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 multi–award 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.
The Sky Q apps have been praised by users and by the press. An article published by The Express 2 years after Sky Q launch commented the apps as below:
“It’s a brilliant feature, and allows viewers to quickly check the latest headlines, weather updates, and more, without changing channel or interrupting the show.
At launch, Sky Q only had a small selection of apps, including Sky News and Sky Sports.
And unfortunately, despite a swathe of software updates to the system in the last two years, that number hasn’t increased.
It appears third-party developers haven’t exactly fallen over themselves for the chance to create a custom Sky Q application.
That’s a shame, since there is some serious potential here“.