Robert adds: BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) is launching its Sky News iPad app on March 17.
Original: Sky is keen to launch mobile apps across many smartphone and tablet platforms, despite challenges around monetisation and rights, according to its general manager for mobile, David Gibbs.
“We’ve seen success on iPhone, with 10.2m downloads of our applications,” he said at the Mobile Monday event in London.
“But it’s important if we’re going to make a real commitment to mobile, we need to be ubiquitous as possible. It’s important that we spread ourselves across all of the platforms. That can be quite expensive, but if you’re committed to it, you have to invest.”
Gibbs said Sky has been impressed with the performance of its apps on BlackBerry smartphones – “it’s been a really encouraging platform for us” – and said the broadcaster is monitoring the progress of Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) for Windows Phone.
And Android? Sky has developed apps for Android, but Gibbs said there are specific issues with Google’s OS that are preventing the company from investing heavily. “The big sticking point at the moment is security around streams,” he said.
“We can’t protect those streams to meet the obligations for our rightsholders. There will be a solution around September-time, but it’s a challenge: we’re optimising someone else’s [DRM] solution and putting a wrapper around it. We would like to have been there earlier, as we are aware there is a significant number of Android customers.”
Gibbs described Apple’s iPad 2 as a “really exciting platform”, picking out its ability to display 1080p resolution HD video. However, Sky is taking an equally balanced view to the tablet market in the long term.
“We’re looking at all tablets,” he said. “BlackBerry PlayBook is an interesting proposition for us, as the specific BlackBerry audience offers something different to the iPad and Android devices. But we’re looking at all of them. You have to follow the customer.”
He sidestepped questions about Apple’s new rules on iOS subscriptions, while admitting that “the whole debate changed quite a bit last week” around charging for iOS applications.
Overall, Gibbs was bullish about smartphones and tablets, though. “We see this as the third screen, and increasingly becoming the second screen for our customers.”
He said that broadcasters are resisting the pressure to reach fixed conclusions about business models in the apps space.
“The beauty of this is you can experiment with different models, and afford to change things around. We have an existing subscription for our customers, so how do we extend that subscription and add value to it in our tablet products, and how do we create new customers? It’s still a learning process.”
Gibbs warned that Sky has to operate within its rights agreements and the security obligations around them, meaning that there are some restrictions to the content it can offer on tablets – especially in the light of technologies such as Apple’s AirPlay, which lets iPad users stream video from apps to their television.
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.