Sky & Microsoft Partnership in the UK Officially Announced

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Sky and Microsoft today announced a new partnership for the UK and Ireland that is set to please TV and gaming fans alike, as Sky plan to bring their Sky Player (their online TV service) to Xbox 360’s this coming autumn.
The new service was today demoed in front of the UK’s gaming press, with Sky Sports favourite, Georgie Thompson (glowing as ever may I add) on hand to dictate the proceedings. Whilst details of the full channel line-up and subscription packages are yet to be disclosed, details of how the service would run were aplenty.
Through your Xbox, users will have access to a whole array of TV shows ranging from must-see entertainment shows, blockbuster movies, documentaries, kids, music, arts, to the more important (for me anyway), sports. Whether you want to watch your favourite programs live, or at your own leisure, the choice is yours. 
The Sky Planner on the Xbox 360 utilizes the slick menu system as introduced by the NXE last year. Viewers can then select their genre, and check out what sort of programmes are available for viewing. Not only can viewers cycle through each genre and program, but each program itself is backed up with relevant information tied to it, from synopsis to cast. The service will also boast the usage of a clean and quick TV guide to enhance your viewing experience.
The service, like Netflix, is streaming only, so load times will be relatively quick and painless, and it carries with it a great picture quality. When autumn comes, all live TV streamed from the service will be of standard definition quality, with the on-demand programs being upscaled to equal that of a DVD rip. It looks like they really have their bases covered.
Many will question the need for the Sky Player through the Xbox but from a Sky standpoint, it’s all about offering their current customers more choice in how they access their content, whilst at the same time reaching a new audience who may not have been able to access Sky before. Stephen Nuttall, Director of Sky’s Commercial Group commented that their “partnership with Xbox is a further example of our commitment to put choice and control in the hands of customers.  Xbox owners now have a range of ways to access Sky content and can pick and choose the platform and packages that are right for them.”
When the service kicks off in the autumn, existing Sky customers will be access their subscription service as they would through a PC or Mac. New customers however will be able to take advantage of a number of currently unspecified packages with Microsoft hinting at a pay-per-view service being available as well.
The partnership is also looking to enhance the viewer’s experience by including supporting applications. Sky Sports for instance will offer viewers the chance to check fixtures, results and league tables of their favourite sports team in the middle of the live action. The service will also feature live statistics, team line-ups, news and a whole array of goodies to compliment the service further. 
The Xbox 360 Sky Player will also feature avatar support allowing you and your friends to join an Xbox Live Party and watch the match together. Sing when you’re winning, initiate avatar actions to belittle your friends when you score, or just nonchalantly support your team, it’s your call. Interactive applications will also be developed across other programme genres as well.
This is indeed a momentous relationship for 360 users in the UK as two of the leading brands in entertainment come together to combine forces. With a slick interface, split-second loading times and a crisp picture, the Xbox 360 Sky Player looks like a fantastic addition for TV and games fans in the UK and Ireland. Will the partnership share a similar success to what Netflix and Microsoft’s US branch have seen to date? If the subscription plans for non-Sky subscribers are well executed, then you’re damn right it will. It also allows people who might not have had the chance to experience Sky before, a chance to catch its shows through a broadband connection and their home console, instead of sticking up a fugly dish.
Check back tomorrow to see what Jerry Johnson, General Manager of Xbox Live in Europe and Sky’s Adrian Pilkington had to say about the whole deal in our exclusive little chat.


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