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.

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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