showing no signs of calming, and with Sky’s 3D service not quite having the impact many were expecting - Sky Go jumps out as the ready made poster boy for Sky.
Sky Go has 5.1 million registered devices and attracts 1.8 million unique users per month which is a dramatic increase on the less than modest numbers previous Sky mobile TV services attracted. The quality and stability of the service seems without compromise with a healthy 47 million streamed items across a 3 month average of April – June as well as 6.7 million Video on Demand views.
If Sky continues to invest and build on the strong foundations they have made with Sky Go then current trends suggest Sky Go will sore in the coming years. Take into account Sky’s influence over the media and TV audience and Sky Go could really light a fire under mobile TV in the UK.