Sky Unveils Sky Anytime+ Broadband VOD Service, Accessible via Sky+ HD Set-Tops

--Netgem Powers Telstra's New Hybrid Broadcast/Broadband T-Box
--Report: Microsoft to Announce Launch of Subscription-Based Version of Hulu on Xbox Live at E3
--Report: Project Canvas to Be Branded as "YouView"
--Apple's Jobs: Subsidized Set-Top Boxes Undermine TV Innovation

UK satellite-TV provider, BSkyB, on Wednesday unveiled a new Internet-based VOD service, called Sky Anytime+, that will be accessible in the living room via the Ethernet connection in the company's existing Sky+ HD set-top boxes--though the new service's content will initially only be available in SD. In order to access the service, which will be enabled by an over-the-air software download to Sky's HD set-tops later this year, Sky customers will also have to have a broadband account with the company--though the company says that it hopes to eventually make the service accessible via third-party ISP's. Customers who do not want to use Ethernet to connect their set-top to the Internet will be able to purchase a companion WiFi device, Sky says.

According to Sky, Sky Anytime+'s line-up of on-demand movies and TV episodes--which will be available to customers in accordance with their specific Sky programming package subscriptions (note: according to Sky, the service will offer over 500 movies and several hundred hours of TV episodes; and the company says that it is in talks with the BBC and other UK terrestrial broadcasters to offer their content through the service)--will be listed in a special section of the Sky EPG that will feature a VOD-friendly interface that incorporates search functionality and that will allow customers to view images and trailers (note: the EPG section will also feature content from Sky's push-VOD service, Sky Anytime, which supports HD). Users with a 2MB broadband connection will be able to begin watching a feature film within around a minute, with the entire download taking half an hour or so, the company says (note: according to Sky, customers will also be able to download content when their set-top is in standby mode). The service will also allow customers to queue and prioritize downloads and store them on their set-top for later viewing.

In other OTT news:

  • Paris-based Netgem contacted [itvt] Wednesday to let us know that it has developed a set-top box called the T-Box for Australian telco, Telstra. The AUS$299 DVR-enabled box enables Telstra to offer a hybrid broadcast/broadband service that provides, among other things, free-to-air HDTV channels, YouTube videos and a range of content (including BigPond Movies; sports, news and music channels; and a library of VOD titles) from Telstra's BigPond TV broadband video service. The BigPond TV content is unmetered and requires customers of Telstra's BigPond broadband service to pay no monthly subscription fees beyond their regular monthly broadband subscription, Netgem says. According to the company, the T-Box is based on its Netgem middleware and its Media Centre set-top box technology, which the company says features an open application framework that allows content and applications to be easily deployed over TV.
  • Microsoft will announce at the upcoming E3 show that a subscription-based version of Hulu is set to launch on its Xbox Live service, according to a report in the blog, Gear Live. The report cited what Gear Live described as "a very reliable source (who has never been wrong before)."
  • According to a report in the Financial Times, Tuesday, Project Canvas--an initiative that sees 1) UK public service broadcasters, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, 2) UK ISP's, BT and Talk Talk, and 3) UK broadcast transmission company, Arqiva, partnering in order to attempt to develop a common standard and interface for the delivery of online catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer, the ITV player and 4oD, as well as other Internet-based services (including VOD and interactive TV widgets), to broadband-connected Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes--will be branded as "YouView" if and when it eventually launches. The newspaper reported that Project Canvas has registered the brand with the UK's Intellectual Property Office.
  • At All Things Digital's D8 conference, Tuesday evening, Apple CEO Steve Jobs stated that he believes (pay) television's "subsidized business model that gives everyone a set-top box...pretty much undermines innovation in the sector. Ask TiVo, ask Roku, ask Google in a few months," he continued, adding that "the only way this is going to change is if you start from scratch, tear up the box, redesign and get it to the consumer in a way that they want to buy it--but right now, there's no way to do that...that's why we say Apple TV is a hobby." Jobs' remarks would appear to call into doubt (or were perhaps intended to call into doubt) a recent report that Apple is working on a new Apple TV device, based on the iPhone 4 (see the article published on, May 31st).