Sky Rides Another VOD Box; FetchTV First Of Many, Xbox On Oct 27

Sky’s live and catch-up TV service over Xbox Live will go live in two weeks’ time – and will be the first of many..

The satcaster’s VOD director Griff Parry told Screen Digest’s Future of Online Media Distribution seminar on Wednesday the company wasn’t just sticking, defensively, to its core satellite platform: “What’s happening is, Sky TV is becoming platform-agnostic. We see the opportunity of IPTV TV as exciting.

“The Xbox launch, which will be on October 27, will be the first significant launch – it won’t stop there. We’ll make an announcement tomorrow morning about a further device, and there will be more in future.”

Sky will on Thursday announce a deal that places Sky Player – the brand name for its on-demand TV catch-up and live broadcasts – on set-top boxes made by IP Vision. The company’s FetchTV box is a £219 Freeview+ box, retailed through John Lewis, that, as well as a built-in PVR, offers BBC iPlayer shows and VOD from Channel 4, Sky Sports News, Discovery Channel and CNN.

(Update: The IP Vision deal was confirmed by Sky on Thursday morning).

Opening up its programming to boxes other than its own is a rare, brave and critical step for Sky, whose satellite delivery channel limits its TV VOD capability to pre-selecting shows on viewers’ behalf, pushed to a portion of their Sky+ PVRs overnight.

Sky is planning to wire its own true pull-VOD features up to the Ethernet ports on the back of its own Sky HD boxes next year, but making that a success will require a costly nationwide box upgrade. So Sky is bolstering its chances via other folks’ boxes. The IP Vision deal will hardly give it widespread extra VOD clout, but is another symbolic step from an operator that prefers to be its own gatekeeper.

The Xbox deal includes a number of innovative features like interacting with friends using audio and avatars during live football matches. Prices aren’t yet clear, but will require a Sky subscription.

For the next deal, eyes will turn toward Playstation 3, which iPlayer is making good use of through a recently upgraded player, and whose manfuacturer Sony (NYSE: SNE) already has a PSP carriage deal with Sky.