Sky heads for interactivity

Sky Television is moving closer to introducing interactive TV along with adbusting personal video recorder technology, following talks with conditional access systems company NDS.

Sky Television is moving closer to introducing interactive TV along with adbusting personal video recorder technology, following talks with conditional access systems company NDS.

The head of NDS Australia, Peter Iles, met Sky last week, in discussions he describes as “very positive”.

NDS, which supplies set-top-box software to Sky’s parent company BSkyB in the UK, is expected to be at the forefront of digital pay-TV in New Zealand, where Sky hopes to head off TVNZ’s alliance with Telstra Saturn.

“Sky will be in a position to set itself up in opposition to TVNZ,” Iles says.

However, Sky is yet to decide who will manufacture its set-top-boxes, with both Pace and Motorola likely contenders. NDS will supply the in-house software behind the 20-to-30GB hard drives used to screen digital TV signals.

Iles is sceptical about the status of TVNZ’s claim that it will offer a free-to-air service, noting that the SOE will scramble their signal so it cannot be picked up by Sky’s boxes.

“How is that free-to-air?”

The initial introduction of Sky's interactive set-top-boxes could see email access, news and information services, as well as detailed programme information. That might include statistics of sports players, or information about albums show-cased by promotional music videos.

NDS does not anticipate digital television to fully blossom until the arrival of MPEG layer-4 video data compression, and believes that until it does, DSL-line transmission is unlikely.

Personal video recorders, which allow consumers to record only the programmes they want to watch, and not attendant advertisements, are also promoted by NDS.

Sky’s initial approach will likely be a more passive one than TVNZ’s, since Sky’s service here, as in the UK, will focus primarily on “enhanced entertainment”, says Peter Iles.

However, Iles agrees that TVNZ’s incorporation of Nzoom into its operations could pressure Sky into sourcing more web-based content, perhaps from Xtra, owned by Telecom – which owns 10% of Sky – or from newspaper publisher INL, controlled, like Sky, by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

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