Sky New Zealand Goes Android With Help From Irdeto

Satellite TV operator Sky New Zealand has appointed Netherlands based content security company Irdeto to help plot its deployment of Android Operator Tier set top boxes (STBs) as part of a migration towards hybrid video services combining DTH with broadband internet delivery.

On this count it is heading in the same direction as its namesake, but totally unrelated, Sky in Europe, now owned by Comcast.

The move makes sense in a mostly sparsely populated country with a lot of rugged mountainous terrain, where a significant number of rural customers will continue to rely on satellite for access to mainstream TV services. Indeed, while the country’s towns and cities have a range of internet access options over fiber, copper and cellular, there are at least six satellite broadband providers serving rural areas, such as Lightwire and Starlink.

Sky NZ’s strategy is to continue delivering premium content over DTH to subscribers via the new Android based Sky Box, while introducing a range of online content, from Google apps and other sources, over the broadband connection, however that is provided. The Sky Box has been developed with the help of various partners, of which Irdeto seems to be the primary one to judge by comments from Sky NZ CEO Sophie Moloney.

“Feedback from our customers has been at the heart of the Sky Box development program from day one, and this new partnership with Irdeto will allow us to deliver on what matters most to customers for the new box,” said Moloney. Irdeto’s Cloaked CA is the core security technology protecting Sky’s content from theft, which is pre-integrated with the firm’s forensic watermarking package, TraceMark, to reduce risk of illicit redistribution over the internet. With the help of network forensic techniques, forensic watermarking allows infringing streams to be traced back to their source so that remedial action can be taken quickly, such as shutting them down.

Sky has also contracted Irdeto to operate its existing CA (Conditional Access) platform. Irdeto will deploy and operate a scalable CA cloud-based system, removing the burden of daily CA management so that Sky can concentrate better on its core activities, such as content acquisition and user experience. Sky is also implementing Irdeto App Watch for Android TV, designed to ensure the integrity of apps running on Sky’s Android TV STBs. It gives oversight and targeted control of the apps on the Android TV STBs, allowing Sky to restrict problematic apps and plug-ins.

Other partners include Kaonmedia for the Sky Box itself, integrating key features including WiFi6 connectivity for subscribers, and support for content at 4K resolution. Broader systems integration was handled by Wyplay around its own middleware. Then the Bluetooth remote control with embedded microphone for voice search was provided by Universal Electronics.

Sky NZ seems to encourage conflation with Sky Europe, having chosen very similar branding and technology over recent years. Like Sky Europe, it has a TV Everywhere service called Sky Go and streaming-only version called Sky Sports Now, while in the UK there is Now TV. Sky NZ was it is true rather later into broadband, announcing plans in May 2020, followed by launch for existing satellite customers in March 2021. This was followed two months later in May 2021 with availability to new customers.

There are also some differences over content availability that reflect not just regional distinctions but also the fact that Sky Europe is owned by Comcast and is therefore a sister company of NBC Universal, a major studio. The operator is therefore seen as a competitor to major content providers and certainly their streaming outlets. This led Disney for example to pull its Disney+ streaming offering from Sky Europe, yet in June 2021 reaching an exclusive partnership with Sky NZ Broadband for provision of its streaming content in the country.

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