When Sky Q launched two years ago, it was positioned as the ultimate home entertainment package but it had one big thing missing: Netflix.
The streaming service, already available on Sky-rival Virgin for some time, was nowhere to be seen. It was clear a deal wasn’t done and it’s taken longer than most thought for something to be put in place. But now it's official: Netflix is coming to Sky, in a first-of-its-kind partnership.
It’s been revealed that Netflix won’t just be available as a standalone app through Sky Q but a brand-new entertainment package. And if you are already a Netflix subscriber, then you just sign in and off you go.
This is significant, as it ties the two services together and should mean that the experience is that bit more seamless. We expect Netflix will still keep some of its identity but you only have to look at what Sky has done with the BBC iPlayer - another streaming service that is very protective of its IP - to make sure it blends in with the Sky UI.
This makes the deal somewhat different to the one Virgin Media has, where it pretty much just offers the Netflix app within its user interface, albeit in a dedicated section. It will also mean that Sky’s great voice search functionality will now work with Netflix.
Sky and Netflix up a tree
Why is Netflix joining Sky so important? Well, there are myriad reasons. It marks a sea change for how Sky operates.
It overhauled its platform to take on the streaming giants. Sky Q was all about opening up its channels so they can be watched on TV, through an app, pause and played throughout the house. Sky was no longer tied to the TV experience but device agnostic.
This was functionality new to Sky customers but familiar to anyone who uses Netflix (or Amazon Prime) which comes at a far lower price than Sky subscription service.
Sky housing Netflix will mean it can now boast to being one of the largest holders of UHD and, subsequently, HDR content around - a key feature that's needed if you truly want to be a next-gen TV offering.
Then there’s the small business of how you pay for Netflix. Currently, if you pay for Netflix direct then Netflix gets all your money. But there are deals around. For instance, you can get Netflix or Spotify through certain Vodafone contracts. And Sky is now doing a similar thing; getting both Spotify and Netflix through Sky will mean your payment will be migrated to Sky’s service and that’s a very powerful thing for Sky to have.
Keeping it simple
For the user, it simplifies things. It may feel like everyone and their dog has a Netflix account but it’s likely many Sky customers have yet to make the leap as they are already paying a premium for a huge amount of content. We certainly haven’t yet seen the mass migration away from the likes of Sky and Virgin to Netflix, which shows the services are still treated quite differently by users and proves maybe they can actually live alongside each other.
Netflix has been very clever to go after cord cutters in the way they market the service - no contract, you can stop at any time... these are important messages to have. This link-up with Sky reattaches the cord and opens up potential new customers for Netflix, though, ones that perhaps dismissed it before.
Having Netflix also on the Now TV Smart Stick will mean that it's building up its app ecosystem which is certain to help it long term, if and when it does eventually get rid of the satellite dish.
The TV landscape is changing and Sky is doing all it can to stay relevant. It’s investing heavily in original content but can’t match Netflix’s promise of ‘700 new shows’ this year. This tie-up means it doesn’t have to, it can piggy back on Netflix's investment.
It also means that Netflix is no longer a choice over Sky but one that sits alongside. Oh, and those who already have both Sky and Netflix will finally be able to stop the HDMI swapping or Smart TV app hunting to watch Netflix when the link-up happens later in the year.
Making things easier for the viewer is one feature that should never be underestimated.