2020 IS ALREADY shaping up to be the year of the streaming wars. With Disney, HBO, Discovery, Britbox (BBC/ITV) and Apple just some of the names expected to launch a subscription service in the coming months, alongside the myriad already available, there's going to be carnage.
No one in their right mind is going to pay for everything, and that means some decisions need to be made.
In amongst all this, Sky threw us a curveball yesterday with the announcement that two new linear channels - Sky Crime and Sky Comedy - will be rolling out in the next six months. This seemed a bit bizarre for a company so keen to promote its own huge on-demand library bolstered further by access to Netflix.
Here's the thing though. These new brands, in 2019, are little more than barker channels, and that's the rub.
Remember Sky originally planned to ditch the dish for an all-streaming service last year, and it's still on the cards.
For the unfamiliar, the term "barker channel" refers to a linear TV channel that uses either its downtime or in some cases its entire schedule to promote itself or its stablemates.
Traditionally, that's been in the form of adverts and promos, but in the age of streaming, the programmes are there to advertise themselves.
Think about it - when was the last time you watched a movie on Sky Movies as a linear broadcast? If you've access to them, you've access to the same film on demand too, so why would you?
In effect, Sky's entire movie channel portfolio is little more than barkers to streaming the same content on-demand at your own pace.
Longtime Sky users will obviously be delighted at the arrival of two new Sky branded channels - the first since Sky Atlantic in 2011. We'd have bet against it, but in the context of streaming, it makes total sense - all the new acquisitions and commissions for these channels will have been signed with streaming rights aforethought, and the aim is actually to hugely bolster the SkyBox Set library.
It also provides a distraction to Sky's slight shame. Unlike Virgin and BT/Talk Talk - Sky's biggest rivals - Sky doesn't offer Amazon Prime Video as an option.
So what? You may think. But Amazon Prime has quietly broken the monopoly on Premier League football this year, buying the rights to one of the bouquets of matches auctioned off.
That means that Sky, Britain's biggest pay-TV provider, is not able to offer the full season of Premier League matches on its platform for the first time in twenty years - despite that being the jewel in the crown that made its name.
Sky tells us it's "open" to partnerships with third parties, but didn't have any further comment. That suggests to us that the wheels are probably in motion, but the negotiations (not to mention the technical integration) are at a delicate stage. If that's wrong, Sky, feel free to tell us.
This is the tip of the iceberg, of course. Streaming services have only just begun the process of swiping live broadcasts, with Amazon leading the way via Premier League football and ATP Tennis.
But if you think the hoo-ha when The Great British Bake Off moved from BBC One to Channel 4, imagine what will happen when, say, Love Island is snapped up by, say Disney+ (highly unlikely, but you get the idea) and you're forced to pay a monthly subscription to keep your torso and sideboob levels buoyed.
Netflix, Amazon and Sky have had it easy so far. But the arrival of these new Sky channels is a nod to the future - 2020 is the year that television will change forever. Are you ready? And more importantly - can you actually afford it? We're not sure we can. µ
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