Ben Hammersley’s written an insightful post today about how we all tend to conflate “America” with “the world” when it comes to Internet matters.
This works both ways, in that when genuinely interesting things happen outside the US, the US often doesn’t notice. And I think something genuinely interesting is happening in Britain right now. I think BSkyB, the digital satellite broadcaster which effectively owns pay TV in Britain and Ireland, has just got the Internet.
Point 1: a couple of weeks ago, Sky issued a press release announcing the launch of Sky Interactive. This is a platform for Web publishers to put content onto the Sky TV platform as WTVML, a hacked version of WML which Sky has put together and then put out under an open licence. The press release can be found here, but here’s the salient points:
Sky Interactive is to create a new interactive television portal that will enable website operators to reach a potential audience of around 20 million users through the television set. The portal will launch later this year with the aim of attracting a diverse range of web content providers including established e-business operators, not-for-profit organisations and even individuals.
With the launch of the new portal, Sky aims to broaden the range of services available on its platform and to stimulate further innovation in the interactive TV arena. The development of the new portal reflects the growing trend for website owners to deliver content to multiple devices and for consumers to access electronic services on a variety of different platforms. With around 10 million viewers accessing Sky’s existing interactive services each month, Sky believes that the new portal will represent a significant new opportunity for website owners interested in service delivery to non-PC devices.
Available without subscription to all digital satellite viewers in the UK and Ireland, the easy-to-use portal will provide access to a range of internet services that have been adapted specially for television. Services will be accessed using conventional URLs or via the the portal’s listings pages and online search engine.
In addition, personalisation features will enable viewers to save their favourite links and access a history of services visited previously. Each person in a household will be able to create an individual profile where he or she can enter personal information to facilitate online transactions, using features such as auto-complete and auto-logon.
For website operators, the new portal will make it easier than ever before to launch an interactive TV service. Registration, testing and validation services will be available online at Skyinteractive.com and website operators will be able to adapt their services using the WTVML technology that was developed by Sky and subsequently made available as a public standard.
This is potentially enormous, and indicates that Sky may be doing something that the mobile operators, for instance, have never countenanced: the creation of a vibrant community of content on its platform with new opportunities for content owners to create revenue streams. It’s not the end of the digital TV walled garden – you still need a contract with Sky to get up there – but it’s certainly put a great big gate in the wall.
Point 2: Sky are talking about launching an “Internet movie and sports download service.”
The service, available only to Sky’s premium subscribers, will bypass the company’s satellite network, sending programmes to a computer via a broadband Internet connection.
Users will not be able to watch the programmes on their televisions unless they have connected the TV and computer. It will take about two hours to download a two-hour movie over a typical high-speed Internet connection.
The new service is part of Chief Executive James Murdoch’s drive to meet ambitious growth targets. The company currently has nearly 8 million subscribers and is aiming for 10 million by 2010.
So, in one week, BSkyB, which has some claim to being the most successful digital TV operator on the planet, announced plans to put the Internet on TV, and TV on the Internet. And what did we all want to talk about? Podcasts and Grokster. It’s a topsy-turvy world.