Sky Glass, a new streaming-first TV set, is an ecosystem play, a piece of hardware that gets Comcast’s Sky – and Australian launch partner Foxtel – into the heart of audience’s big screen streaming, not just as an icon on someone else’s connected TV system, but the home screen, the content, and the connection all in one.
If smart TVs were going anywhere, it was here: TV made easy, bundled, recurring all contained in a package built to pump out data that will strengthen the company’s ad operations. With Australian syndication already secured, this technology could preview a future that Comcast might be rolling out to its US customers.
After all, Sky’s technology chops are said to be what lured Comcast’s acquisitive interests, after CEO Brian Roberts asked a London cabbie what he thought about UK pay TV, spurring Roberts’ interest in Sky’s set-top boxes.
The Sky Glass, a TV set built for streaming over wi-fi with no need for a satellite and which goes on sale this month, is designed to operate across the whole value chain, “from content production, through to connectivity and aggregation, all coming together on the Sky Glass screen,” the company explained.
Hinted at in reports from the FT last month, the move is a big step for the company as it brings together content and distribution at a time when streaming has fragmented and rivals compete for each other’s customers’ attention if not wallets. Increasingly, prominence on a smart or connected TV matters to the fortunes of streaming platforms, and with a play to recast itself as a gatekeeper, Sky could be on to a further revenue driver.
Whole new audience
It also helps get at a new audience. Compared to their parents, millennials are more likely to be renters – and therefore unable to make executive decisions about bolting satellites on to the side of their flats.
It’s not that they lack the cashflow to pay for stuff, it’s big financial one-offs that cause them problems. A new TV? No way. A couple of quid more on their streaming bill each month and a big new TV thrown in? Where do I sign?
State of streaming
The news comes as streaming firmly establishes itself in the mainstream, with providers like Roku watching their revenues double year-on-year, but products like Roku or Amazon’s Fire TV stick are relatively easy to abandon. Like Peloton, Sky’s TV goes hand in hand with the content, effectively locking customers in.
While connected TV options and smart TVs are becoming more normal, there remains ample headroom to grow into as, globally, three fifths of online consumers don’t yet have a connected TV.
TV returned to importance during the pandemic, and as we spent more time at home, we lived around our TVs more. As WGSN notes in a recent trend analysis, TVs have become both furniture and design items, ideas that the Glass adheres to through a handful of tasteful colour options.
While some features – voice commands – are slightly gimmicky, it has taken on an interesting pandemic lesson: people like to do things together even if they’re in different places. A future launch, according to the Verge, will involve an Xbox Kinect-style camera to power video calls and group watching – given Sky’s deep involvement with sport in the UK, namely the Premier League. Sky is working with Microsoft on this feature.