Sky is ramping up its On Demand service with plans to sell digital copies of the latest movie releases – and send a DVD in the post, too.
The new ‘Buy & Keep’ service is expected to launch towards the end of April. Customers will be able to buy and immediately download a digital copy of the film they want to watch through their set top box. The physical copy, a standard DVD, will be sent in the post within five working days.
With competitors including iTunes, Amazon and blinkbox encouraging more and more people to buy or rent films digitally, Sky’s offer of a physical copy as well as a download is surprising.
Nicola Bamford, Director of Sky Store, insists the physical copy is not superfluous, saying the hybrid model acts as an “insurance policy” for customers still unsure about digital downloads.
“I’ve been to many focus groups, including people who use on demand but also still buy physical DVDs,” Bamford says. “They were worried about storage, and how their bought movies would be kept on the Planner. I think we’ve done a pretty good job in helping our customers – irrespective of where they sit on the technology adaptability curve – use the Sky+ HD box.”
However, the issue of storage on Sky+ boxes has already been resolved, as the new service will allow viewers to archive their purchased movies, saving space on the hard drive until they choose to watch.
As for what Bamford calls the “technology adaptability curve”, with 4.5 million boxes in the UK connected to the internet, Sky subscribers are becoming increasingly more aware of the digital services available to them.
Statistics from the Entertainment Retailers Association show that physical sales of TV shows and films fell 6.8% to £1.44bn in 2013. Digital sales by contrast grew by 40% to £621m.
“The market is moving to digital – Sky Go is doing really well, our On Demand service is doing well – but when we’re asking people to buy, somehow that peace of mind is very important,” Bamford insists.
New films will be available to buy at the same time as traditional DVD releases, with Sky hoping to secure ‘digital early release’ deals with major movie studios.
Around 200 titles will be available at launch, including The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and new Richard Curtis romcom About Time. New releases will typically cost £13.99, with library titles available for around £7.99.
The move also signals an expansion of the existing Sky Store. Bamford says initially the ‘Buy & Keep’ service will only be available to Sky subscribers, but in future non-subscribers will also be able to buy movies and TV box sets through the Sky Store website.