Application integration company Software AG has just completed a #6 million project to redesign the software infrastructure for Bskyb's Subscriber Management System (SMS) to support its digital service.
Software AG won the contract against stiff competition from Oracle.
"AG had the transaction preference we wanted, but we still run some Oracle within the company," said Rob Shepherd, group head of IT for Bskyb, "We are not an easy company to work with, our suppliers have to be both committed and flexible and we depend on them to deliver."
Software AG has been working on the digital SMS system for Bskyb since October 1996. The pay TV company has had a long relationship with Software AG.
The applications integrator developed an analogue SMS based on mainframe technology for Bskyb previously based on mainframe technology which was then ported to Unix a couple of years later when the pay TV company set up to run SMS for third party broadcasters, comprised primarily of sport and adult channels.
The digital SMS system is made up of two core applications - a Customer Management System that looks after relations with subscribers and a Subscriber Card Management System to manage the set top boxes, communicating to a smart card inserted into each box.
Graeme Hardie at Bskyb said the digital SMS system will enable Bskyb to have far more control over conditional access to its service.
"This can be used to the benefit of our customers," he explained, "For example, we could develop 'reward' offers for customers who have purchased a lot of 'pay per view' and automatically give them film credits."
The system will also allow for interactive 'pay per view', where subscribers can purchase programmes using their remote controls rather than having to telephone a call centre.
Shepherd said the system has been designed to be flexible for future projects, including automated response units for call handling and access via the Internet.
"As 50 per cent of calls involve billing, this would allow customers to access account information from their PCs and eventually through their television sets. This will help reduce costs, improve customers service and enhance our overall profitability," said Shepherd.
Ken Jacobson, managing director of Software AG, confirmed to VNU Newswire that it is involved in the early stages of talks with six broadcasting companies to carry out similar work, following the success of the Bskyb project.
"We are also speaking to Canal Plus TV in Europe about our products," he said, "Bskyb are an excellent reference point for us as they are fast, early adopters and good risk managers."
Bskyb spent between #50 million and #70 million switching its broadcasting to digital. The company has a customer based of 6.9 million subscribers who receive a mixture of multi-channel programmes, films, sports and news via satellite and cable.
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