In a comparison of the user experience offered by VOD Player websites, Sky Player came bottom, 33% behind the top rated site, the BBC iPlayer.
The iPlayer, with a score of 88% was well ahead of the nearest rival, and seems to provide the benchmark for such services. Since customers need to pay to subscribe to the Sky Player, the low score should be of concern to Sky.
Webcredible's Video on Demand report has been looking at the VOD websites of the major terrestrial broadcasters, and Sky. The scores are mixed:
The report finds that, while most of these VOD websites do the basics reasonably well, with good average scores for browsing and finding content to view, many of these sites are not as intuitive as they could be, while very few are doing enough to increase customer engagement.
For example, VOD websites can make themselves more appealing to users, and help them to publicise content elsewhere by providing more social tools.
The iPlayer has the lead here, thanks to its recent revamp. It now has tools to share content and links to programmes via Twitter and Facebook, while users can review programmes and get ratings and recommendations from friends, thus aiding content discovery.
Of the other VOD websites, only Demand Five has these sharing options.
The ITV Player has improved since it was first introduced, but still only managed to score 60% in this study. ITV scored a zero for providing clear explanations of how videos could be played, registrations options, while I have often found the navigation to be unnecessarily difficult, with two or three clicks required from clicking a programme link to actually viewing it.
Sky Player's 55% is thanks to low scores across all ten usability criteria, though it did particularly badly for video player controls, flexible viewing options (being able to pause etc), and the lack of any additional features to engage visitors.
One thing not mentioned in the report, which is perhaps the most important factor in the success of online video players is the quality and reliability of the on demand and live programming.For example, while programmes viewed on the iPlayer are good quality when shown full screen (on a 17" laptop anyway), the picture quality on ITV is not good enough.
Reliability was also an issue for ITV during the World Cup, something which was incredibly frustrating for viewers. Coverage of live matches was jerky, and stopped and started at least every few minutes.
It seems Sky Player also has issues today with its Ryder Cup coverage, and it has issued an apology to customers on the Sky Player blog.
A quick search for Sky Player on Twitter finds a lot of comments from angry customers who are unable to watch the golf online. It's actually a trending topic at the moment, which gives you an idea of the volume of complaints:
I can understand that demand for the Sky Player may be higher than average, but could Sky have anticipated this as soon as it was clear that the event would run into a fourth day?
This is the final day of an event held only once every two years, and people are paying subscriptions for the service, so Sky has created a lot of angry customers with the failure of its coverage. It will be interesting to see what the company can do to make up for this with its customers.