Interactive TV News Round-Up (VI): Sky, SnagFilms

--Sky to Launch New Internet-TV Service for All UK Consumers
--Sky Go to Launch on Android, Offer More Entertainment Channels
--OTT VOD Company, SnagFilms, Closes New Funding Round

Due to the large volume of news generated by the recent 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and other factors, we are covering stories in this issue in round-up/summary format. We anticipate that it will take us several more days to process all the news from the show: so if your company has sent us a press release or briefed us on an announcement, and you don't yet see your news covered in this issue, please bear with us.

  • Just a day after announcing a major expansion of its Sky Anytime+ hybrid-VOD service (see the article published on itvt.com, January 30th), UK satellite-TV company, BSkyB has announced plans to launch an (as-yet-unnamed) Internet-TV service that will compete with offerings from such rivals as Amazon-owned Lovefilm, Netflix (which recently launched in the UK), Blinkbox and the not-yet-launched YouView platform. The service will be open to any consumer in the UK, regardless of whether they have a Sky subscription. "Taking advantage of the rapid growth in broadband-connected devices, and building on Sky's experience in multiplatform TV, the new service will be an additional choice for people who don't currently subscribe to a pay-TV service," the company states in its press materials. "Launching in the first half of 2012, the new service will provide instant and simple access to a range of Sky content, including hundreds of films from Sky Movies. Giving consumers even more choice and flexibility, the service will be available to anyone in the UK with a broadband connection. Key features of the new service will include: 1) Great content--the new service will offer some of Sky's most popular programming. Sky Movies will be available from launch and the service will expand to offer sport and entertainment soon afterwards. 2) Flexible pricing--with no minimum contract, customers will be able to choose from a variety of pricing options. For example, people will be able to pay monthly for unlimited access to Sky Movies or rent a single movie on a simple, pay-as-you-go basis. 3) Easy access--the new service will be available across a wide range of connected devices, including PC's, Mac's, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, games consoles and connected TV's. 4) Ease of use--with immediate streaming through an intuitive interface, backed up by recommendations and editorial support, customers will quickly and easily find the content they most want to watch. More details of the new service will be revealed closer to launch. Sky has offered television over the Internet for a number of years and in 2006 became the first UK broadcaster to offer content to download over the Internet. The service has since evolved into Sky Go, which is now accessed across millions of Internet-connected devices. Alongside the new Internet TV service launching this year, Sky Go will continue to develop as a bonus service for existing Sky TV customers, offering access to a wide range of live channels and on-demand content. The launch of a new Internet-TV service will complement Sky's existing pay-TV services and open up a wider opportunity to bring its content to more consumers." Said Sky CEO, Jeremy Darroch: "This exciting new service will offer some of Sky's most popular content through a wide range of broadband-connected devices. Alongside the continued growth of our satellite platform, this will be a new way for us to reach out to consumers who love great content, but may not want the full Sky service. Bringing a distinctive, new choice to the marketplace will help us meet the needs and demands of an ever wider range of consumers. This new product launch will build on our early leadership in multiplatform distribution. It will allow us to make our expertise and investment in content and technology work even harder, extending our options for continued growth."
  • In other Sky news: In a posting on the company's blog, Tuesday, Holly Knill, head of the Sky Go service (allows Sky TV subscribers to access TV on mobile devices), announced two updates to the service, which are slated to roll out during February. "Firstly, we will be making Sky Go available on a selection of Android smartphones starting with Samsung Galaxy and HTC handsets," she wrote. "We fully appreciate how much Android users have been looking forward to the launch of Sky Go, and we've done everything we can to make sure that our bespoke design for Android handsets is worth waiting for. Secondly, we will be expanding the content on offer on smartphones and iPad by adding the Sky Entertainment channels to Sky Go. This will kick off with the addition of Sky Atlantic to Sky Go today, and will be followed by Sky 1, Sky Living and Sky Arts 1 within the next month. In March, the brand new Sky Sports F1 channel will also launch on Sky Go...Whilst Sky Go is available using a 3G connection, it's no secret that to achieve the best possible TV viewing experience on mobile devices it's preferable to access a WiFi signal. That's why we will also shortly be launching a public WiFi service that will provide Sky Broadband Unlimited customers with free access to more than 10,000 WiFi hotspots across the UK, including the Pizza Express and Wagamama restaurant chains and hundreds of other public venues and locations throughout the country, providing Sky customers with seamless access to our content, wherever they happen to be." According to Knill, Sky Go, which launched last July, is now attracting 1.5 million unique users per month.
  • SnagFilms, which offers an OTT VOD service, featuring indie films, on PC's, tablets, smartphones, OTT set-tops and connected TV's, said Monday that it has closed a "seven-figure" funding round. "All current investors participated, including SnagFilms founder and chairman Ted Leonsis, Steve and Jean Case's Case Foundation Ventures LLC., the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Comcast Interactive Capital (CIC), along with two new investors: veteran media and Internet executive Terry Semel (who also joins the company's board) and David Fialkow, co-founder and managing director of General Catalyst Partners," the company states in its press materials. "In addition to new equity, the company has arranged its first debt facility with Silicon Valley Bank. Total available equity and debt financing is $7 million. The new funding will be used by SnagFilms to extend a library of high-quality independent films that now numbers more than 3,000 titles and includes fictional films in addition to documentaries; continue its technology development to provide films across all digital platforms and devices; and market its films in all channels. 2011 saw SnagFilms increase the quantity and range of its library and become one of the most broadly available sources for great films across digital platforms and devices. SnagFilms is now available on over 100 devices, including 95% of all tablets (among them, iPad and Kindle Fire), all Android smartphones, OTT devices and connected TV's, and throughout the Web world on its Web site and extensive digital network of affiliated sites and blogs. The company also significantly expanded its transactional platform distribution with Comcast and FiOS video-on-demand and with digital pay-on-demand platforms iTunes, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube Movies, and will soon launch on DirecTV and digital streaming providers Vudu, Samsung Media Hub and Xbox Live."
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