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In more than 30 years of covering satellite TV I never thought I’d have to write a story asking why Sky UK is second best. But that’s the only conclusion on the day following BT Sport’s commitment to 4K, and Netflix’s commitment to 4K, and the availability of dedicated 4K promo channels from SES Astra and Eutelsat, and Hispasat, and Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.
And it isn’t as if there’s no audience. As this is written the major retailers such as John Lewis and Dixons/PC World are selling 4K displays from Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and LG (as well as lesser known brands) at the rate of 200,000 units a month! Guess who these lucky owners are going to tune to for 4K football, and other 4K offerings from the likes of Red Bull Media.
There has been a perfectly valid series of hints and comments from Sky (and the BBC) over recent days about the quality of images they want to deliver, and this is perfectly understandable. Sky has always led in terms of image quality, especially in sports, while the BBC’s Natural History Unit (which has been making 4K content for some years) can always be relied upon to deliver stunning imagery. The hints have included the OTT supply of content.
But where are those images? Netflix’s Breaking Bad and House of Cards, both available in 4K, are helping drive their subscriptions into stratospheric levels.
And the comments yesterday from the reliable Strategy Analytics, sums up the current position in a nutshell. They said: “Sky is set to lose the TV innovation lead to BT for first time in over 20 years. Being first to market with a UHD sports channel may just tempt a few more customers from BT’s rivals to jump ship.”
Last week an influential merchant bank (Exane BNP-Paribas) also fired off a warning to existing broadcasters, saying in essence that the status quo is being dramatically disrupted by the likes of Netflix, which has grown in size by about 50 per cent in the UK, Germany, Canada, Brazil and France in less than two years. And it releases its exclusive content immediately. And there are no infuriating ad-breaks. Netflix today has some 62 million subs around the world. And by 2020 it is likely to have around 150 million. Netflix has added more subscribers in the past 12 months (14 million) than Sky has achieved in 25 years!
On June 9th it emerged that Netflix is likely to have 23 per cent of its subscribers drawn from Europe. Or put another way, some 21 million subs, and each paying around £5-£6 or €5-€6 or the equivalent, per month.
Just think what that cash will buy. The English Premier League? You bet! Global coverage of this or that Golf, or Rugby, or SuperBowl? Nothing is off limits.
Here’s my message for Sky: Guys, I love you. But pull your socks up, or else this loyal subscriber will be walking, perhaps to BT, but the greatest temptation of all, perhaps to Netflix. And all because of 4K. Even Virgin Media’s collection of offerings are beginning to look tempting! Sky, give the market 4K via OTT. Give the market 4K transmissions. But please stop dithering!