SKY skips the satellite dish; who’s next?

SKY TV logoAlthough this is international news, it also has ramifications for the US. Europe’s Sky satellite television service is going to offer its full range of channels via streaming. Not just a skinny bundle, but all of its offerings. Starting in Italy, then Austria, and later the UK, Sky subscribers will no longer need to have a satellite dish.

Numerous MVPDs have experimented with streaming offerings. in the US. While most notable of these is DISH’s Sling TV, these have typically been low-end or incomplete offerings that do not replicate the standard MVPD levels of service (for various reasons including cost and streaming rights). But this move by Sky – albeit in a different international market and regulatory environment – is a harbinger of the future.

It’s hard to conjure up a thought experiment that doesn’t point to all video content being delivered via the internet in the not too distant future. Although Sky is still mandating the use of its set-top boxes, MVPDs could likely completely do away with them and just focus on bundling and delivering internet and content.

Of course, this will cause even more disruption than we’ve already seen. Traditional MVPDs will try to transition to a new model where revenue streams from STB and remote control rentals are important. But the savings from not having to maintain and manage several makes and generations of STBs might make the financials more tolerable.

Consumers could get rid of one of the boxes connected to their sets. Satellite viewers wouldn’t be subject to rain or weather interruptions. And, in theory, the local cable monopolies become extinct since delivery by internet means regional MVPDs can become vMVPDs everywhere. Finally consumers may see strong competition for their pay TV dollar. We may see an outcome where we have some firms with cheap bundles competing against premium-priced bundles with superior interfaces. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Polishing the crystal ball

In 2004, I spoke at the NAB’s Futures conference and made the somewhat accurate prediction that in 15-20 years’ time we’d be watching TV just by Googling each program. I missed the detail that we’d actually be saying “Hey Google” or “Hi Alexa” first, but close enough. It may be still another five years before all the rights and technical hurdles are crossed, but I think this Sky move could signal the final set of nails in the traditional MVPD coffin before we move to an all streaming, 5G-enabled video paradise.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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