Sky Go, which launched in July of this year, brings Sky linear
and VOD content to subscribers on iOS devices, PCs and Macs. I
caught up with Holly Knill, Head of Sky Anywhere at Sky to ask
her how they built the service and what plans they have for future
Kanji: Hi Holly, so let's start at the
beginning. How long have you been with Sky?
Knill: I started work here back in January.
Kanji: And how developed was the Sky Go product
when you joined?
Knill: It was quite a different beast at that
point. I was originally working on something else entirely but then
I was asked to come over to the team, look at the product, the
strategic intent and get things moving. So we did that quite
rapidly and we kicked off development in February.
We had pretty aggressive timelines and a lot of
challenges along the way as we were developing for multiple
Kanji: How did the development process go?
Knill: We had pretty aggressive timelines and a
lot of challenges along the way as we were developing for multiple
platforms. We launched the player product on the 6th of
July and followed up with the mobile product on the
19th. This was followed by our TV ad campaign which you
may have seen?
Kanji: Yeah, this was the one where the guy
takes a TV off the wall, folds it up, puts it in his pocket and
takes it with him into a taxi?
Knill: That's the one.
Kanji: Good commercial!
Kanji: Let's talk a little more about the
development process. You mentioned that you were working to some
pretty aggressive timelines. What were those timelines? How long
did it take from the point at which let's say, you'd signed off the
IA and wireframing to completion?
We have some good insights and guidelines as to how our
customers like to navigate to content
Knill: We develop in an Agile methodology and
so we had wireframes and a development plan that were subject to
change - we made revisions and tweaked things as we were going
along. There's also a difference between starting something from
scratch and then starting something where you've got several
products in the market already. Sky has 10.3 million customers, 8
million of whom are on Sky +. So when you've got 8 million people
happily using something like our EPG we have some good insights and
guidelines as to how our customers like to navigate to content. We
were asking ourselves how can we make that experience better and
improve the whole product base whilst at the same time using the
native capabilities of different platforms like the iPad and
With that ethos in mind we knew there was going to be some chop
and change in the build process. We also forged a new team
combining the old Mobile, TV and Sky player staff some of whom were
in different physical locations so we got everyone into the same
building, onto the same floor and that improved things too.
Amalgamating teams whilst working to deadlines was, as you can
imagine, a challenge but it has worked out really well.
Kanji: And how many people, in total, were
involved in the delivery stages?
Knill: Not enough! We knew we needed more
people and finding people isn't always the easiest thing to do and
we suffered for it. If we were going to do the project again we'd
probably prioritise getting more staff in up front.
Kanji: Was all of the work done in-house or did
you use any external agencies for any part of the design /
Knill: Predominantly in-house using our own
internal resources and talent. For development of the Player we did
use - and have used for some time - IOKO who are now part of KIT digital
and who do a really great job for us.
Kanji: There are differences between Sky Go on
the iPad versus Sky Go on, say, a laptop or Xbox. On iPad you have
a smaller number of channels which are all linear and there's no
back catalogue of video-on-demand content. That was obviously a
conscious decision by Sky?
Knill: At launch Sky Go is fundamentally about
live sport. By developing the DRM we were able to add movies into
the mix which makes it even better. So yes, at the moment it's a
linear proposition on iPad. For the computer and Xbox, viewers are
generally sitting down in front of a larger screen and so we've
added catch up and VOD content.
If you look at what drives VOD viewing, I believe there's a stat
somewhere that shows most catch-up viewing is done in the week
after a linear broadcast and 'Jackass' (on Sky Movies) is a great
example of that. When 'Jackass 3' premiered a few weeks ago we had
100,000 views in the following week of which 80% was on the
Kanji: Sky 1 is missing on the iPad I think and
even on a computer you can't watch it live although you can watch
Knill: There are different legal rights
governing when and where we can make content available and so
internally, we have to make decisions relating to shows all the
time and how best we market them. So, for us, last summer was all
about the 'Big Summer of Sport' - England vs. Sri Lanka and then
India in the test series, the Twenty 20 tournaments, leading into
the new Premiership season and then the Rugby World Cup.
Kanji: And it's a management of expectations
thing isn't it this in that as long as customers know what they
should be expecting from a product on a given platform then they
won't be left disappointed by a perceived lack of content?
Knill: Yes, and cricket is a great example of
that. We saw that a lot of people were watching the test matches on
their computers at work during the day and then switching to the
mobile product when they were on the move so I do think customers
are aware of what they can get from the different Sky Go
Kanji: And you now have about 1.6m Sky Go users
according to Sky's latest financial figures?
Knill: That's right and we served 100 million
pieces of content in the last quarter too.
Kanji: Moving to further product development,
sometimes I download a piece of VOD content on my laptop but I'm
forced to watch it on the same screen. Are there any plans to allow
a transfer of that content so that I can watch the show or movie on
say an iPad?
We won't just do something because we can; it's got to
work with what the customer wants.
Knill: There are three parts to this: 1)
customer expectations about what they'd liketo be able to do with
the content, 2) the strengths and capabilities of the different
devices 3) what content we can supply to different devices from a
rights perspective. The short answer is that we're looking at all
of this with great interest. We won't just do something because we
can; it's got to work with what the customer wants. As and
when we can develop the product, which is our intention, we
certainly will do.
We're striving to provide the best possible products we can
across all platforms and we're constantly thinking about and
reviewing how we can do that. So we look really closely at what's
going on in terms of best practice in the UK and across the world
and asking ourselves "what's our favourite user experience this
week?" We're always looking to bring in more awesome-ness.
Kanji: That will probably be the headline of
this interview - "Holly Knill - We're Always Looking for More
Knill: Look forward to seeing it!
Sky Go won the Stuff Magazine 'App of the Year' award last
night. Here's a link to the story: http://www.stuff.tv/awards/2011/app-of-the-year