Sky Winning In the New ‘Buy & Keep’ Battleground

By Dani Sheen

Twitter: @DSheen_Decipher  Email:


For the latest version of Decipher’s VOD Audit, we have added a new area of interest – the ‘Buy & Keep’ movie! This is the newly emerging function by which viewers can purchase a permanent digital copy of a movie, rather than just renting it from their TV service.

Both Sky and BT have added this function to their set top boxes in recent months and TalkTalk are expected to do the same by integrating their recent BlinkBox acquisition. For now, the VOD report just compares the services from Sky and BT. There are significant differences that must be taken into account between the two services:

  • The BT service allows you to access any movie purchased from a cloud based locker, via any smart device running their movie app.
  • The Sky service enables customers to store their movie on the set top box (with the option to archive each Buy&Keep movie to the Purchased tab and auto-transfers to new boxes), as well as the recently announced ability to stream or download their purchase to a mobile, tablet and laptop. In addition to this multi-platform approach Sky also includes a physical DVD copy of any movie purchased, which gets sent to the bill payer’s address within 3 to 5 days.

With those differences in mind we can compare the movie offerings. We looked at three major factors: the amount of HD content available; the comparative price points; and the comparative recency and importance of the movies available. First HD:

  • Sky wins out in terms of the number of total movies available with 825 Buy&Keep titles versus 720 for BT.
  • Most HD movies to buy goes to Sky, with over 400 more HD films that BT. All 825 of Sky’s titles are available in HD only. BT only offer 359 films, out of its 720 total, in HD format.

Next we looked at the comparative cost of the titles on offer (bearing in mind that BT offer much better access and functionality around the digital copy, but Sky offer the posted DVD copy):

  • Sky appears to offer its customers better value with the average cost of purchasing an HD film being £10.40 in Sky Store as opposed to BT’s £11.04 for an HD title.
  • IF we include SD in the price comparison, then BT’s overall average price does dip below Sky’s at £9.70.
  • When analysing the most common price range of an HD movie Sky and BT are evenly matched with £7.99 – £9.98 holding the biggest number of films within its range for both platforms.
  • For an SD only offering BT averages at £8.37 and similarly falls within a cheaper common range with 127 titles priced between £5.99 and £7.98.
  • BT’s HD offering is smaller and more expensive than Sky’s with over 13% of their library priced within the £15.99 to £17.98 range – a price point above anything that Sky offer.

The final factors that Decipher analysed were how new the films were and how important (using an imprecise but helpful indicator – whether they come from one of the big six distribution houses). There was a mixed bag in both respects:

  • BT wins in terms of having the highest percentage (18%) of new content (2015 – 2014) in its library, but it’s 18% of a smaller total compared to Sky.
  • Sky has a larger number of titles in this same bracket – providing 101 newly released HD titles, to BT’s 66. With the biggest block of films for both platforms residing in the 2009 onwards release date bracket.

Significant differences in the provision of the major six studios were apparent in Decipher’s analysis of the distributor information for Sky and BT’s film libraries, however, it is unclear how much of this is based on commercial decisions vs limits on the rights available:

  • Sky offers only 1 Disney film in its entire 825 strong catalogue (versus 44 HD films from BT)
  • BT has clearly apportioned funds to other major studios in its decision to show absolutely no films whatsoever from Warner Brothers movies (as opposed to Sky’s 114).

Whilst similar differences in scale were also evident with Paramount (Sky 59, BT HD 1), Fox was the most widely provided studio across the two rivals – ranking as first most common distributor within the BT library, and second for Sky. Overall, 91% of Sky’s films came from the major six studios, compared to just 77% from BT.


Clearly both platforms are looking to build on their existing movie relationships with their customers to compete with the other online movie sales majors (e.g. Apple and Amazon). However it is too early to glean the level of success either platform is having. Speaking at a recent Goldman Sachs media conference, Sky Chief Marketing and Digital Officer Stephen Van Rooyen said that ‘24% of Sky Store customers have used the “Buy&Keep” feature and this proportion is increasing all the time’. He also announced that Sky plan in due course to add box sets and TV shows and that they are planning to introduce the functionality to buy, with one press of a button, from a live, on-screen promotion (e.g. an advert on a Sky Movies channel for Paddington).

In the next version of this report we will detail new functionality developments on both these platforms, and hopefully outline the first manifestation of the converged TalkTalk/Blinkbox offer.

About the VOD Audit Report

Decipher’s VOD Audit Report is the UK’s only analysis of available VOD assets and has been used by platforms and broadcasters to validate the scale and nature of the TV VOD market. It is a quarterly analysis released to clients with a broader release to the market a month later.

This is the first quarter that we have a new feature in the VOD Report, added in response to the launch of Buy&Keep on Sky and BT, as well as the purchase of BlinkBox by TalkTalk (whose numbers will be incorporated into the report once the technical integration with the service is complete).

For more information on the VOD Report, please contact Dani Sheen at

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