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Sky+
Type Public
Founded 2001
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Key people James Murdoch (Chairman)
Jeremy Darroch (CEO)
Industry Digital video recorders
Website [1]

Sky+, or Sky Plus, is a personal video recorder (PVR) service for Sky Digital, and is very similar - in principle - to the TiVo service. Launched in September 2001, Sky+ allows the user to record, pause and instantly rewind live TV. The system performs these functions using an internal hard drive inside the Sky+ set top box. Its chief competitors in the UK market are the Freeview+ PVR, BT Vision, and Virgin Media's V+, which has 3 tuners, a 160 GB hard drive and HDMI output. In the Republic of Ireland, Sky+ competes with UPC's Digital+ box which offers 160GB or 250GB of storage. As of 30 September 2009, there were 5.9 million customers with Sky+.[1]

The £10 per month subscription fee was discontinued for subscribers from 1 July 2007, but will continue for Freesat from Sky use.[2]

Contents

Technical information

  • Combined digital satellite receiver/decoder and personal video recorder (PVR).
  • Twin digital satellite tuners – for connection to identical independent feeds from Astra 28.2°E. Allows simultaneous recording/viewing or recording of 2 channels at once.
  • The set-top box middleware is provided by OpenTV, but the EPG and all the software extensions that manage the PVR functions are produced by NDS under the name of XTV PVR.
  • Sky+ has its own electronic programme guide made by Sky. From here, users can see what programmes are on in the next seven days. The current EPG software version (as of july 2009) is Sky+ 5.07.u.

Versions

There have been three versions of Sky+:

  • Sky+ 40 GB (Discontinued) – First Version of Sky+. An average of twenty hours recording time. The first generation of boxes (referred to as a PVR1s within Sky) were manufactured exclusively by Pace for the UK and Ireland Market. The second generation of 40 GB boxes (referred to as PVR2s), were manufactured by both Amstrad and Pace.
  • Sky+ 160 GB (Discontinued) – Sky+ 160 has an average of eighty hours recording time.[citation needed] Sky+ 160 was manufactured by Thomson only for the UK and Ireland markets.
  • Sky+ 80 GB – Now officially and colloquially referred to as Sky+, this third generation of box (PVR3) are manufactured by Altech UEC, Pace, Amstrad and Thomson. Launched in September 2005 as standard Sky+ box, the box has an average of forty hours recording time. The drive has a 160 GB hard drive installed, however half of this (80 GB) is reserved for use by the Sky Anytime TV service. The box is known internally at Sky as a PVR3 or Sky + 80/80.[citation needed]

Although the different generations of Sky+ box look similar, they have minor external differences (viewing card positions etc.) and significant internal differences. By December 2005, Sky+ 80 GB boxes manufactured by Pace, Amstrad and Thomson were being installed. Many people have reported various problems with the different boxes. A persistent complaint is that early Amstrad 80 GB models are noisy in operation. Amstrad was bought out by Sky in 2007, as decided to bring in its satellite receiver development and manufacturing in-house. http://www.itpro.co.uk/121394/end-of-an-era-as-sky-buys-amstrad

Sky+ remote

A typical Sky+ remote control is similar to a typical Sky Digital remote, but provides controls for the extra features, e.g. rewinding the programme, record, play or pause, fast forward and stopping playback of the programme. The Sky+ remote is silver coloured or beige for the early remotes issues with 40GB Boxes (like the set top box) rather than the dark blue of the normal Sky remote. The Sky+ remote uses entirely different codes to a standard Sky Digital remote control and so is, by default, incompatible with it. This is probably intentional, as some homes will have two subscriptions and would not want the risk of the controls operating the wrong equipment. However, the Sky+ handset can unofficially be programmed to control a digibox and indeed even Home A/V Centres and amplifiers. From July 2007, All Sky+ remotes (Version 8 onward) will have blue buttons, rather than the standard green. Sky HD remotes can also be configured to work Sky+ boxes.

Remote recording

In July 2006 Sky added remote recording functionality to Sky+ in the UK and Ireland. This enables customers to schedule recordings when they are away from home via a mobile telephone. Programmes can be added to the planner either by downloading an application to the mobile phone, called 'Sky By Mobile', or by sending as SMS with details of the programme name, time, date and channel. In February 2007, Sky added remote recording via the sky.com website, so customers can program their STB from any web browser using an EPG similar to that found on the Sky+ system.

Sky Anytime TV service

On January 2, 2007, Sky announced plans to release a service, named Sky Anytime to Sky+ subscribers. The service is a Push-Video on Demand (push-VoD) system similar to Top Up TV Anytime, where the Sky+ PVR automatically records programmes transmitted over-night.[3] The service, will be available to over 2 million Sky+ subscribers, using reserved space on the PVR's hard drive.

The service works as a catch-up service for the best programmes of the week.[4] The service launched some time in March 2007, it is available to owners of Sky HD and newer Sky+ boxes.[5]

Other countries

Altech UEC, based in South Africa, are the exclusive manufacturers of the Sky+ box Sky Digital Plus in Latin America. Currently the Sky+ box is the second generation PVR with a 160GB HDD as a standard and proven to be a very stable PVR.

Critical reception

Following a six-month trial of the service, Guy Dixon wrote in PC Advisor magazine that he found Sky+ very easy to use and particularly praised the Series Link feature, describing it as a "killer app". He also described the ability to pause and rewind live TV as a "novelty...that wore off after a couple of days" and criticised the inability to customise the EPG's standard channel list. He also questioned whether both the high cost of the hardware and extra subscription fee would harm its success and suggested Sky should waive the hardware and installation fees.[6] Sky would later offer reduced cost hardware, and began to waive the extra subscription fee to its premium channel subscribers, and subsequently all subscribers.

Critics argued that it is too expensive and were unconvinced of the need for or reliability of the product. Indeed, take-up of the service was slow, with little take-up,[citation needed] perhaps due to equally little advertising, in its first two years on the market. However, as the price fell and awareness grew thanks to much increased advertising, the Sky+ roll-out accelerated. BSkyB spent upward of £20 million advertising the new service. In 2004 Sky began to waive the service fee to customers who were subscribers of their premium sport and/or movie channels. Sky+ is also built into Sky HD digiboxes and PVR functionality comes free with an HD subscription.

A number of hackers have attempted to upgrade the Sky+ receiver, primarily through the installation of larger hard drives to increase recording capacity; instruction manuals and tool kits to do this are widely available. Installing a larger hard drive in the unit is no harder than in a normal PC, but the Sky+ receiver is sensitive to the type of disk installed. Disks with low power requirements and fast spin up times are most likely to be compatible. Some users report problems with very large (360 GB+) hard disks; the most commonly reported issue is slowing of menu browsing.

See also

References

External links








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