SkyTV, one of New Zealand's biggest broadcasters, has followed in TVNZ’s footsteps by launching SkyGo, an iOS app that enables Sky subscribers to stream content on compatible laptops, mobiles or tablets.
The new app has been marketed by the Sky website as a tool that ensures subscribers can watch their favourite shows on ten selected channels no matter where they are, free of charge.
And this move makes sense given that recent viewership trends indicate that audiences are moving away from the traditional broadcasting format in favour of watching programmes through mediums that don’t necessarily involve a couch in a living room.
“More than 70 per cent of our customers have a smartphone or tablet and that number continues to grow rapidly. [They] have told us they’d like mobile access to Sky content beyond their living rooms so we’re delighted to be bringing it to their handbags, backpacks and pockets,” says Sky Senior Product Manager Alex Winter.
For now, the SkyGo app only gives users access Sport 1, 2, 3 and 4, Movies Premiere, BBC World News, National Geographic, E!, UKTV and Cartoon Network, but the broadcaster said that it will add to this lineup in the near future.
Having mobile access to this range of channels will undoubtedly be a hit with sports fans, who will no longer have to miss key sections of a game on account of being away from the television, but it will do little to appease those who feel frustrated by the restrictions imposed by scheduled broadcasting.
Those who want to catch their favourite Sky shows outside of standard scheduling times will have to continue relying on the Sky website and SkyGo extra until June next year, when Sky has announced plans to extend the app to include an on-demand element.
“The next phase of this project will see video on demand and further live streamed channels added to the app, meaning our customers will be able to access even more of our premium content via their mobile devices,” says Winter
Sky's eagerness to extend the app could come down to the success of its on-demand viewing platform MySky, which has enjoyed decent growth and is often posited as a reason behind the continued profitability of the broadcaster.
But Sky's success in terms on-demand streaming numbers is by no means unique in New Zealand. Earlier this year, TVNZ released an ondemand app for iOS that allows viewers to watch content on the go. Within the first six months of its release, the app had been downloaded 323,000 times and it had accrued more than six million views.
Adding further evidence of the growing prevalence of mobile viewers is a recent Ray Morgan poll that showed that approximately 1.2 million Australians (six percent of the population) no longer watch live broadcast TV, preferring instead to stream content when it suits them.
This trend also seems to be evident on this side of the ditch, with TVNZ's recent statistics showing strong growth of mobile audiences.
Megan Richards, TVNZ Communication Manager, says that in the last two months mobile devices have made up a total of 38 percent of all content streamed. “The takeup of mobile device streaming has been quite spectacular. For the first month following the introduction of the App on iOS, there was a 70% increase year on year.”
“September, October and November have been record months for us on Ondemand, with more than one million streams across all platforms. November finished with more than 4.3 million streams, which is an increase of 109% over the same month last year,” she adds.
While these results are impressive, Sky's situation is complicated because it is based on a subscriber model, which could lend itself to abuse in the mobile world.
Since the app can be used on two mobile devices with the same password at the same time, it significantly increases the likelihood of account detail sharing.
In August, Sky’s head of corporate comms Kirsty Way told StopPress that the broadcaster is aware that people are using the online-based service iSky unfairly and they were looking for “ways to close this loophole.”
If anything, the new app would, in theory, open up the loophole further by making it easier for Sky members to share their details with friends and family members. And this problem is exacerbated by the recent increase of broadband caps, which means that viewers can download more content without incurring any additional charges from service providers. To counter this problem, Sky has limited the number mobile devices that can be registered via the app on a single account to two.
But this still leaves a question mark regarding the longevity of multiroom, in the sense that an HDMI cable can now be used to connect a mobile device to a television, thereby removing the need to pay the subscription fees for an additional decoder.