An Operators Reality
A review of the past several months shows operators implementing these and other strategies. Several weeks after Netflix’s January 2012 launch in the United Kingdom, BSkyB announced plans to launch an enhanced IP-delivered video service that would be available widely over any broadband connection (Sky has its own fiber and copper-based network) to households that do not subscribe to pay-TV. Sky also expanded the reach of its multi-screen Sky Go app for existing subscribers to Android devices.
At CES2012, Dish Network launched its 2 TB Hopper and Joey HD DVR home networking system. While not explicitly multi-screen, the central DVR Joey device has optional Sling Adapter capability. Dish also refreshed its Remote Access app for iPad with on-demand access to its content library and was offering three free months of Blockbuster content to consumers who took the new DVR. Dish also announced a partnership with ViaSat for faster-than-DSL satellite broadband services.
Last October, DirecTV updated its Apple iPad app with live streaming options. It also soft-launched a competitor to Sling, dubbed Nomad, that enables a consumer to transfer DVR recordings initially to select IP devices, with more to come. Continuing to fill its broadband services gap by way of partnerships, in November DirecTV signed a three-year extension to its co-marketing agreement with AT&T.
Each of these operators has its own approach to embracing the opportunity of second and third screens. But it is interesting to note the similarities: they all have apps that enable secure streaming to Apple and Android devices, they all have some sort of broadband strategy, and they all offer enhanced customer premise equipment (CPE).
The case of Sky is perhaps unique. “Sky is one of the most innovative operators in the world, period,” says Sappington. Like other European operators, it was early to deploy broadband-connected set-tops. In the case of its planned OTT service, Sky is leveraging its content rights to compete with Netflix and domestic rivals YouView and LoveFilm. Operating its own satellite and terrestrial broadband network, Sky also must serve multiple versions of the same content, branded for separate distribution channels and encoded to end-device specifications. Doing so efficiently poses challenges of it own.
At CES, Dish showcased its DVR system, with catch-up TV service that automatically records three hours of prime time TV nightly for eight days running. But it also continues to offer its customers place-shifting Sling technology, mobile apps and a beefed-up repository of on-demand content. “Dish has increased its server capacity in an effort to deliver programming from both satellite and via the Internet, giving consumers thousands of movie and family shows to watch on demand,” says Vivek Khemka, vice president of consumer technology, Dish Network.
DirecTV also has been in evolution mode for several years. It beta-launched its DirecTV-to-PC application in November 2008. Its reseller deals with AT&T and Verizon enable it to market the kind of broadband connectivity that customers would need for service such as Wi-Fi or 3G/4G-enabled tablet viewing. And while its Nomad was late to the game and has generated negative comments on some user groups, it does provide another way for subscribers to move content around.