Commentary

BBC iPlayer Deal Makes Sky The One To Watch As Streaming Wars Heat Up

There is a lot of excitement -- and confusion -- right now around streaming. Netflix and Amazon are here, Apple TV+ has just launched, as has BritBox, while Disney+ is just a few months away.

However, Mediatel is completely right in pointing out that one company that isn't getting much of a mention in all of this is probably the one to watch.

Regular readers will know I've flagged up Sky as being the savvy player in the upcoming streaming wars, and it has just signed another particularly smart deal. It's smart because it suits both players perfectly. 

The BBC has a problem with young people accessing its content. Penetration for Netflix among Gen Z Brits is around three in four, and for iPlayer it's just one in four. Young people are happy to sign up to an app to stream tv as long as mum and dad are paying, but they are not so keen on the one service provided free (to licence fee players). 

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Sky has an issue too -- competition, and lots of it. We've just had a rundown of the new streaming players entering the market and that leaves Sky with a big decision to make. Stand there like Canute, attempting to hold back the tide, or roll with the punches. 

Its decision to do the latter has already seen Netflix added to its Sky Q platform, as well as YouTube, Vevo and Spotify.

There is even an option for subscribers to pay extra and view Netflix content alongside Sky Box Sets without the need to go in and out of different apps or pages on the programme guide. 

So the arrival of BBC iPlayer makes a lot of sense. It will make finding the BBC catch-up service that little bit easier to discover and remind people why they pay their licence fee.

That includes the BBC 3 comedy and youth entertainment programming, which the corporation decided to take off terrestrial television to save money before turning round and wondering why that target Gen Z group no longer watches its content.

As the streaming wars heat up, flicking between various apps will become even more of a pain than it is today, but Sky will offer access to its own huge catalogue of content as well as BBC iPlayer and Netflix in one home.

It seems the strategy is to remain a conduit, regardless of what viewers are streaming on which platform. It will be interesting to see whether a BritBox deal is signed with Sky -- or perhaps Apple TV+ or Disney+ -- further down the line. 

For Sky, the strategy seems to be trying to set itself up as the equivalent of a home page for television viewing so it remains relevant, even when people are streaming through someone else's service.

One can hope that more apps will join the service and eventually, maybe we can even dream of them all being presented in one home screen rather than as shows discovered through a variety of apps, albeit usefully placed on a single tv screen. 

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