Sky+ HD: Wikis

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Sky+ HD logo

Sky+ HD is the brand name of the HDTV service launched by BSkyB on 22 May 2006 in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland to enable high definition channels on Sky Digital to be viewed. For the first 2 years after launch, the service was branded Sky HD. The service requires the user to have a Sky+ HD Digibox and an HD ready TV. Customers who pre-ordered by paying a deposit before 6 April 2006 were the first to receive the service, with installations starting on 21 May 2006.

On 23 October 2009, Sky announced that the total number of homes with Sky+HD currently stands at 1.6m.[1]

Contents

Subscriptions

Original logo from 2006 - 2008
Original euphoric logo from 2006 - 2008

A subscription to the HD Mix carries an extra fee on top of the standard Sky subscription. This fee allows customers to view all non-premium HD channels even if their chosen mix does not include the SD versions. Thus someone without the Knowledge Pack cannot view the Standard Definition Discovery or National Geographic but they can view the High Definition versions. To receive all HD channels, a customer must subscribe to the Sky Movies and Sky Sports packages. Without a subscription to Sky Movies or Sky Sports, Sky Movies HD and Sky Sports HD respectively, will not be available.

Sky+ recording facilities are included at no cost if a customer subscribes to any Sky Digital package. Viewers who do not take a subscription channel package will still receive all free channels, but cannot use the recording facilities, although they can be subscribed to standalone for a monthly payment.

Additional Pay-Per-View events on Sky Box Office HD are not available to customers unless they subscribe to the Sky HD mix.

From Jan 2010, customers will be offered the Sky+ HD box as standard, and it is now optional to take the HD package. The HD package still remains at the same subscription price. The SKY+ box is no longer listed for purchase on the Sky website, and the SKY+HD is now classed as the standard box installation.

Free Channels

A number of FTA HD channels are available which do not require a subscription, only an HD capable digibox such as the Sky+ HD box.

BBC HD and Luxe.tv HD are broadcast free to air, and Channel 4 HD broadcasts free to view, requiring only a viewing card but no subscription. ITV HD is not listed on the Sky EPG but can be tuned in manually via the 'Other Channels' menu on Sky HD boxes with the latest version of the EPG software.[2] Unfortunately 'Other channels' cannot be recorded so ITV HD has to be watched 'live'. FIVE TV announced on 17 March 2010 that FIVE HD would be added to the SKY platform in July 2010.[3]

Technical information

The Sky+ HD Digibox backpanel.

The first generation of Sky+ HD Digibox were produced by Thomson. Sky have since added Samsung, Pace and Amstrad as manufacturers, and the Thomson box has been discontinued (though it is still available/supplied as an A grade refurbished item from Sky). A manufacturing fault led to a batch of up to 90,000 units manufactured by Pace / Sky starting to replace boxes, commencing in February 2009 and still ongoing in spring 2009.[4]

For connectivity with HD ready televisions, the box outputs via a HDMI connector (adapters to Digital Visual Interface are available). The box is High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) compliant. Sky boxes manufactured prior to January 2008 also had analogue component connections (YPbPr), but as the HDCP copy protection cannot be applied to this type of output it is no longer included. Traditional standard-definition (SD) connections are available via SCART and S-Video. All programming is currently output from both HDMI and SD connections, although individual broadcasters have the option to require HDCP (and therefore HDMI) in the future. The digibox also comes with a new slimline version of the Sky+ remote control.

All HD channels are broadcast in 1080i format (though the box can be set to scale this to 720p if the user wishes), using the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC compression standard, from Astra 2A, Astra 2B and Eurobird 1 satellites at 28.2°E and 28.5E in a new DVB transmission standard, DVB-S2. BBC HD is however DVB-S.

The Version 5 EPG (electronic program guide) is almost identical to the one found on Sky+, with the exception being that by pressing TV Guide and then number 2 on the remote control, listings for only the HD channels are shown. An update was sent to the HD boxes early on March 20, 2007, which also included code for Sky Anytime. Sky Anytime TV is accessed by pressing "TV Guide" and then the red button. Version 8 of the Sky Guide, dubbed the Sky+ HD guide, has been gradually released throughout 2009 in phases based on the equipment manufacturer. This version boasts a Mini TV (similar to that in version 5's Sky Anytime), improved search functions and a completely new look. Further information can be found in the 'Sky+ HD Guide' section below.

Channels

The launch line-up consisted of Sky1 HD, Artsworld HD (now Sky Arts), Sky Movies 9 HD, Sky Movies 10 HD, Sky Sports HD, Discovery HD, National Geographic Channel HD, Sky Box Office HD 1 and Sky Box Office HD 2.

Currently, there are 37 HD Channels available on the Sky+ HD EPG, not including ITV1 HD which can be manually tuned in on receivers with the latest firmware. Recent announcments have declared 50 channels with be available by December 2010, building on the current confirmed launch forecast of 42 channels; including ITV HD, Five HD and Hallmark HD.

Sky Anytime

On 27 March 2007, Sky launched its Sky Anytime on TV Push-Video on Demand service for owners of Sky+ HD set top boxes. Programmes in high definition and standard definition are recorded overnight to a reserved 140GB of disk space, to give the effect of video on demand.

This has also been used to bring viewers high definition programmes from channels that do not currently broadcast in HD. These have included Sky News (Technofile, Diana: The Last Word), The Disney Channel (High School Musical 2) and Nickelodeon (iCarly)

Developments

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Increase in HD channels

In over three years since launch, the number of HD channels available has increased significantly, thus Sky+ HD is the world’s largest HD offering outside North America.[5]

The Sky+ HD Guide

Since the launch, the Sky+ HD EPG has been based upon the Sky Guide, which has changed little since the launch of Sky Digital in 1998. For two years, Sky have been working on a completely new EPG exclusively for Sky+ HD boxes. This was first made available to customers with Thomson boxes in March 2009. As of December 9, 2009 all Thomson, Pace, Samsung and Amstrad models have been upgraded to the new EPG. Further information and details about the EPG are available on the Sky+HD Guide website, with a user guide on how to use the EPG and new instruction manuals for the boxes.[6]

The channel listings will now be cached on the hard drive, freeing up the tuner so that users can continue to view programmes in a small Mini TV while browsing the TV Guide. The data being stored on the hard drive also means that loading times decrease and synopsis information can be displayed for channels other than the one you are watching. Other features include a significantly improved programme search system, A Series Stack which groups episodes of the same series together in the planner, and the ability to highlight HD programmes in the TV guide. The new EPG is also presented in 1080i, rather than the previous upscaled version.[7]

As of 9 December 2009, All boxes have been updated to the new Guide.

The current EPG Software Version for Thomson boxes is sky+ 8.3.2, and for Pace, Samsung and Amstrad boxes is sky+ 8.4.0.[6]

Video on demand

New Sky+ HD boxes have a green outline on their Ethernet ports, matching the green ports on the new Sky Broadband Routers

On 30 July 2009, Sky confirmed the launch of a ‘pull’ video-on-demand (VOD) service for 2010, adding to the current Sky Anytime ‘push’ VOD service.[8] The service, delivered by broadband internet, will utilise the Ethernet port of existing Sky+ HD boxes. No further details were given, and it is not yet known whether the service will be available to customers of any broadband provider, or restricted only to those who take Sky's own broadband service. Although the service may be similar to DirecTV's VOD offering that also uses a operating system built by NDS, a NEWSCORP company.

3D

Following demonstrations in December 2008,[9] Sky announced on 30 July 2009 its intention to launch a 3D channel during 2010, featuring a broad selection of 3D programming, which is expected to include movies, entertainment and sport.[8] Existing Sky+ HD receivers will automatically be compatible with the new 3D service, although customers will require a new 3D compatible HDTV set to view in 3D. A 3D trailer has been in circulation in UK cinemas for the new service. It is thought that it will use the new MVC video codec. The first programme that was broadcast by Sky in 3D was the Arsenal v. Manchester United football match on Sunday 31 January. The 3D match was available in nine hand-picked pubs in England and in Ireland.[10]

1TB Storage

A new model Set Top Box introduced in late 2009/early 2010, offers a new storage capacity of 1TB for Personal Storage[11]. The new box allows for up to 240 hours of recording. The original Sky+ HD Box has one 300GB Hard Drive or 500GB hard drive depending on the model. All the Sky HD boxes use SATA to connect to the hard drive. The 1TB box is being marketed by Sky as "Sky+ HD 1TB" and the hardware is significantly different to the original Sky HD receiver, the 1TB box is currently made by Sony .

See also

References

  1. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/oct/23/bskyb-third-quarter-results
  2. ^ http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=1001614
  3. ^ http://www.five.tv/articles/five-hd
  4. ^ "Fault hits 90,000 Sky+ HD boxes". Digital Spy. 2009-02-14. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/digitaltv/a146765/fault-hits-90000-sky-hd-boxes.html. 
  5. ^ Forrester, Chris (2008-04-30). "BSkyB: On way to 30 HD channels". Rapid TV News. http://rapidtvnews.com/index.php/bskyb-on-way-to-30-hd-channels.html. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  6. ^ a b "Sky HD EPG gets a major upgrade". [thetechangel.com]. 2009-03-11. http://thetechangel.com/blogberry/2009/03/sky-hd-epg-gets-a-major-upgrade/. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  7. ^ Scott, Katie (2008-05-29). "BSkyB previews HD Sky Guide". Pocket Lint. http://www.pocket-lint.co.uk/news/news.phtml/15023/16047/BSkyB-previews-redesigned-Sky-Guide.phtml. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  8. ^ a b "Sky to launch 3D TV in 2010 following record Sky+HD growth". British Sky Broadcasting. 2009-07-30. http://corporate.sky.com/media/press_releases/2009/3d_tv.htm. 
  9. ^ "Interview: How Sky 3D is drawing closer". TechRadar. 2009-05-27. http://www.techradar.com/news/television/interview-how-sky-3d-is-drawing-closer-602584. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  10. ^ http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11994_5889013,00.html
  11. ^ "Sky 1TB Box". British Sky Broadcasting. 2010-02-11. http://www.sky.com/shop/boxes/1TB. 

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