“No dish, no box and no fuss” was how Sky chief executive Dana Strong described Sky Glass, its new streaming television set, at its official launch in London this week. But is its fancy new hardware – available in the UK later this month, with other markets to follow in 2022 – a no-risk move for the pay-TV and broadcasting group?
A swift comparison of the price of its new smart TV compared with incumbent manufacturers suggests Sky Glass won’t be for everybody – but then Sky’s hope is clearly that instead of paying £649 (€765) or more for its set up-front, customers will be tempted to do so via an add-on cost (starting at £13 a month) to their existing subscription.
The appeal of Sky Glass to people who are already Sky customers is clear: no dish, no box, as Strong put it. With the finicky and aesthetically dubious phenomenon of household satellite dishes long seeming outdated in the age of high-speed broadband, the opportunity to drop the dish is something that Sky, owned since 2018 by US cable company Comcast, has been flagging for about five years.
Although most of its subscribers across Europe still require a dish, Sky does already deliver a service via broadband in Italy, and through a version of its Sky Q set-top box in Germany. Sky Glass, a range of 4K TV sets with Sky Q built in, means many more can join the dish-free party.
The question now is whether the company’s offer of “the only TV in the world with Sky inside” is perceived as a meaningful one by the generation of households that hasn’t ever signed up to a traditional pay-TV package in the first place.
Eschewing the need for a set-top box should give Sky Glass the edge over its rivals in the eyes of early tech adopters and people who hate electronic clutter. But there will be other consumers – the group dubbed the “cord-nevers” – who simply look upon the concept of a pay-TV package in some bafflement, however snazzy the delivery. After all, they can already access the aspects of Sky’s content they want through Now TV, an app that sits on their smart televisions or indeed their laptops, in the same way that they watch Netflix, Disney Plus and other streamers.
Sky Glass is an innovative, high-tech product, but it’s an innovative, high-tech product in a market that some viewers have happily remained outside of up to now.