Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Is Sky the new Blockbuster?

By Karl Newman, UK Managing Director, Publicis Media Content (PMC)

Before LoveFilm and Netflix instigated the disruption in the delivery of home entertainment, we all used Blockbuster. It was a safe haven, a place that had most of the films we wanted to watch all in one place.

That is what is important here, that is what consumers look for — the ease and convenience of having everything in one place. Blockbuster was the place you could go with your partner where you both go off in different directions and return 10 minutes later only to debate at length whether you are going to watch a soppy rom-com with Matthew McConaughey or something a little more tense like an action thriller with Bruce Willis and a gun.

That was it, and it was simple (and my wife eventually acquiesced to watching Matthew!)

Behaviour change

Nowadays though, the world has changed, and with it, the way we watch films. But what hasn’t changed is that fundamental need for a seamless and simple customer experience, which is exactly what Sky has done. Primarily providing Netflix, Sky recently announced that it would retail Disney+ in your home along with its own content, BT’s Sports rights, broadband, landline connection and even your mobile phone.  

A simple, all-encompassing retail experience. A consumer package that we all need, yet comes in very short supply. Many of us, including myself, endure a cluttered array of connected TV experiences. With so many out there, it’s often hard to see through the void.  

I still have that debate with my wife on a Saturday night, yet the debate topic has shifted. I now have at least four ways of accessing TV and film content (I’m sure I’m a statistic on homes that do), and undoubtedly that number will only grow. Disney+ (landed just last week), BritBox (launched in Nov 2019), Hulu (coming to the UK in 2021), and HBO (for the moment only available via Sky Atlantic) will all be on offer in the UK and I’ll probably be there with my hand up to purchase.

The tyranny of choice

As is often the case in many homes (and certainly in mine), my current electronic programme guide (EPG) just isn’t enough. There’s no Love island to catch up on, so we head to Netflix to debate what genre we’re in the mood for. We can’t commit to one as we don’t know what tantalising show is hidden behind the Amazon Prime button, which also opens up the debate about whether we want to rent a film for under a fiver.

And finally, there’s the Now TV subscription, though my access through Roku is clunky as we switch from one app to another. The choices (and the debate with my wife) seem endless.

So what does this mean for our industry? We need to consider the implications for clients and how they reach their customers. Working in content, I’m happy to explore how a brand can integrate with it through placements and licensing.

However, there’s always a balancing act around the content and the brand to consider. The new SVOD distributers aren’t ready to take on advertising as a whole, as they are competing for subscriptions and audiences, nor should they be.   But if SVOD services, and the eyeballs that are following them, are located in a single seamless ecosystem next to ad-funded content then client’s ads are just a channel skip away.

Returning to my Saturday night and my customer experience, it has been more than half an hour of frustrating surfing from service to service and we still can’t make a decision.  It’s getting late, Tik Tok and Instagram are now calling for attention but instead I’ve settled on The Guardian app. It’s a busy and blurry world when every media owner wants my attention.

What I, and what we all, need is that simple customer experience. That simple, digital Blockbuster solution of the past before it got fragmented and delivered in an EPG, with various apps, differing experiences across TV, phone, tablet, more boxes and a voice assistant.

There is a solution to this from one retailer that optimises my viewing for me with advertising just one click away— and that is Sky.

Hello SkyQ. I’m going all in.