Action stations as Sky Q promotion blitz gets going

Sky Ireland is pouring millions into the marketing of its new ‘premium’ TV platform


Expect a blitz: Sky Ireland’s marketing push for Sky Q, its new television platform, will be the biggest it has ever undertaken here, the company says.

The television advertising campaign for Sky Q will begin tomorrow and will promote the concept of “fluid viewing”, or Sky’s term for pausing content on one screen and picking it up from the same point on a tablet device or (if you buy a higher-cost bundle) on another television in another room.

The multimillion-euro promotion will run across television, out-of-home and online and will include a substantial increase in its social media and wider digital spending.

“We’re spending more on it than we did on Sky Broadband,” says Ann-Marie MacKay, Sky Ireland’s director of product and customer growth. Sky Plus, its current platform, will continue to exist alongside the “next generation” service, which went on sale this week. Installations won’t begin until the end of the month and Sky Broadband customers will get priority.

MacKay says it is heavier consumers of content that will be tempted to either upgrade from Sky Plus or switch to Sky from other providers.

Monthly subscriptions start at €55 for Sky Q or €67 for Sky Q Silver, with the latter bundle including one Sky Q Mini box for viewing on a second set.

An installation charge of €50 applies to existing Sky customers. Another set-up cost that may prove offputting to many is Sky’s “Smart Features” fee. It starts at €99, but that’s only if you also take Sky Broadband and/or Sky Sports or Sky Movies. Without these, the cost is €249 for Sky Q or €299 for Sky Q Silver.

“It is a premium service that we’re offering,” says MacKay. Sky Ireland currently sees almost four million downloads a month, meaning customers can access its on-demand content on their devices while offline. “We’re targeting customers who value that content.”

Lighter, more casual viewers – “people who are not interested in paying for content and are not watching a lot of it” – are unlikely to pay up.

The platform has an impressively simple user interface, with a menu that contains familiar headings such as “Recordings”, “Sky Store” (for rentals), “Sky Movies” (on-demand options for movie subscribers) and “Sky Box Sets”, as well as a “Continue” tab, where users can access everything they started to watch but abandoned when life interrupted.

“Music” has been added as a tab to the main menu in response to Sky research that suggested one-third of its subscribers had their living room sound system connected to their television sets.

Another addition is an “Online Video” tab, which will house short-form online video from sources such as Red Bull, GQ and Vanity Fair, and has been included in response to demand from younger customers. The RTÉ Player is not yet on the platform, but it will be soon as a result of Sky’s recent deal with RTÉ, while the TG4 Player will also be added eventually. TV3’s 3Player and UTV Ireland’s player are already there.

Apps for Sky News, Sky Sports News HQ and weather, among others, can be made to occupy a window on the side of the screen. This allows someone who is watching a movie, for example, to simultaneously keep track of football scores on their main screen, rather than having to consult their mobile or switch over.

The Sky Q touchpad remote control has a dedicated search button, as well as a microphone on its side, and the facility to search for content by voice commands will be launched later this year.

But the biggest change concerns recordings. As on Virgin Media’s Horizon, viewers who select the ultra HD-ready Sky Q Silver box can record up to four channels and watch a fifth at the same time, while on the standard Sky Q box, they can record three shows while watching a fourth.

For the first time, Sky customers will be able to sync their recordings from their set top box to their tablet, so they can take their recordings out of the home. (This facility is not yet on Virgin’s Horizon.)

Kathryn Lacey, director of customer experience at Sky, says the ability to take recordings out of the home was the “number-one request” made by customers. More storage space for recordings was another frequent request and Sky Q has increased this to 350 hours of HD content.

Lacey says it will “reinvent television” in the same way the introduction of pausing live TV did a decade ago. It’s now over to consumers to decide whether she and Sky are right.

But in case anyone was wondering, Sky denies that the name of the product is intended to invoke the high-tech gadgetry of the James Bond foil.