Now TV provides instant access to hundreds of films from the Sky Movies vault via a variety of Internet enabled devices. Launching initially with PC, Mac and selected Android devices, the service offers rapid & simple access to the UK’s most popular movie subscription service sans a contract, set-up costs and installation, providing a new way to watch the movies you love without any lengthy contractual commitment.
In addition to getting hands-on with the service last week, I spoke to Simon Creasey, the Director of Now TV to find out more about the service, and what the future holds.
At first glance, Now TV is a direct rival to Netflix and Lovefilm, what does Now TV offer that Netflix and Lovefilm don’t?
Well ultimately we’re bringing Sky Movies, which is the UK’s most popular service. We know it’s a great service, because it’s got millions of people who already subscribe. It’s all about content too, so if you’re into movies, you are more than likely going to find a movie you want to watch on our service. We have 600 exclusive films in the £15 a month package, and 3 quarters of the top 100 blockbusters are on our service. So if you like the big movies, then that’s what Now TV offers. We think that there is a place for all the different services out there, we just feel there is more choice for consumers and the consumers will make a choice. We’re confident that the service is bang on and will attract lots of people.
So what is included in the service? How are the payment plans split up?
Our service is really simple. It’s all of Sky Movies, all you can watch, unlimited for £15 a month. Or you can choose from the library in the Sky Store, which is over a 1000 films that are provided on a pay and play, pay as you go basis.
With Sky’s involvement in Now TV, what benefits will this provide to people who already have Sky?
Now TV is really for a whole new audience. For the 13 million who choose not to pay for TV for whatever reason, whether they don’t want the commitment, long contracts and they want a bit more flexibility. So Now TV is all about a new audience, and giving them a fresh new way to get into to Sky Movies. Sky Movies subscribers already have that way in, they have Sky Go so they can watch it on the move, so they’re really well catered for. Now TV is solely targeted at those 13 million who currently don’t pay for TV. They pay for movies in other ways, whether that’s cinema or other streaming services, so we know the demand is out there. Those are the guys we’re positioning this service towards.
What devices support the service and how will it evolve over the lifespan of Now TV?
From launch PC, Mac and Android smartphone are supported, and then really quickly going onto iPhones, iPads, Xbox and ultimately YouView when that’s released. I think we’ve got a really good head start using such a good infrastructure as well as the technology and expertise from the Sky Go service. We can move pretty leanly and pretty fast when it comes to device support.
As for the evolution of device support, we’ll work out what’s taking off, what’s working and what the consumers want to access the service on, whether that’s the new smartphones, streaming players, Roku players etc. We want to be on all major devices, so we’ll strategically look at all of them and work out whether it’s worthwhile to develop. It costs money to develop, naturally, so we will strategically pick and choose what to develop for. While the emergence of handheld devices is a big deal, I still think there’s a role for the main TV, so having the service through YouView, Xbox and eventually PS3 is very important for our strategy.
In terms of the actual content, are they high quality movies? How have you developed the technology to balance quality and playback stability?
Using adaptive bitrate, we spent a lot of time making sure the streaming quality is going to be smooth. That’s the most important thing. You can’t have the film stopping or buffering so we spent a lot of time focusing on that. As we go on to the main TVs, with Xbox and YouView, we can push a bit harder with quality. The Xbox for example streams at 1280×720 resolution with a higher bitrate. We’re going to continue to invest and push the streaming as far as we can, whether that’s with the rights to protection, or technology etc. We also want to know people’s boundaries, so right now with adaptive bitrate we can go so far to optimize the streaming for specific connections but ultimately until everyone’s broadband is there at high speeds, the quality will vary depending on broadband speed. Initially we’ve nailed the basics, which is to get the service playing consistently and then we’ll continue to push on. We certainly won’t be left behind; we’ll be at the forefront of getting the streaming as good as it can be. As the service is powered by Sky, the consumer will know that they will be getting a quality service. We will continually build the service over time, but will also be making sure we can guarantee our customers a great viewing experience as we phase this process. That is something that is really important for us.
So the Sky name will certainly help push the service forwards, what else do you think having such a big brand name will give you?
Trust and reassurance are hopefully massive factors. We believe that what we’re doing is innovative, so being powered by Sky; we’ve also got that infrastructure of technology and the quality backing up the innovation. We are very much a Sky entity; ultimately what we’re doing is bringing a new way for people to access Sky’s great content and opening it up in a new way for new consumers.
Having looked at the service and what it has to offer, I can safely say it’s got a lot of new movies that are very high profile and not available on any other service. Is having this high quality content your way of luring people to Now TV?
I think so. Content is definitely our strong point. Having access to Sky’s great content months before anyone else is big factor, and this is ultimately at the front and centre. But we’ve also got this intuitive and easy to use, slick interface. People want to get in and watch a movie as soon as possible, we’re there to help you find a movie, get in there and watch it with little messing around as possible. It’s all about the experience of watching the film, not looking for it.
Now TV is available now. Sign up for a free 30 day trial at www.nowtv.com.
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