While everyone has been waiting with bated breath for the impending release of Neon, Sky this week released Fan Pass, a sports streaming service that will give viewers access to NRL, Formula One and Super Rugby.
This move comes off the back of Lightbox's announcement that it would add sport to its content portfolio by forming a partnership with Coliseum Sports Media, which currently holds the rights to screen the English Premier League football and some events on the PGA Tour.
At face value, this looks like Sky's response to the moves being made by what is becoming an increasingly confident competitor, but the broadcasting juggernaut's head of corporate comms Kirsty Way says that this isn't the case.
"Fan Pass has been in the works for a handful of months," says Way.
Sky worked with international sports streaming specialist NeuLion to bring the service to life, and Way says that the team on this side "took a hands-off" approach when it came to pulling everything together.
Given that Sky hasn't promoted Fan Pass until now, the fact that it has emerged while we're still waiting for Neon is somewhat surprising.
"Fan Pass has been quite a simple development, whereas Neon is more complex," says Way.
Way says that Sky has had to build a platform from the ground up to house all the content for Neon, making its build more challenging than that for Fan Pass, which could rest on the digital infrastructure created by NeuLion.
Way adds that she is currently trialling Neon and the system is running smoothly, but she says that Sky wants to ensure that the interface works as well as possible before it becomes available to the public, given that media and customer scrutiny will be inevitable.
Fan Pass will first start streaming with the kick off of the Super Rugby on 13 February, but users can already purchase packages on the site. The site provides one-week, one-month or season-long options, with prices ranging from $19.90 for a week of NRL to $299 for season of any of the available sports.
These prices have already been criticised by contributors on the Geek Zone platform, who lambasted the platform for being too expensive.
Although the pricing might seem high for a single sport, it will be beneficial to selective fans who might only be interested in paying for one sport rather than forking out the monthly subscription for the full Sky Sport package. And Way has also defended the price points, saying that securing rights for these sporting events are expensive. She did however concede that "the jury's still out on whether it [Fan Pass] will be profitable or break even."
The responsibility to ensure that Fan Pass does become profitable has been placed in the hands of newly appointed general manager Cuan Gray, who has over the last 18 months served as the head of Sky’s online DVD rental service Fatso and before that as a business manager for four years.
Way says that shifting Gray from Fatso should not be understood as Sky pulling the plug on Fatso.
"We are all actually surprised by how long Fatso has kept going; it still has tens of thousands of customers."
Way also says that Gray's ability to keep Fatso moving along despite the downward trajectory of the DVD industry stood as testament to his talent.