SKY

Sky is a Pan-European satellite broadcasting, on-demand internet streaming media, broadband and telephone services company with headquarters in London.

It has operations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
Sky is Europe’s biggest and leading media company and largest pay-TV broadcaster, with 21 million subscribers, 30,000 employees as of 2015 and £12B revenue in 2016.
It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

(source: wikipedia)

When I joined Sky in 2013, I started working with other 30 professionals on a super secret project. Our task was to “re-invent the way TV viewers watched TV“. That small team grew over the years to hundreds, and in 2016 led to the launch of the multiaward winning TV platform Sky Q.

My objective was to encourage access to online content while watching TV.
The idea behind Sky Q was a TV platform designed to be connected. We knew from field research that customer were interacting a lot with mobile devices while watching TV, but the challenge was: how might we facilitate access to online content right from TV, in order to increase engagement and the perception of value from the TV service they are paying for?
Perception of value is directly inversely correlated with churn, which, together with engagement and ARPU, are the key metrics of any subscription service.

In order to figure out what to do, I’ve adopted a Lean and Customer-centric approach based on the following process:

  • validate assumptions about customers problems through Customer development interviews
  • use insights to collaboratively define a Unique Value Proposition
  • test and iterate the value proposition
  • define minimum set of features for launch and start development.

One of the very first things that I realised when I started to interview customers was that they were very annoyed by the experience offered at that time from most TV boxes or Smart TVs.
The problem was that, in order to access a TV app displaying online content, say Twitter for example, they had to abandon TV viewing.
We are all familiar with the experience: we select a thumbnail, the screen goes black for a minute or so, the audio shuts down, and at a certain point a twitter feed appears over the entire screen. Whatever we were watching before having the insane idea of selecting the app is gone. Why did we do that?
There was no way Sky customers were going to check online real time scores for football matches on TV while watching Chelsea vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports. Guaranteed.

So together with a very talented team of designers, developers and sports experts, we drafted, tested with customers, iterated a million times and then finally developed the concept of progressive interaction, that is in the subject of the international patent recently filed.
The basic idea is: TV viewers want to watch TV content. Whenever they decide to interact with online stuff, the UI resizes the TV content accordingly to their level of engagement, but it will never shut it down it in the first place.

Let’s see an example.
Whoever has Sky Q, tried to push the “…” button on the right of the remote control and selected the Sky Sports app from the side panel, would have seen this.

The Sky Sports app appears on screen and is showing online content, but the James Bond movie I was watching is still playing on the largest area of the screen. This setup is good from browsing news, getting updates or checking scores. Whenever I decide to watch some online video, that’s were the progressive interaction comes into place, and the James Bond movie becomes smaller.

This second setup is good for browsing catalogues of online video content. The James Bond movie though, is still playing on the left. In case I decide to watch an online video of my interest, at this stage the video plays in full screen.

Since I decided to play another video, the James Bond movie is now paused and disappeared. The online content took over the entire screen, but it was customers’ choice to do that.

The results have been extremely positive.
Right after launch, Sky Q has been awarded as Home entertainment product of the year by Trusted Reviews and as TV Gadget of the year by stuff.tv.
The quality of the interaction design was so high and frictionless that during the service trial, 50% of the active users were using the online apps from TV on a daily basis.
Today Sky Sports and Sky News TV apps on Sky Q are part of the digital properties that allow the Sky’s premium TV channels to engage with their customers across the entire range of consumer digital devices, from mobile, to laptop and TV.

TESTIMONIALS

I had the pleasure of working with Davide at a technically challenging project that allowed Sky News to publish content to the state of the art Sky Q set-top-box. The project had aggressive timescales, budgetary constraints and very demanding senior stakeholders. It was also at risk of being late. Davide did an outstanding job at bringing everybody together and finding solutions that both allowed us to deliver the project on time and appease our stakeholders. I would definitely look forward to a chance to work with Davide again.
Filipe Albero Pomar, scrum master

To a certain degree, for a certain period, every project has an element of chaos. 
Add an enormous budget, increase risk and multiply the number of opinions then the element of chaos grows exponentially. I worked with Davide in this sort of environment. There were so many plates being spun and egos at all levels.
In amongst this you often see people lose their good humour and humanity. Inevitably, creativity soon follows and ideas grind to a halt.
Not with Davide. He kept a level head, his team’s spirits up and most of all he just kept going. I can’t underestimate how important that is – yes he’s very bright, has great business knowledge and is a lovely guy but above all these things the ability to keep things going means a project he is involved in stands the best chance of beating the chaos and seeing the light of day.
Joel Bradley, Creative Director

Davide has the rare talent of having the perfect combination of user-focus, technical know-how, creative flair, and business acumen – all of which mean he is an exception product manager and mentor. I would highly recommend Davide as a manager who delivers first class audience experiences. As well as leading by example to ensure the highest standards to develop products that users love, he is a pleasure to work with and he makes things happen even against the flow of the tide.
Cliff Jones, product manager