BBC Football Coverage to Resume

As covered in mainstream media, a high profile dispute between the BBC and Gary Lineker resulted in significant coverage to football coverage of the weekend (11th/12th March 2023). The dispute resulted from opinions expressed on the presenter’s personal social media account relating to current government policy.

Continue reading BBC Football Coverage to Resume

Viaplay Confirms UK Launch

Following acquisition of the Premier Sports TV channels earlier this year, Viaplay Group has confirmed the upcoming launch of its own branded content.

Premier Sports 1 and 2 will continue largely unchanged, but will be rebranded to Viaplay Sports 1 and 2 respectively. Both will continue to be available to subscribers largely on both Sky (satellite) and Virgin Media (cable). Freesports, currently free-to-air on satellite (albeit not on Freesat EPG), will become Viaplay Extra and will broaden its programming beyond sports. It is likely that rebranded Freesports will become encrypted, following a brief period of encryption observed earlier in the year.

The re-brands will occur on the 1st November, coinciding with the launch of Viaplay’s streaming platform in the UK. This will include two packages, Films & Series which will be focused on Nordic storytelling with Viaplay and third-party content, and Total which adds the full sports line-up. These are priced at £3.99 per month and £14.99 per month respectively.

HD Upgrade on the Way for UKTV Play

UKTV, owned by BBC Studios, has unveiled improvements for on-demand streaming platform UKTV Play. The platform allows viewers to stream programmes from free-to-air channels Dave, Drama, W, and Yesterday, as well as premium channels Alibi, Eden, and Gold for BT TV, Sky, and Virgin Media customers with the relevant subscription.

From today (Wednesday 28th September), a new look has been introduced, including an new logo. From November, high definition (HD) content will become available, initially for new released programmes, but re-encoded back catalogue content will follow shortly after, where a HD master (original copy) is available.

What is slightly unclear is how this will affect BT TV, Sky, and Virgin Media in the longer term, as HD versions of the free-to-air channels remain exclusive to paying subscribers. Perhaps this a sign that HD may eventually become free-to-air on linear TV platforms such as Freesat in the near future.

UKTV Play is available on a number of devices; including mobile phones and tablets, Apple TV, Youview, Freeview Play devices and some Freesat receivers.

Sky Glass Channel Additions

Sky have made improvements to its Sky Glass service, the dish free service based around its streaming TV.

The most significant change is the addition of 9 channels that had already been available on Sky’s satellite platform, but we’re absent when Sky Glass first launched. These are:

    • Bloomberg
    • Colors HD
    • Colors Rishtey
    • Colors Gujrati
    • GB News
    • NBC News Now
    • TalkTV
    • Zee TV
    • Zee Cinema

Where available, these channels will be HD by default.

Other improvements include the inclusion of YouTube within voice control functions, and a single login process for all BBC services such as BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds.

Sky Glass to Launch in Ireland

Sky have confirmed that its Irish operation is to launch Sky Glass in the Republic of Ireland, in just under a months time, on the 25th August (2022).

Sky Glass, already available in the UK, is based around a bespoke TV which streams channels via an internet connection, removing the need for a satellite dish or separate set-top box.

As is the case in the UK, the Sky Glass television will be available in three sizes; small (43 inch), medium (55 inch), and large (65 inch), and a variety of colours. Customers in the Republic of Ireland can already pre-register for Sky Glass.

Channel availability is likely to vary compared to Sky’s satellite service, and the full channel line up is yet to be confirmed.

Other developments will see Sky launch their Sky Mobile virtual mobile phone network next year (2023), and four flagship retail stores are also scheduled to open.

Substantial Increase in Amazon Prime Subscription Costs

Amazon have announced significant increases in the cost of both monthly and annual subscriptions to its Amazon Prime service. In addition, to next day delivery for purchases made via the website, subscribers have other benefits including access to the Prime Video on-demand streaming service.

The changes take effect from 15th September (2022), and will see the monthly price rise from £7.99 to £8.99 a month, with the annual price rising from £79 to £95 a year. New customers will pay the higher price on this date, with existing customers facing the increase on the first renewal/roll over after this date.

This is the first increase in the price since 2014, and Amazon have blamed the increase on increased inflation and operating costs, and have not ruled out further increases.

Feature: Why is Netflix Losing Subscribers?

Not a story that has been covered on this website, but it has now been widely reported that Netflix is struggling to maintain is subscriber numbers. Netflix was one of the first subscription on-demand streaming services, and has enjoyed success over a number of years, but now finds itself in less calm waters.

Naturally, Netflix and other subscription services such as Amazon Prime saw a boost in subscribers due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Large sections of the population, both in the UK and worldwide, found themselves with less work to do, and more time on their hands. With only so much DIY possible, entertainment from the comfort your own home became increasingly important, particularly with the severe restrictions in place in the early days of the pandemic. However, most of these restrictions are now being lifted, and streaming services are now less important.

However, the drop in subscriber numbers that Netflix is facing is not replicated across the industry as a whole (or at the very least based on the limited figures I have at my disposal). Therefore, there must be other factors in play, with two that stand out; competition, and the rising costs of essentials.

Naturally, the latter is starting to bite hard. Fuel prices have been increased by at least 50p often more, despite a 5p cut in fuel duty (tax). This in turn has forced food prices up. Not to mention increases in the costs of electricity and gas. All largely blamed on rising wholesale costs, albeit with little actual evidence of what has increased these wholesales costs. The rise in costs was already in motion before Russia invaded Ukraine, and whilst that hasn’t helped matters, I don’t really buy into that excuse (although that subject is a debate in its own right).

Returning to Netflix and streaming services, with these being a luxury, they’re most likely to be cut from family budgets earlier. It would be plausible for those who subscribe to multiple services, to cut back to a fewer amount. Perhaps, this could be the one used most often, or one with another benefit (next day delivery on Amazon purchases with Amazon Prime for example). This may partially explain the drop in Netflix customers.

Competition is perhaps the bigger driving factor, with more services available than ever before. When once Netflix was in a handful of big fish, now several platforms compete for viewers attention. Recent arrivals include Britbox, Apple TV, Paramount Plus, soon to launch ITV X, and the popular Disney Plus, to name but a few. Not to mention the aforementioned Amazon Prime, and free services such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, and My5. Many like to try new things, and that is a driving factor against Netflix.

It seems unlikely that Netflix will fade away, but it seems unlikely that it will continue to be the dominant force that it once was. It will be interesting to see future market shifts. Will the many small players survive, or will they thrive and further erode the Netflix market share? Only time will tell.