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Sky TV plans an online future without dishes

The new service will be just like that of its rivals Netflix and Amazon

21 February 2018

Pay‒TV broadcaster Sky is planning to allow customers to stream all its channels and other content online so that a satellite dish is not needed.

While it will still continue satellite broadcasts, Sky hopes to attract more customers who do not want, or cannot have, a satellite dish but who would otherwise be willing to pay the subscription fee.

It has already launched an enhanced streaming service, called Sky Ticket, in Germany, and will this year offer its Sky Q service in Austria and Italy before extending it to the UK over the next two years. It has offered no timescale on when, or if, the service will be available in France where many viewers watch by satellite.

The Sky Q box replaces the Sky HD+ box and the move is seen as a response to competition from online Video On Demand (VoD) services such as Netflix and Amazon but also to online UK rivals like BT TV and Virgin.

Sky will also market a new USB stick allowing customers to watch its Now TV content – giving sport, movies and entertainment channels over the internet more flexibly and cheaply than through a Sky subscription – on any TV.

However, an expected change to geoblocking rules in the EU, opening up access to other countries’ TV channels, has been put on hold and now only applies to shopping sites although there will be a rethink in two years.

The laws will prevent companies offering products for sale at different prices on a country-by-country basis.

However, Netflix, the world’s most popular streamed VoD service with 110million subscribers worldwide, has come under fire for its programming in France compared to other countries, including the US and UK, and would have been particularly affected by the change.

Despite charging much the same price for its services as in other countries, Netflix in France has far fewer programmes, partly due to competition from pay-TV broadcast rivals including Canal Plus, and also due to laws imposing a certain amount of French programmes and a 36-month delay on screening films.

The French government has indicated readiness to rethink the delays while Netflix has also said it is ready to spend “40% more” than in 2017 on French productions – and possibly even investing in director Luc Besson’s ailing Europacorp studio.

Meanwhile, with many people using a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer from France, the BBC has again confirmed that viewing its iPlayer service outside UK borders and without a licence is a breach of its terms and conditions.

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