Innovating to Deliver the Best Viewing Experience

Customers expect flexibility, quality and choice when it comes to watching content. As Europe’s leading entertainment company serving millions of customers across five countries, Sky uses innovative technology to give customers the best possible TV experience, whenever and wherever they choose to consume it.

With the rapid growth of connected devices and consumers’ growing appetite to watch video over the internet, Sky has made its content available across a huge variety of platforms and devices to ensure customers have maximum choice.

It has developed a number of OTT and mobile services including Sky Go and NOW TV. Sky Go is a mobile television service for Sky TV customers, which allows access to live and on-demand programming on computers, smartphones and tablets. NOW TV is aimed at customers who want contract-free, flexible access to Sky’s great content, with customers able to watch anytime, anywhere on the web with a Mac or PC, or on over 60 compatible devices. NOW TV is also delivered by IP-enabled boxes – developed in partnership with Roku – for viewing on TV. Customers can choose monthly passes to Sky Movies or Sky’s Entertainment Channels or week, day and month passes to watch Sky Sports.

How has Sky implemented a scalable video infrastructure to deliver an expanded range of multiplatform content to a growing customer base?

Background: Pursuing Growth

Sky offers a broad range of premium content to over 21 million customers across five countries. It spends almost £5 billion annually on programming,3 which includes news, sports and entertainment. As well as acquiring the best content from around the world including exclusive relationships with HBO and SHOWTIME, Sky is investing in more of its own original production including drama. It has more than 100 original dramas in development or production.

In addition to investing in new content, Sky harnesses innovative technologies to deliver the best viewing experience and ensure customers get the most value from their subscriptions. It recently announced a next generation product Sky Q, which offers a new premium way for customers to enjoy content.

The company is a significant player in the industry shift to IP-based video delivery, and has positioned its business to leverage rapid growth in multiscreen content consumption.

This is especially important given that in 2014, video accounted for around 45% of mobile data traffic worldwide and is forecast to grow at a rate of 55% through 2020, when it will account for 60% of all mobile data traffic.4

Industry experts estimate that 15-20 billion IP-connected, video-capable devices with high-quality screens will be in use within the next five years.5 This means that media companies, including Sky, are rapidly evolving traditional broadcast facilities in support of an infinitely more complex multiscreen world. For Sky, a leading innovator in the entertainment industry, this provided another opportunity to extend its market leadership.

  • Headquartered in the United Kingdom, with offices throughout Europe
  • Serves over 21 million customers in five countries: Italy, Germany, Austria, the UK and Ireland
  • Annual revenues top £11 billion, and is Europe's leading investor in television content with a combined programming budget of £4.9 billion
  • <10 million homes now connected, up 2-plus million from last year
  • 337,000 new customers joined Sky in fiscal Q2 2015/2016
  • Highest UK and Ireland Q2 customer growth in 10 years

Challenge: Scaling Content Investment

To deliver massive amounts of premium content to millions of customers, Sky needed a platform for both live and VOD streaming that provided an excellent viewer experience and could efficiently scale with the company’s growing content database and infrastructure. The company currently processes tens of thousands of hours of assets a month, offers catch-up channels on Sky Go, and maintains and optimizes more than 20 different profiles for its VOD content. In delivering this content, the company’s goal was to maintain high picture quality, ubiquity across bitrates, high availability, and scalability to manage peaks in demand. To meet these requirements, Sky turned to Elemental for its software-defined video solutions.

SKY GO OTT Workflow

Solution: An OTT Proposition

The Sky content supply chain is effectively an automated end-to-end workflow from ingest to publish. It allows the content provider to manage assets rights, asset scheduling across different platforms, for the orchestration of assets through content preparation and to track assets through each stage – from ingest, transcode, QC, to encryption and publication. This engine also enables Sky to operate at mass volume in terms of throughput to provide VOD catalogs quickly and efficiently.

With both Sky Go and NOW TV in mind, the team at Sky knew video processing functionality was key to successful OTT content delivery. Software-defined video solutions from Elemental sit at the heart of both platforms. The Sky OTT service infrastructure incorporates Elemental® Live as the video-processing engine in a workflow managed by Elemental® Conductor. During live streaming, Sky channel IP inputs feed Elemental Live video processing software, which encodes original and aggregated linear content in real time for delivery to mobile devices and the web. For the Sky VOD workflow, Elemental® Server transcodes content into multiple formats and encrypts it for high-quality, protected output to consumer’s devices, including Apple TV, over the Sky Content Delivery Network.

"We chose Elemental first and foremost because of balance. We needed picture quality across all the different bitrates and we needed high-speed processing. Architecturally, we know it can scale to big processing peaks and it integrates well into our highly automated workflow engine. The software-based approach is simply faster."Matt McDonald
Director of Broadcast Services for Sky
NOW TV VOD Workflow

Benefit: Next-Generation Video Delivery

Leveraging Elemental software to power and deliver its OTT and mobile TV services – Sky Go and NOW TV – allows Sky to create a better and more reliable experience for customers watching content on internet-connected devices.

Internet-delivered video is fundamental to Sky’s business, especially since more and more customers access content across multiple screens and devices. New technologies and changing consumer demands will continue to shape the future of the video landscape, and using flexible software solutions will enable next-generation IP video delivery and help Sky deliver OTT content at scale to millions of viewers. Software-defined video solutions from Elemental provide the flexibility and scalability needed to keep pace and meet end-user demands.

Sky’s innovative VOD and linear OTT services and advanced video infrastructure set it apart from other content providers. Through innovation and collaboration with Elemental, Sky is able to gain the greatest value from its investment in content, and meet customers’ growing desire for the flexibility to consume content anywhere, anytime. With software-based video solutions, Sky can distribute content more widely, tapping into new areas of demand using OTT technology and creating new revenue opportunities.