Sky Player Broadband TV Service to Be Available on Windows Media Center on Windows 7 in the UK

--Sky Poker Interactive TV Service to Reward Winner of its 200 Millionth Hand

BSkyB and Microsoft announced Wednesday that the Sky Player broadband video service will be added in the UK to Windows Media Center in Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system, enabling live and on-demand over-the-top viewing of Sky's pay-TV content, including movies, sports coverage, entertainment and children's programming and more. Earlier this year, the companies announced a deal to offer Sky Player on the Xbox 360 (see the article published on May 29th): that service is slated to launch October 27th.

Sky TV customers with Windows 7 PC's who subscribe to the company's Sky Multiroom or Sky Broadband Unlimited offerings will be able to access live channels on Sky Player at no extra charge; other Sky TV customers will be able to access them for £5 per month; and non-Sky TV customers will be able to select from a number of different monthly subscription packages, Sky says (note: Sky Player also offers a small amount of content free-of-charge). According to the companies, their collaboration sees them launching a "new desktop gadget" for Sky Player, and will enable users to browse program galleries or search for programming via keywords. "The way UK consumers interact with TV is changing," Ashley Highfield, managing director and VP of consumer and online at Microsoft UK, said in a prepared statement. "Audiences now want to consume great-quality TV anywhere and at any time and are demanding a lot more from their TV experience. With the launch of Windows 7 and through partners such as Sky, we are making new things possible and delivering TV to British viewers the way they want it." Added BSkyB's director of on-demand, Griff Parry: "We are committed to giving our customers more choice and flexibility in how they access Sky content. Sky Player in Windows 7 offers yet another innovative and attractive way through which to access a wide range of live and on-demand TV. Whether it's an existing customer looking to get even more from their Sky subscription, or someone connecting with Sky for the first time through their PC, everyone can enjoy a high-quality online TV experience through Windows 7."

Sky Player currently has 24 live streaming TV channels and a VOD library that is billed as offering 500 movies and "thousands" of programs. In order to access it, non-Sky TV customers need to sign up for a £15-per-month subscription to the Sky Player Base Entertainment Pack; they can then upgrade their subscription to add Sky Sports 1, 2 and 3, ESPN and Sky Movie Channels. According to Microsoft, the addition of an inexpensive TV tuner enables Windows 7 to function like a DVR. Other features include a new, integrated program guide that lists broadcast and broadband TV channels, and keyword search and "Turbo Scroll," which Microsoft says enables users to look for shows up to two weeks in advance.

In other Sky news: the company's Sky Poker service (available via interactive TV on Sky channel 865 and online at is holding a promotion to mark the 200 millionth hand dealt on the service. According to the company, the winner of the 200 millionth hand will either win 200 times the big blind as a cash bonus if the hand is dealt on a cash table, or 200 times the tournament entry fee if they are playing a multi-table or "sit n' go" tournament. The winner will also receive £200 in their Sky Poker account, a seat in the first leg of the Sky Poker Tour (held in Manchester on November 7th), a free seat to the Sky Poker Bounty Hunter tournament, a free seat to the Sunday Open and a free seat to the Sky Poker Primo tournament, the company says. In addition, all other players at the table who are dealt hole cards at the start of the hand will be awarded £200 each. "We are proud that, after having launched in 2007, we are about to deal our 200 millionth hand," Des Duffy, head of poker at Sky Poker, said in a prepared statement. "There are some great stories in all these hands that have been played, but what we feel is important is that we have provided an accessible, educational and entertaining environment for people to enjoy playing poker. We look forward to that continuing for another 200 million hands and beyond."