New Sky+ box features keep Sky Movies up with the stream
James R | On 20, Aug 2015
Sky has rolled out a range of new updates for its set top boxes in an attempt to keep up with streaming rivals.
Sky launched its Sky+ boxes years before Netflix and Amazon Prime came along, but the broadcaster has found itself starting to fall behind the increasingly popular VOD services, not just in terms of pricing (Sky requires customers to lock themselves into a 12-month contract rather than Netflix and Amazon’s monthly drop-in-drop-out system) but in terms of technology. Netflix has significantly overhauled its user interface in the past year, while Amazon has also updated its own video player. Even BBC iPlayer has improved its service, most recently by introducing the ability to watch live programmes from the beginning on connected TVs.
Now, Sky is hitting back. Today’s update – its third software upgrade this year – adds a range of new features focused on bolstering its Sky Movies package. Like iPlayer and Netflix, Sky’s focus is on making its service more personalised: now, customers will see recommendations based on their TV recordings via a “More Like This” button, and can also create a Watchlist of movies they want to enjoy at a later date.
Missing the beginning of a blockbuster is also solved through Sky’s new “Watch from Start” feature, which allows customers to download a film to watch from the beginning rather than stick to the Sky Movies linear TV schedule. Sky will also soon add RottenTomatoes.com scores to its listings.
Luke Bradley-Jones, Sky’s Director of TV Products, said: “This is just the latest in a series of enhancements we’re rolling out every few months to make sure Sky+ continues to make TV watching a brilliant experience in homes up and down the country.”
Bradley-Jones says that there will be more updates this year and in 2016, as Sky continues to pick up its development pace. In a market where cord-cutting services such as Netflix allow customers to access TV and movies without contracts, Sky’s streaming service (which, thanks to its boxes’ hard drives, combines the convenience of online viewing and pre-recorded catch-up) needs to be as attractive as possible to convince customers to commit to a year of bills. Indeed, Sky’s own cord-cutting VOD service, NOW, which offers contract-free access to TV shows and movies, has enjoyed strong growth in the past year. On-demand activity among Sky customers, though, is also on the up, with views on Sky Movies up 42 per cent year-on-year.
Other recent updates to Sky+ include the introduction of a new “Kids” tile to the homepage to highlight its recent addition of 4,000 episodes of kids’ shows, as well as refresh of the Sky+ TV guide. Another area that is vital for customers in a connected ease is accessibility for visually impaired users: Sky continues to promise that by summer 2016, customers will be able to benefit from subtitles when watching “the most popular and best” Sky content on demand.