Sky Adding Broadcaster-Branded VOD Services From BBC And ITV

The UK’s leading pay-TV provider BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) is taking a significant step to improve its PVR box’s new IP on-demand TV service by adding catch-up TV services from the BBC and ITV.

After months of negotiating, which paidContent reported on in August, BBC iPlayer and ITV (LSE: ITV) Player will be added to the Sky+ box’s Anytime+ service later this year.

But Sky, which had wanted to syndicate the broadcasters’ shows and not their branded services, has softened on its determination to own the customer experience

Both the BBC and ITV services will be explicitly branded “iPlayer” and “ITV Player”, will live in their own areas with distinct looks and feels, and editorial control for their front pages will rest with the broadcasters. They will look more like their equivalent web products than like Sky’s typical system of blue menus.

Previously, Sky customers had to actively record BBC and ITV shows using their Sky+ PVR. The Sky Anytime, pseudo-VOD service had also pushed a selection of shows to PVR overnight. Now customers will get access to most BBC and ITV shows from the last seven days, and often longer. Sky has also signed a deal for ITV archive shows.

Such services have fast become a baseline necessity for any modern TV service. Virgin Media’s rival pay-TV service had both iPlayer and ITV Player with its TiVo (NSDQ: TIVO) and previous boxes. Smart TVs are shipping with these services already integrated and interim internet TV boxes like Roku are all shooting for similar.

The risk was that customers would start to see greater VOD value in free-TV options like smart TVs than on pay-TV services like Sky.

It was important that, ahead of Tuesday’s Q4 earnings statement, Sky shows investment analysts it has a coherent VOD strategy.

Currently, Anytime+, which lets viewers watch shows by plugging a broadband Ethernet cable in to their PVR tuner box or by buying a WiFi dongle, includes on-demand shows from MTV, Discovery, FX, History, Disney (NYSE: DIS), UK TV and National Geographic Channel, as well as Sky’s own-brand channels.

Channel 4’s 4oD, Channel Five’s Demand Five and S4C’s S4/Clic VOD services are as yet absent from Anytime+.

Meanwhile, Sky is dropping its requirement that Anytime+ viewers must have a Sky broadband connection.

Anytime+ is now used by 1.2 million Sky customers, but Sky wants to hike that to five million.