Twenty-eight years after hooking up Filipinos to cable TV, SKY Cable is still changing the game and churning out innovation after innovation.High-definition (HD) cable TV, an online streaming service for live TV channels and on-demand shows, cable TV conveniently bundled with broadband—chances are, you’ve recently used or indulged in one of these conveniences introduced by the company.
The pioneering entrepreneurial spirit, not to mention the innovation mind-set, is indeed strong with the Philippines’ leading cable TV operator.
And SKY is far from done. It is gearing up for innovations as it seeks to provide seamless personal content experiences to its customers.
While SKY’s culture of innovation permeates the entire organization, it is most apparent now in these three major areas—content and entertainment, broadband connectivity and improving business processes.
SKY Digibox 2.0
Given customers’ evolving entertainment needs and the myriad ways of consuming content, SKY has upgraded its SKY Digibox, which it first introduced alongside its HD cable TV service in 2009.
According to SKY Research and Product Development (RPD) head Joevel Rivera, the old SKY Digibox was developed to provide clear digital signal for cable TV channels which is what the market needed at the time.
“When March [SKY president and COO Antonio Ventosa] came in, one of the things that he wanted to do was for us to make cable more exciting again,” Rivera says. “He said, ‘Let’s look at how the customer will use the service. Even if it’s going to be more expensive, but if it will result in the customer wanting to use the service, then let's spend on it."
As subscribers habitually switch between their TV sets and mobile devices, SKY keeps in step by giving them more options.
The next-generation SKY On Demand box now offers even more content experiences as it enables subscribers to watch not just cable TV channels, but also their Netflix favorites and YouTube videos—all from one box. Thus, no more need to switch devices!
This WiFi-enabled box may also be used to livestream content directly into customers’ phones via the SKYcable Box Companion app. The app allows users to livestream cable TV shows and channels at home, or to catch up on shows they have missed.
Watch content anytime, anywhere, any device
Taking its cue from the millennial generation, SKY is reaching beyond the Digibox to mobile devices—the demographic’s preferred mode of consuming content, the RPD head notes.
“Whenever they’re in the house or outside the house they can continue to watch in real time and on demand. It’s part of our OTT [over-the-top] strategy to make sure that linear and on-demand content, particularly ABS-CBN content, is available wherever they are. From our analytics, those are what people really want to see—foreign and local cable content, PPV, ABSCBN shows.”
In May 2016, SKY launched SKYdirect, a direct-to-home pay TV service via satellite, allowing it to offer its content anywhere in the country. SKYdirect has achieved 700.000 subscribers as of June.
Rivera says SKYdirect is SKY’s fastest growing business that paved the way for its resurgence in the pay TV space.
“We are growing faster than our competitors in DTH and we should be able to, in a year or two, be at par if not more than them in terms of subscriber base,” the RPD chief states.
At the same time, the company aims to at least double its coverage for cable and broadband throughout the country in the next three years while working to reduce the cost of its internet bandwidth.
“The internet is like the water business—you need ample supply of water and the extensive network of pipes to deliver the service. Bigger pipes will allow faster delivery of water. More water consumed means higher water bills. While in SKY, we have the big pipes (cable docsis) to deliver water, we manage the supply so that everybody will have ample supply commensurate to what they are paying. Our challenge is to make sure our network of pipes runs through your neighborhood so we can deliver the service to you,” Rivera explains.
Another endeavor under the broadband connectivity sphere is “build your own solutions,” where customers have the freedom to select and pay only for the channels they want to watch. It’s different from the SKY Select service in that the customer has to first sign up for certain plans in order to enjoy the à la carte option.
"Now, you can get one or two channels and that’s all you have to pay for. If you just watch CNN or Fox or whatever channel, then you pay only for it. Of course, the local channels will be there because we are required to offer them, so ABS-CBN will always be there,” Rivera says, adding that “build your own solutions” should be rolled out within the year.
“We’d like to take advantage of what the cloud computing infrastructure can do for us, to be able to put all these servers in the cloud so that wherever we are, we’re able to access information to serve our customers better,” Rivera says.
On their end, customers will have the freedom to interact with the company in the way they are more comfortable with—to access their subscription from an app, whether they need to inquire, place an order, report a fault or give feedback.
Non-digital natives however can rest assured that the traditional methods of communication will still be in place.
“We’d like to expand the way that we interact with them using the new technologies that are available,” Rivera points out. “But if there’s a need, we’ll have agents that can also interact with the customer by chat.”
Led by Customer Engineering and Managed Services head Jamie Lopez, SKY also looks to further its digital transformation by leveraging new technologies and improving the way it deals with customers.
With all these initiatives and innovations, not to mention its track record as a trailblazer, Rivera rightly expresses confidence in the 28-year-old company
“I’m bullish for SKY. I believe in the future of the company and I believe in the future of ABS-CBN. We are smaller, but we can move faster, decide faster, and we have ABS-CBN to help us achieve that,” he asserts.
The next-generation SKY On Demand box
Employees test new products at SKY’s RPD lab
The home menu of the SOD Box
The Picture in Picture feature allows the user to view two shows simultaneously