I finally got my hands on Sky Player after its launch on October 27th. The new service for the Xbox 360 was removed after Microsoft and Sky experienced technical issues over the “phenomenal demand”.
In a statement last week on a Sky Player Blog, Sky offered compensation to those who had already signed up to the feature, yet were unable to access the services on offer. I was one of the many unfortunate people unable to access this service until now. So join me after the break to see its features in action.
To access the features of Sky Player, you need to have the two essential components: a Gold subscription to Xbox LIVE, and an active account with Sky. If you have both of these, then you can go to the video marketplace and click on Sky Player’s channel. This will then take you to a log-in screen where you enter your Sky Player ID and password.
When you finally get to use it, the service looks very clean and well presented. I was impressed at how fast I was able to download the service; I had Sky Player ready in a matter of minutes, and was watching TV on my console soon after.
Waiting two weeks for this service, however, has been a huge kick in the teeth. Microsoft is looking very weak in comparison to Sony at the moment, and avoiding bad launches is essential to future success.
The most interesting feature on offer with Sky Player is the Party Room. This is where you can have up to eight people watching the same live television program. This feature would be utilized best with sports channels, bringing people together, and using the remote functions to make watching live TV more exciting. I think that Microsoft would benefit from more services such as this one, where people can meet up online on a social basis; not just to play games.
The streaming of live television and on-demand services are seamless; I had absolutely no issues with the streaming. Similarly, even on high quality there were no interruptions. The only instance where I experienced a loading time was when I initially started a program, or when I had to rewind the video to watch something I missed.
The biggest issue with this new service is clarity. According to Xbox.com’s article, Sky TV on your Xbox 360, we are told that existing Sky customers will be able to take advantage of a new, different, and exciting way to watch television. What this does not tell you is that having a subscription to Sky is not enough. If you want to watch programs for free, you have to have Sky Multiroom, which is an extra £10 a month. If you do not have this package, then you will have to pay an extra £5 a month to enjoy Sky services on your Xbox 360.
If you are looking for a wider variety of television and don’t have Sky, it can all get a little bit expensive. If you want to have the entertainment pack, it will cost you £15. This rises to £34 for access to the sports pack, £43 to include movies, and finally, £50 to include ESPN.
It works out far cheaper for new customers to go out and get a full Sky subscription, with more channels at a lower price. Sky often does deals throughout the year where you can purchase Sky, getting the box and dish for free. All together, you could get the entertainment, movies, and sports packs for around £19.50 a month. If you so wish, you could include the Sky Player packet to your Xbox, bringing your total to £24.50 a month, far cheaper than getting Sky on the console alone.
I am pleased with the Sky Player service on the Xbox 360; it has given me a wider variety of channels, and improved the service of Sky Multiroom that I pay for. However, I think that Microsoft needs to start working on cheaper, or even free, services that are included with their console. Expense is causing a great divide between the Xbox and its rivals. I would hope to see the cost for this service for new customers reduced in the future; I feel it should be free to Sky customers, not just Multiroom subscribers.
Forking out an extra £5 could very well deter people into simply switching rooms to watch television, shattering any claims of convenience this service brings. Overall, this is a fantastic inclusion to Xbox LIVE, but only if you have a Gold subscription and Sky Multiroom. If you don’t have these, it will unfortunately become just another service that you look at and never use.