iPlayer and ITV Player reach for the Sky

Joseph O'Halloran ©RapidTVNews | 31-01-2012

In an act of arch-pragmatism, Sky has ended its enmity with arch rival the BBC to offer the corporation’s iPlayer on its Sky Anytime+ VOD platform.

The move is even being seen as leading analysts as providing potential tipping point where the iPlayer becomes predominantly a service viewed on TVs—through Sky and cable MSO Virgin Media— rather than PCs.
Already 1.2 million Sky Broadband homes use the service and the enhancement, which also includes the addition of the ITV Player, will see Sky Anytime+ made available to all Sky+HD homes with an internet connection, across all broadband providers, meaning that it will be accessible to more than 5 million homes in the UK.
The beefed-up Sky Anytime+ will come at no extra charge and will see content from existing partner channels such as MTV, Discovery, FX, History, Disney, UK TV and National Geographic Channel complemented by programmes from the ITV archive, including popular shows such as Prime Suspect, Lewis and Cold Feet.
It is though the iPlayer component of the deal that is hugely significant and a huge win-win for both parties. Archive BBC content—such as Doctor Who, Outnumbered and Top Gearhas already been available on Sky Anytime+ through Sky’s existing deal with UK TV.
Once programmes from the iPlayer are made available later in 2012, the BBC will inevitably see even further traction for its over the top (OTT) catch-up TV service that for 2011 hit a high of 1.94 billion TV and radio programme requests across all platforms for the year with 187 million requests for TV and radio programmes across all platforms in December 2011 alone.
The move is hugely strategic and is a shot across the bow of the recently launched Netflix UK services, said Nick Thomas, Principal Analyst for TV and Digital Media at Informa Telecoms & Media analysing the deal. He commented: “[The] news is not without irony, given the steady stream of anti-BBC spin we’ve heard from the pay-TV operator… But Sky has always been a deeply pragmatic company, and the nominal threats from new OTT providers such as Netflix have caused it to put aside its ideological differences with its old. The shows available on iPlayer (and on ITV online –also part of the Sky deal and home to some of the UK’s TV ‘Crown Jewels’ such as Coronation Street and Downton Abbey) represent the ‘short head’ of on-demand TV content, the sort of shows users watch in large numbers within 24 hours of transmission. These are not only the most desirable shows, they are free. For a service such as Netflix, based on delivering ‘long tail’ TV content for an additional monthly fee, business just got a little tougher.”