Already available via Xbox 360 and PC browser, and expected to appear on Cello TVs and 3View's set-top-boxes in the future, Sky Player has made its first leap into the AV market through FetchTV's Freeview+ set-top box.
The box has been around for a while now and already offers a full scope of Freeview channels, PVR functionality (including the ability to pause, record and rewind live TV), and access to a host of video-on-demand content, including The BBC's free iPlayer. It can also be used as a media streamer, able to playback H.264 (MP4) HD video, MP3s and JPEGs, among many other filetypes.
Now, though, it can also count Sky Player amongst its many talents. And it's the first STB to offer the service outside of games consoles or computers.
Naturally, Sky Player requires a subscription above and beyond what you may pay for Fetch TV's own VOD content, either as part of an existing Sky package or separate, but the end user can then use their log in on up to four registered devices; computer, console or STB.
It offers a wide selection of live channels, such as Sky One, Sky Sports, Sky Movies and others not available on conventional digital TV, and a variety of on-demand and catch-up services, including movies and football; if your subscription covers those areas. And its EPG is familiar to those with experience of Sky TV, with the FetchTV Freeview broadcast channels flowing naturally into Sky's.
For Sky and FetchTV, this is paramount to improve the end user's experience: "We don't want the user to worry whether the content's coming from broadcast or the Internet", says Eddie Abrams, CEO of FetchTV. "We want it to be as seamless as possible".
However, at present customers can't record from the Sky channels, only Freeview ones: "Perhaps we will change this in future", explains Griff Parry, Sky’s Director of On-Demand. "But there are problems with rights issues, for example".
He also believes that recording is less necessary in this instance, when there are "comprehensive catch-up" services on offer. In essence, the suggestion is that you'll be able to watch any programme you miss via VOD, without the need to store it on the hard drive. We can hear the collective groaning from archivists already...
The FetchTV Freeview+ Smartbox 8000 is available now for around £220, from stores such as John Lewis and Currys Digital, and online at the company's own website (where it's currently on offer for £180).
Sky Player is live to users as of today, but it may take another week to switch on all of its functionality. Subscription details can be found here.