Pay TV operator Sky is focused on meeting the needs of customers now, as well as anticipating what they will be looking for in the future. With that in mind, it is investing in start-ups that can supply new forms of content and new means to deliver its content to subscribers.

One area that Sky is exploring is short-form video, forging alliances with established digital studios and startups.

One recent example of the latter is its investment in Whistle Sports, which produces youth-focused short-form content around sport. Its content has a very different editorial style to Sky’s own sports coverage — it’s far more irreverent, says Emma Lloyd, director of corporate business development.

Sky has engaged start-up Pluto.TV, in which it also has a stake, to curate short-form content from more than 20 multichannel networks.

“The insight we get from working with them is understanding how short-form content can be part of a lean-back sofa experience for our customers,” Lloyd says. “They are helping us curate playlists for our new online video service on Sky Q.”

Two years ago Sky started to explore the creation of virtual reality content through an investment in Silicon Valley startup Jaunt.

Sky recently launched an inhouse VR production unit, with some of it earliest films being based around Formula One racing and boxing.

“It’s an opportunity to learn about what is possible with VR from a very early stage and position us at the forefront of that innovation and how to tell stories while immersing the viewer,” Lloyd says.

Sky is also partnering with tech giants such as Facebook, working with it to develop a means by which its customers can view their Facebook photos on the main TV screen. “These kind of things are just the start of how we can integrate innovative startup and tech giant technology right into the heart of Sky’s product suite,” Lloyd says.

Another area of interest is over-the-top distribution. Sky’s online streaming platform Now TV allows it to sell its content to new segments of the market in its existing territories as well provide a means to enter territories when it chooses to do so.

It recently has invested in two streaming platforms, Iflix, which targets Southeast Asia, and FuboTV, which focuses on soccer. FuboTV operates only in the U.S., but intends to roll out its service globally.

“For us, it is a two-way learning opportunity, where, for example, FuboTV is looking to take their proposition, which is aggregating sports networks over the top, to territories where that opportunity exists. We have a hugely successful sports broadcasting business here, so we are
able to give them opportunities to learn from us as well.”

Sky has also invested in technology companies that are helping it deliver content to customers in different ways. One example is its backing for streaming service provider Roku, which has helped it develop its Now TV box, allowing viewers to access streamed content on their main TV screens.