BSkyB, British Sky Broadcasting Group plc, in whom News Corp has an almost 40% stake, have announced that they will start providing online streaming service this year. The service will work through a set-top box, won’t require a subscription and will eventually offer film and sports to go along with TV content. They also own some 19% in ITV in the UK as well.

The BSkyB Online Streaming Service

The move has many analysts saying this is Sky’s attempt to keep Netflix at bay in the market as they opened their streaming service there less than a month ago. Sky has some 10 million subscribers.

The country has about 23 million households so that’s almost one in three. If they could take that and turn it into streaming media customers it could definitely put a crimp in Netflix’s, or anyone’s plans, to become a household name in regards to streaming media.

The service, said to be going live by mid year, will see both a monthly subscription as well as single movie rentals. Later it will sell sports content and other content (which presumably will be TV shows, etc). This could be a response to a slow down in new customers that Sky has reported of late. Perhaps they’re clever enough to realize that streaming is going places and they had best get into the game now before it’s too late and their only recourse is to sell rights to someone like Netflix.

This service will be a stand alone and not tied into a satellite TV subscription package, subscribers to that already have online access to content.

Sky already owns rights to many of the new films that Netflix would want to stream and gain new customers. If Sky successfully opens its own streaming service it could seriously undercut Netflix’s ability to compete as their £5.99 a month fee would really only gain users access to the older library of films. Meanwhile, Amazon already have LoveFilm which is priced at  £4.99 a month.

It definitely looks like the UK’s online streaming market is heating up for a massive showdown this summer. I’d be willing to place bets on where the chips fall with Sky in first, though they’ll probably have a higher subscription rate because of the newer films, Amazon’s LoveFilm in second because of the lower price and overlap with, ultimately, third place Netflix’s library.