Sky and the BBC have agreed a new partnership to collaborate across programming and technology. As a result, the BBC iPlayer app and connected red-button service will be available on Sky Q, offering Sky subscribers the full BBC iPlayer and red-button experience. Customers will be able to access this by pressing the red button when watching a BBC channel, as well as the existing integrated catch-up service available through Sky Q.
The broadcasters are exploring a range of other partnership opportunities, including the availability of BBC Sounds on Sky and NOW TV platforms.
The BBC and Sky are also investigating the use of PromoSmart, an application of Sky AdSmart, to deliver more personalised promotions to BBC viewers. This means that viewers in different households could be shown different trailers for BBC programming when watching BBC channels.
“We are pleased to be working with the BBC on such a broad-ranging partnership,” said Stephen van Rooyen, the chief executive of Sky in the UK and Ireland. “it is a great example of how UK broadcasters can work together for the benefit of viewers and the industry.”
Bob Shennan, the group managing director for the BBC, said: “This agreement shows how the BBC and Sky can work together to give audiences the very best experience and support a strong UK media industry, and we look forward to continuing this relationship.”
It marks something of a breakthrough in relations between the BBC and Sky, which were much more collaborative in the early days of digital television but became increasingly strained subsequently.
It is a win for viewers, who will have access to similar services to those available on other platforms. It is also a win for the BBC, providing a more consistent experience across platforms.
Around 14.3 million households in the United Kingdom pay for television through services like Sky, Virgin Media, BT and Talk Talk. Around 11.6 million homes receive only terrestrial television and another million or so receive the Freesat satellite service.
BARB estimates that there are 8.64 million households in the United Kingdom that subscribe to Sky television, excluding NOW TV, down from a peak of 9.46 million in 2012. It works out at about 19.5 million individuals, or 16.5 million adults, or just under a third of the country. That is an audience that the BBC cannot afford to ignore.
The BBC also has the largest share of viewing, with BBC One and Two accounting for 27% of television viewing across all platforms in the United Kingdom in 2018 and all BBC channels accounting for 31%. The share may be lower in Sky homes, but it is still an audience that the service provider cannot afford to ignore.
The apparent thawing of relations between the BBC and Sky comes after the communications regulator Ofcom warned in its annual report that the BBC may not be sustainable in its current form, if it fails to regain younger audiences who are increasingly tuning out of its services. It also raised serious concerns about the openness and transparency of the BBC, including a reluctance to engage effectively with parties affected by changes to licence-fee funded services.