Grumpy Gurevitz: The Sky’s the limit

One day consoles users will be offered high quality, joined up services without their being a huge catch. One day.

One day Gamers will be offered value for money services which are not half baked. On that day look up into the Sky...

I do not have a subscription to Sky. Sky, for our international readers, is the most successful subscription based TV service in the UK. Traditionally it’s distributed via satellite technology with setup boxes, but in the last year or so it has created a web offering and migrated to consoles. I really want Sky, but can never justify the cost. I’m not in enough to justify the sport and the few, high quality drama shows they have that I can get on DVD for less money. The movies and other services I can live without, especially as I now have offerings via my Xbox 360 and PS3.

However as much as I cannot justify Sky, I would really, really like it. The idea of having extra choices on what to view is a nice luxury and over the year I’m sure it would have the capacity to enrich my life in some way!

Content that can only be used on the PSP is VERY limiting. Sony: either fix it or start putting TV shows on your own videostore.

Content that can only be used on the PSP is VERY limiting. Sony: either fix it or start putting TV shows on your own videostore.

So, I was really quite pleased when Sony announced the PSP service for UK users linked to Sky. All you had to do was sign up to the service and then via a Sky portal you could download films and TV shows which would play on your device. I assume the legal work in setting up their own film and TV store was a barrier for Sony doing this themselves and hence by using Sky it would be a match made in heaven. Recently Sony have launched their own film store but unlike the USA the UK PSN store still lacks TV shows.

The problem I found though was twofold. One it’s not that cheap. It’s not bad but for content that can only be viewed on a PSP it’s not great value. Secondly it’s not Mac friendly. I sometimes feel that service providers think that all Mac users automatically use the itunes store and own ipods and hence can’t see the point in providing functionality for them. I have some news for them; some of us Mac owners love our Macs but are happy to access content from other providers! I much prefer my PSP to an ipod Touch! Yet Sky PSP service insists you are running Windows so that ruled me out. I actually have Windows on my Mac, but damn it if I’m going to switch the machine over just to download content!

Good as they are, if I want a to watch tv on a device that plays Little Big Planet, I won't use one of these...

Just the other month Sky decided to entice and excite me again by launching their service on Xbox 360. When I heard that Sky was being brought to the platform I was over the moon, as I figured it would be a cheap way to get into the world of Sky. I assumed that the picture quality would be SD or even sub-SD as it would be piped through our awful broadband connection (I live in the country) but was happy to live with that. I registered my interest early, to show my support and make sure I was notified when the service would go live.

Hence it was with some shock that when it did launch I saw the prices.

The basic service includes all the channels you would never want; for £15 a month. Add some movies and sport and we are up to around £41! Now if I went out to buy a SKY HD (yes, HD) system then I could actually get away with paying around £10 more a month and get tons more channels, plus of course HD quality footage. So where is the incentive?

The model is quite clear. If you already have Sky, then actually the Xbox service is free (as long as you are a Gold member) and so it’s a great way of getting Sky into another room without paying for a new set top box. For people like me it’s also clear Sky does not want me as a customer via Xbox. They want me to experiment with the on demand content, which is available to me on a ‘pay as you go’ basis.  They are betting that if I like it I will go and get a SKY HD system at some point in the future.

It might work and it’s a good strategy, but in some ways I feel like Microsoft is letting other companies use my loyalty to the Xbox Live service in a crude marketing/junk mail type way. Microsoft would, of course, argue that it’s a win-win, as I get access to a ton of on demand content, which would otherwise take time to come via them or possibly never come via them. They are right and for that I am thankful.

However where will it stop? Will they allow other companies to launch teaser services via their network in the hope that it adds value to the Xbox experience whilst in effect providing free advertising to those companies?

If we are going to get Xbox Live+ please can we get noticeable discounts or freebies as a reward?

If we are going to get Xbox Live+ please can we get noticeable discounts or freebies as a reward?

Maybe I’m a socialist at heart (well a capitalism loving socialist) but if Microsoft really wanted to thank me for my loyalty they would go out of their way to leverage their community’s size to get us good deals for these services! I read elsewhere on this site that Microsoft might start charging more for a Gold+ membership. I’m not against that if it means we can make full use of these new services for free or at drastically reduced prices. I assume that the largest cost of delivering them is the extra bandwidth and if that can be leveraged across the community as a whole that’s okay with me. I just don’t want to have to pay twice for the privilege.

Sometimes the Sky is the limit. But in this case it’s my patience and wallet and they are much nearer ground level!

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

One comment

  1. David Macphail /

    I’ve got SKY for the Football and Wrestling. That’s pretty much all i watch anyway. However it would be good if SKY would bring the SKY Player to the PS3 sometime soon.

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