Thursday, November 29, 2007

IPTV... I had high hopes for SkyAngel

Those of you in my close circle of friends have heard me talking about my hope for the IPTV service that SkyAngel is eventually bringing to the US. I was hoping they would enable GodTV reaching more people in the US (currently limited to DirecTV only). Well, today my hopes aren't quite as high.

Back in August, I emailed SkyAngel to let them know I'd like to be included in their beta of the new service. I knew they had already successfully lunched the service in Canada and were working on plans for the US version.

Specifically I'd emailed them "I'm a professional IT geek and a blogger. I already have ethernet connections at each of my TVs, use TiVO and have HDTV service. I also have 802.11g and 802.11n wireless networks in my home." I sent my request directly to their VP of Corporate Communications and got an acknowledgment the same day.

Well September, October and pretty much all of November came and went with nary a word from them. So today I sent a follow-up to the same VP. This time it triggered a chain of emails and a call from another VP apologizing for the fact they had dropped the ball and no one ever followed up on my email.

That would have been a great call... except they had already sent all their beta invitations out earlier this month. And each one of them was specially coded for survey tracking... and their IT department was too busy to program in and send out another code.

Now I've been in corporate IT myself. So I understand busy. I understand beta and phased deployments. I understand things getting missed. What I don't understand is why you call someone after they've been forgotten for 3 months only to tell them they were forgotten and there's nothing you can do about it. That just seems asinine.

I've been trying to figure out the possible motivation for that kind of call but really I'm at a loss. How often am *I* at a loss?!

Then later this afternoon I get an email from the VP of Communications apologizing for having dropped the follow-up on my initial email. She also informed me that post launch they're thinking about inviting some media to test and review the service.

Her email settled it for me. This is the same old Dominion Satellite. They didn't learn anything from SkyAngel's satellite service launch, lack of uptake in the broader market, and the experiences (trouble) people had with their service. Common sense in marketing dictates that you want to generate positive buzz before something hits the general market.

What troubles me most is this is a group that represents Christian ethics and morals. I truly appreciate what they're trying to do with religious programming distribution but they are apparently clueless about how the business world works. And that cluelessness has translated into a lack of understanding of the tech world.

Here they're launching the sort of product that all of the tech industry would like to see - standalone IP based TV. Think of it as Vonage for television - SkyAngel TV channels delivered over any viable IP reception method - cable, DSL, T1, etc.

This is exactly the thing that we Christian IT leaders, bloggers and executives would like to put our weight behind. Alas SkyAngel has proven they lack vision for IPTV just like they lacked vision for how to get out into the general market with family friendly satellite service. So instead of Vonage for television, we're destined for SunRocket for television.

I may one day own a SkyAngel IPTV box... I did sign up back in October for notification when it comes out. And it is exactly the sort of service I'm looking for. I just hope I get more use out of it than I got out of my Sunrocket phone before the service dies.

Too bad SkyAngel, a communication company, simply does not understand how to communicate in the 21st century. SkyAngel IPTV service is destined for the same limited market exposure as SkyAngel Satellite garnered.

In economic terms, based on their current market savvy it's unlikely the addition of IPTV to their portfolio will generate enough cash flow to keep the company afloat. Those of who were looking for IPTV to fix the channel bandwidth crunch caused by them losing transponder space on Dish Network appear to be in for sore disappointment. Sorry friends.