Comcast-owned British broadcaster Sky has unveiled Sky Glass, a new streaming television and “innovation platform.”
The almost entirely wireless television is a large screen that can be installed swiftly and only requires an Internet connection to operate — dispensing with the need for a satellite dish or cable box.
The service will amalgamate shows and films from each different streaming service in one place, allowing users to search by title or category without having to log into each one separately, including Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Sky’s own Now service, among others. It will even allow users to seamlessly watch shows where seasons are split between different streaming services due to licensing constraints.
“[This is] Sky embracing aggregation as a strategy,” said Sky CEO Dana Strong during a press event for the launch on Thursday morning in London, U.K.
At the moment, the television will only be available to purchase with a Sky network package, totalling £39 ($53) per month for the smallest screen, which breaks down as £13 ($17.60) per month for the screen and £26 ($35) for the Sky carriage package (which includes traditional cable networks such as Niceklodeon, Dave and E!). The television is also available to purchase outright (in a similar way consumers can choose whether to purchase cell phones on a monthly plan or a higher one-off fee).
Users will, however, have to pay for their own subscriptions to each streamer, except where they purchase a Sky package that includes Netflix.
“We believe this is the smartest TV available,” said Strong during the presentation for the new product, where she was joined by Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts.
“The big idea was to reimagine television and Sky’s role in the living room,” said Roberts. “Comcast has been in the television business for about 60 years and there have been a few big moments with the potential to be transformative and you know what? This could well be one of them.”
“Everything you see here is powered by a remarkably intelligent and flexible platform that makes finding what you love effortless,” he added.
The screen contains Dolby Atmos sound and there are three-sized screens available ranging from 43-65 inches and in a variety of colors.
It is due to launch Oct. 18 in the U.K. with more markets to follow in 2022.
In response to Variety‘s question about how difficult it was to sign streaming platforms up to the service, Strong said: “We have had every major content provider into the offices to see this product and we’ve been blown away by their response, by how supportive they’ve been, how excited they are about it. It’s actually given us a lot of conviction that we’re on the right path because you’ve got every leader from major organizations coming through and walking away with a smile on their face.”
“Getting them on board, we already have IP distribution deals with most every provider so it was an amendment to deals as opposed to a complete re-cast. But we have re-done all four of our four public service broadcaster deals because that was in a different category. […] They really like the way we’re representing their content, how we’re representing their brands and how we’ve elevated them on the platform. And we’ve refreshed our deals with almost everybody else. It’s been a very busy 9 months.”
In a follow-up question, Variety asked whether streamers were worried about brand dilution of their own platforms, particularly given users would be able to look for content by title via one search bar?
“In the abstract they were worried about that,” Strong acknowledged. “When they came in and saw the product and saw how we were representing it they really, really liked what we were doing and understood then that we plan on giving them very clear brand attribution, we have no intent of anything but celebrating the fact it’s [say] a piece of BBC content. People are loyal to their content brands and we want to make sure we help connect you to the content brand not stand between you and so I think once they appreciated that that was our goal, it was pretty smooth sailing.”
And with DCMS considering introducing more robust direction around prominence of public service broadcasters on audio-visual hardware such as televisions and remote controls, was that a consideration when designing the TV, Variety asked? “We’ve done all of these through commercial relationships with public service broadcasters and we’ve been very open with DCMS to share with them that we’ve been able to achieve that and that the public service broadcasters are happy with this resolution,” said Strong.
The new hardware launch is the latest strike in the streaming wars battle. With Sky and WarnerMedia’s lucrative deal for HBO content believed to be coming to an end in 2025 — at which point it’s likely HBO Max will launch in the U.K. — Sky Glass will ensure audiences have a reason to stick with Sky even if much of its Sky Atlantic content transitions over.
“It’s funny, I feel this is all offense,” said Strong in response to a question as to whether Sky Glass was a “defensive” play against the streaming wars by moving into infrastructure and assets rather than competing directly with the streaming giants such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. “This is not looking over our shoulder at all but looking forward. This is about really setting the standard for the next phase of innovation.
The technology has also allowed Sky to replicate its traditional cable and satellite carriage deals in a new era in which streaming is overtaking traditional pay-TV viewing; the Sky Glass team had to strike deals with each individual streamer — from Channel 4’s All4 to Netflix — that is represented on their new platform.
Sky Glass has already signed up its first syndication partner with Australia’s Foxtel.