Sky Sports News Relaunches iPad App, With Fee For Non-Pay TV Subs

When the News Corporation-controlled UK satellite broadcaster Sky launched a free iPad app for its Sky Sports News channel in September 2010, some wondered if it would also start to offer a paid version of the product. Well, it’s taken 15 months, but it’s happened.

Sky’s newest edition of the app, still free to pay TV subscribers, now includes a £4.99 monthly fee for those who are not — another example of how broadcasters are looking to use their apps not just as complements to their core TV services, but as revenue generators in their own right.

The new app, currently only available in the UK (sorry, overseas British sports fans), offers a significantly expanded list of services on top of those from the earlier version. Users can now get a live feed of the channel (before there were on-demand clips from the live feed as well as a link to Sky Sports News Radio, which are still available, too).

David Gibbs, director of mobile for Sky, also notes that they have added in some new features that were in response to requests from existing users. One of these is a more extensive graphic interfaces with up-to-the-minute match data as it happens. Match data, he says, probably the most-used part of its existing sports news app.

The app is a signal of how broadcasters are looking to apps as a way of growing revenues beyond those that they are getting from pay-TV services and advertising. Those who subscribe to Sky’s sports bundle via satellite TV, which includes Sky Sports channels as well as Sky Sports News, will continue to get the app for free, which works as a kind of perk for those who are paying for the TV content.

Those who do not get Sky Sports by satellite — and that includes those who might pay for Sky Sports but via cable or IPTV services — can now pay £4.99 ($7.80) per month to get the app. That payment goes through Apple’s in-app payment system, meaning that Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) will get a 30 percent cut on the fee.

“If you look at comScore/GSMA data, we have four of our apps in the top 20, and two of them are sports apps, Football Centre and Sky Sports News,” Gibbs noted.

As before, the app will also offer a selection of content to users that integrates text posts from the channel’s web site (still free), as well as video from the TV channel. While the app still gives users full lists of the day’s games, it still does not offer direct links to Sky’s video coverage of those games — but it does have links to Sky Go, the company’s separate video app that lets users watch that content. Down the line, it sounds like that move from fixture info to actual game will be more seamless in later iterations of the app.

As cool as all this sounds, it looks like the full whack of bells and whistles will be something for iPad eyes only for now. An Android version is “coming soon,” says Gibbs. “It’s easier to build for iOS but we are pushing ahead.” Ditto a web-based app: “Video at the moment is always built in the native application environment,” he explains. “It’s the ony way we can really protect our premium video content.”