Sky+, beginning in 2001, is an umbrella term used by BSkyB to refer to a television playback service which allows Sky customers to record, rewind and fast-forward live television. It consists of a box, operated via remote control, and with hard drive space that varies between 250GB and 1TB, on which television shows and movies can be stored for future use. Throughout its eleven year existence, it has proven popular, and new technology (for example, the introduction of the 1TB hard drive) allows BSkyB to further improve its usability.
Now, an update to an existing iOS app looks advance Sky+ even further. ‘zeebox’ was released in late 2011, providing a basic scheduling system and TV guide for the service. However, its latest update completely re-works the entire system, turning the user’s iPhone or iPad into a remote control, capable of rewinding, pausing and skipping live television, as well as setting-up the Sky+ to record, or simply scrolling through and selecting recorded programs. In-effect, zeebox renders all features of Sky+ operable via tablet and smartphone. paidContent web-magazine said, of the service; “I have seen the future of TV, and it is called zeebox.”
While at present some features are restricted to the tablet (over the phone) for practical reasons, zeebox is an ongoing project, and will likely be further-updated over the coming months. Since BSkyB bought a stake in the company, advertising runs have declared it to be “…the best thing to happen to TV since TV.”
At present zeebox is only available in the United Kingdom. However, a similar service could prove useful in breaking into the lucrative American market, where 96.7% of households own a television (as opposed to approximately 87% of UK homes). Another potential development for the app would be to have both smartphone and tablet fully integrated, as opposed to restricting some features from the iPhone. The option to stream live television, and to transfer recorded programs from the Sky+ hard drive to the user’s tablet for mobile viewing (for example, on a train journey) may also be feasible. While this may seem like simple speculation, one of the co-founders of the service, Anthony Rose, was the CTO of BBC’s iPlayer, which offers a slightly comparible service to Sky+.
However, to accurately speculate without yet knowing the market impact of the ‘new-and-improved’ zeebox service is ill-advised. If, however, zeebox proves successful, we may see changes in the way we consume television-media just around the corner.