UPC steps up battle with Sky

Broadband and TV provider says strategy is to be ‘way better than the other guys’

Exclusive channels on the Sky Go Extra app include Sky Atlantic, the home for first-run US drama imports such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men, in which Christina Hendricks (above) appears.

Exclusive channels on the Sky Go Extra app include Sky Atlantic, the home for first-run US drama imports such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men, in which Christina Hendricks (above) appears.

 

Competition between UPC Ireland and Sky Ireland has stepped up another notch, following UPC’s launch of the Horizon television website and app.

The service, which allows customers of its broadband and television bundles to access television content on other devices, offers access to channels that represent a much greater share of peak-time viewership than the equivalent Sky Go app, UPC sales and marketing director Mark Coan said.

The entry-level UPC pack has three times as many channels on the Horizon app as the entry-level Sky pack does on Sky Go, he added.

The Horizon app has a total of 45 channels, including Sky News and Sky Sports News, for customers of UPC’s higher-priced packages. “That’s the richest bouquet of channels in the Irish market that is available on multiple devices,” Mr Coan said.

“The strategy is not just to be a little bit better than the other guys, the strategy is to be way better than the other guys.”

The two rivals’ apps are not quite the same. The main difference between them is that with the exception of pre-downloaded movie rentals, Horizon’s content can be accessed only on devices in the home, while the channels available on Sky Go can be streamed on the move.

Sky has 22 live channels plus a further 11 movie channels and six sports channels on the Sky Go app. The Sky Go Extra app, which costs €6 a month, also allows users to pre-download and store a broader range of on-demand content. Exclusive channels on the Sky service include Sky Atlantic, the home for first-run US drama imports such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men .

Sky Ireland, which is currently spending €10 million on a marketing campaign for its new broadband products, has much slower broadband speeds than market leader UPC, which has invested €500 million in its fibre network.

The latter now sells broadband at a speed of 50Mb per second “as standard” and is in the process of upgrading customers on speeds of 25-30Mb to this rate.

Sky’s entry into the broadband market in February still managed to spark an element of price competition between the two companies, however, with UPC mimicking Sky by introducing a lower-priced “triple-play” bundle for “light users” of broadband and reducing the cost of its unlimited product.

The Horizon app is available only on devices that run on Apple’s iOS operating software for now, but an Android version will be introduced in the summer. Sky Go is available on certain Android devices.

Meanwhile, the Horizon app and website give UPC customers the power to manage recordings to their digital video recorder boxes while on the move, a facility that is already available to Sky customers. There have been almost 180,000 iOS downloads of the Sky+ app to date, Sky Ireland said recently.

UPC will launch its full Horizon television platform in Ireland later this year, claiming the set-top box for the service “revolutionises television viewing”. Mr Coan described the introduction of the Horizon website and app as “a roadmap to innovation” by the company.