Sky Active has launched a new interactive portal with which it aims to “re-assert its creative leadership in interactive television”. In the view of informitv, the result is one of the most ambitious interactive services yet attempted.

Sky Active, the interactive services portal on the BSkyB satellite platform in the UK, has re-launched with a radical revamp that now brings a televisual approach in place of text based menus.

As previously revealed by informitv, the new portal provides a virtual video channel magazine and a mesmerising sixteen screen mosaic menu.

Sky Active front screen

After pressing the interactive button on the Sky remote and selecting Sky Active, the user is taken to a full screen video magazine featuring a mix of promotions and original editorial pieces generally related to aspects of the service. A menu overlay on the video image promotes up to four options, while a scrolling ticker runs along the bottom of the screen with further messages.

The red button provides an animated pop-up menu to the main sections of the service.

Sky Active mosaic contents screen

The yellow button leads directly to a multiscreen mosaic of with no less than sixteen preview windows with accompanying audio tracks that can be selected using the cursor keys. Although visually very busy, this is surprisingly attractive and accessible, and quite hypnotic. The looping audio is sufficiently insistent that it encourages navigation around the available selections and it would be difficult not to be beguiled into selecting at least one of the options.

Within some of the selections, the audio and one or more video windows are carried through with a mask and move overlay that cleverly re-uses the mosaic stream to maintain the audio visual approach, while all options feature an incessant soundtrack.

The green button provides a tabbed alphabetic index that while somewhat daunting in its comprehensive entries, is extremely quick to use.

Gone are the blue screens, replaced with fresh high key backgrounds that reinforce the video magazine feel, although at launch not all the underlying options were fully integrated with the new look.

The new Sky Active is arguably the most ambitious interactive service yet attempted, and it has all been achieved using the Sky WTVML microbrowser. Apart from some delays when navigating between screens, it feels very responsive.

Sky says the he magazine-style concept of the new Sky Active is based on insights gained during extensive customer research into why consumers choose to interact with the television. The result is intended to be an editorially led interactive destination designed around the needs of the different audiences, particularly during the peak usage periods of daytime and the late evening.

The overall feel is aimed squarely at a rather downmarket audience, like a mass market magazine aimed to occupy a few minutes as an alternative to watching a programme.

The direct tabloid touch is rather at odds with the more sophisticated upmarket image that Sky has started to promote elsewhere to try and attract new subscribers, but is probably right on the money for its target audience with its mixture of bingo, betting, chat, lifestyle and entertainment.

According to Ian Shepherd, managing director of Sky Interactive, with the launch of the new service “Sky aims to re-assert its creative leadership in interactive television”. Sky Active at last lives up to its name and has certainly set a new benchmark for what can be achieved with an interactive magazine service. It will be interesting to monitor the impact on usage.