Sky brings battle to UPC and Netflix with new On Demand service for Irish TV homes

16 Oct 2012

Kathryn Lacey and Mark Anderson from Sky ... and a contortionist, obviously

Sky has launched a new On Demand service in a move that will bring considerable competition to players like UPC and Netflix in the Irish market. The new interactive service will deliver thousands of hours of TV boxsets, sports and documentaries as well as thousands of movies direct to households via the internet.

The new On Demand service consists of a wireless device about the size of an Apple TV box that connects with Sky+ HD boxes and which connects to the internet either via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

The On Demand service opens users up to 50 channels of TV content, including Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Discovery and Nat Geo Wild.

The service also provides access to Sky Movies and Sky Sports content.

Once connected, the electronic programme guide presents four key sections: Showcase, TV Library, Movies and Sky Store.

In a move that will be a direct affront to both UPC and Netflix, On Demand will include access to Sky Store, which comprises 1,000 movies to rent from just €1.49 per download.

Anytime will be replaced by Showcase which provides a selection of the week’s best TV on demand.

The TV Library will include access to 20 to 30 boxsets such as Modern Family, Mad Men and much more.

The Movies section will allow users to instantaneously get more than 500 movies on demand. New releases will be available at least a year before competing TV or streaming services.

Kathryn Lacey, head of Sky+ and On Demand, explained that the small wireless/Ethernet device will be available from today for €12.99 and intelligently sets the service up within the EPG.

Sky On Demand demo

In a demo seen by Sky has begun editorialising content along specific themes. For example under Movies, to coincide with the release of the latest James Bond movie Skyfall, every Bond movie in existence was gathered for users and a forthcoming Harry Potter movie collection is planned for Sky users.

Lacey indicated that the way the new system works movies or TV content will only play once there’s a guarantee that the content has downloaded sufficiently to allow users to enjoy uninterrupted programming.

She said that the system will work with most broadband services, typically at around a minimum of 2Mbps.

Lacey said that the newly manufactured 2-terabyte Sky+ set top box is capable of storing 350 HD hours of video content, which equates to 1,180 hours of standard definition content.

Sky also demoed some of the new apps and services available to coincide with the launch of On Demand. Sky’s marketing manager for emerging products Tamara Holland-Martin showed how the Sky iPad app can function as a remote control for Sky+ boxes today, allowing users to also swipe via the iPad to change channel or tap to pause the TV. Users will also be able to browse their recordings in the planner via the iPad without interrupting what they are watching on the TV.

Holland-Martin also demonstrated how Sky’s acquisition of Zeebox is resulting in second screen experiences around most programmes, including recent sporting events like the Ryder Cup and Formula 1 racing.

“The introduction of On Demand gives our customers access to a huge amount of additional content and puts them firmly in control of what they want to watch, when they want it, at no extra monthly cost,” explained Mark Anderson, director of sales and marketing at Sky Ireland.

“It adds to the whole raft of other product and content innovations from Sky in recent years all designed to give our customers the best quality viewing experience possible,” Anderson said.

In recent months Sky announced 900 jobs as part of its plan to enter the Irish broadband market.

Anderson confirmed that the new operation will be located at Burlington Plaza in Dublin 2 and that 100 people have so far been hired and are in training.

The headcount will have reached 300 people by February, he said.

He said the company’s alliance with BT will give it 90pc coverage of the Irish residential broadband market.

The company will announce when it will begin offering services in the coming weeks.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years