Interview: Griff Parry, BSkyB’s director of video-on-demand: Sky Player growing, may eye Canvas

BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) is adding six more live streaming channels to the Sky Player online pay TV platform it relaunched in December. With the addition of UKTV’s Eden and GOLD, National Geographic Wild and Sky’s own Sky Real Lives and Sky Movies Screen 1 and 2, Sky Player is now becoming an internet counterpart to the premium satellite offering that has been Sky’s core for the last 20 years. On-demand director Griff Parry told paidContent:UK Sky’s plans for the future…

The strategy is twofold: First, Sky Player is now untethered from the satellite proposition – meaning new, online-only customers can join despite not having a dish on their home. Second, nevermind Slingbox; for those who are Sky satellite subscribers, Sky Player is all about place-shifting – free to those who also take broadband or multiroom, the service’s 18 live channels are available not just in rooms beyond the lounge, but anywhere there is an internet connection; there’s also VOD content from across 23 TV channels, too.

“Long-term, by nature Sky is a platform operator, an aggregator and a retailer – what we’re trying to do with Sky Player is broadly replicate the proposition you would get on a set-top box. We’re reaffirming ourselves as the natural aggregator of TV, online.”

From PC back to TV, and beyond: Though Sky Player is currently available only on computer screens, the idea is to do “Sky TV to devices that aren’t (just) set-top boxes”: “As we enhance Sky Player, we will expand it to devices linked to TVs. The range of devices will extended over time, just as iPlayer has extended…” Just like the BBC’s player, Sky’s roadmap includes games consoles and mobile – “both are definitely in our plans”.

Sky already has a relationship with Sony (NYSE: SNE) to offer shows to PSP handhelds via the Go!View brand, so one can at least imagine Sky Player being delivered to Playstation 3, though this wasn’t confirmed. The satcaster already offers live channels via mobile operators.

To IPTV, under Canvas?: Parry also said Sky Player could end up also being available on the next generation of IPTV set-top boxes. Hypothetically, BT (NYSE: BT) Vision would seem an obvious contender, but what are Sky’s views on the BBC’s proposed Project Canvas open IPTV platform… ? Whilst, on the face of it, Sky’s aim to migrate its status as pay-TV gatekeeper in to new platforms seems to run counter the BBC’s hope to offer a free alternative via Canvas, Parry said: “It could potentially be quite an interesting development for us on the Sky Player side.”

He said Sky Player should be platform-agnostic but, with the Canvas proposal only published a week ago, stressed it’s early days: “It’s not clear to anyone really what Canvas is – we’re looking for a degree of openness and information. We have quite exacting standards with regard to user experience.” On the other side, Sky Player itself already offers iPlayer access, though via web links and not direct video content.

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