HOW SKY’S DECODING YOUR TELLY
The broadcaster knows what you’re watching and they’ve got plans to turn that knowledge into power, writes Tom Pullar-Strecker.
PREPARE to be a bit spooked by Sky Television next year when it suddenly seems to get a sixth sense about what programmes you want to watch.
For the past year, Sky has been building up a picture of the viewing habits of the 300,000 households that have a Sky television set-top box that is connected to the internet, storing details of what those customers watch and when.
Next year, Sky will upgrade its set-top boxes with a much more sophisticated menu that will recommend what viewers might want to watch next.
Because it will have two years of information on many households, it won’t be making blind guesses.
But there will be limitations to its recommendation engine, given it has no way of knowing for sure whether it is mum, dad or the kids who have turned on the TV.
Sky may also choose to ignore some past viewing choices so it doesn’t risk recommending a string of R18 shows to the unsuspecting, Sky’s chief product and technology officer, Julian Wheeler, explains.
‘‘We will make sure we safeguard the customer experience for all members of the household,’’ he says.
‘‘Customers are sharing with us, or through other things they do online, an enormous amount of data and they don’t always know what is being done with that. We think we have a responsibility to make sure we treat customer data with the utmost respect and security.’’
Another option Sky may look at is letting people create personal profiles.
The recommendation engine is just one way in which is Sky is re-engineering its business for a future in which it becomes a ‘‘curator’’ of content, rather than the sole source of pay television.
Wheeler says the goal is for Sky to become ‘‘a content navigator’’ rather than the owner of all-and-sundry content, helping customers who might otherwise be lost in a swamp of competing TV offerings, not knowing what’s on when, or where. ‘‘Otherwise it is a bit like reading an extremely long menu – you just get too tired.’’
The new approach to marketing its wares will also see Sky launch a range of lower-cost pay-TV services. ‘‘We are looking at how we can more flexibly create the product propositions of the future,’’ Wheeler explains.
‘‘These will range from a premium price to low cost, from ‘big bundles’ to targeted bundles, from most linear TV offerings to video on demand, from the bigscreen ‘lean back’ experiences to mobile devices.’’
The goal is to stop, or at least slow, the rot that has seen tens of thousands quit its satellite service over the past 18 months.
The next cab off the rank is likely to be a version of Sky’s Fan Pass online sports service, which will only play on mobile devices and which Sky chief executive John Fellet has hinted could cost about $15 to $20 a month.
MacFarlane says the mobile sports should be ready in two or three months, though pricing has not yet been set.
Also in the pipeline is an Android media player from Sky that will look a bit like an icehockey puck, and will let customers access Sky and other internet television and video services such as Netflix and YouTube without requiring a set-top box.
‘‘We are in conversations with our terrestrial partners as well, such as Television New Zealand and MediaWorks,’’ Wheeler says. ‘‘Customers will also be able to download apps, so there will be a lot more flexibility for them to create
‘ Customers are sharing ... an enormous amount of data and they don’t always know what is being done with that.’ JULIAN WHEELER , LEFT