Sky+ HD


Sky+ HD

Sky+ HD is the brand name of the HDTV service launched by BSkyB on 22 May 2006 in the UK and the 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 (costing upwards of £75/€90), and a HD ready TV. Customers who pre-ordered by paying a £30/€45 deposit before 6 April 2006 were the first to receive the service, with installations starting on 22 May 2006.

There were 498,000 Sky+ HD customers as of 30 June 2008. [498,000 Sky+ HD customers by 30th June 2008 – [http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=104016&p=irol-newsArticle_Print&ID=1181722 BSkyB results for the twelve months ended 30 June 2008] ]

ubscriptions

packages. Without a subscription to Sky Movies or Sky Sports, Sky Movies HD and Sky Sports HD respectively, will not be available.

If you subscribe to any Sky Digital package, the HD Mix also includes a Sky+ subscription and enables the PVR features of the box. (A Sky+ fee was previously charged at an additional £10/€15 per month, or waived if you subscribed to a premium package including sports and/or movies.) This does not apply if you have a Freesat from Sky agreement – Sky will charge £10 for HD and an additional £10 for Sky+ (the Sky+ £10 charge was dropped in early 2007; the Sky+ HD page [http://sky.com/hd/what-does-it-cost.htm What does it cost?] has more details).

Only those who subscribe to the HD Mix can watch pay-per-view Sky Box Office HD movies. The FTA BBC HD service does not require a subscription (but does require an HD capable digibox such as the Sky+ HD box).

Technical information

The first generation of Sky+ HD Digibox were produced by Thomson. It is a version of the Sky+ PVR with a 300 GB hard drive, 160 GB of which is for consumer use, with the other 140 GB reserved for Sky Anytime services. Sky have received their first batch of Samsung Sky+ HD Boxes, which will be rolled out to customers soon. Pace Micro Technology have also announced that they have been contracted to produce Sky+ HD and are expected to roll out the Set Top Box in 2008. [http://www.pacemicro.com/corporate/newsroom/pacenewsitem.asp?id=10571 Pace Micro Technology Press Release] Both Pace and Samsung also now produce Sky+ HD boxes, having recently launched. Contrary to popular belief, the Thomson box will not be phased out. These newer boxes are based around Broadcoms BCM7401.

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 Jan 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 SES Astra and Eurobird 1 satellites at 28.2E and 28.5E in a new DVB transmission standard, DVB-S2. BBC HD is however DVB-S.

The 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.

Teething problems

Many early adopters of Sky+ HD have encountered numerous issues with both the hardware and software of Sky's latest offering.Fact|date=August 2008

Unforeseen box shortages prior to launch meant that thousands of customers who had already paid the £300 fee for the box had their installations delayed, many at the shortest of notices.

Software issues include failed recordings, unresponsive fast forwarding, the inability to fast forward at the advertised rate of x30, and time delays on the clock (which can interfere with recordings). Hardware issues include overheating of the box and a slightly controversial discussion regarding possible damage to certain Pioneer panels. The original boxes manufactured by Thomson have also developed RF receiver failure problems causing the box to lose signals even though the signal is strong off the dish LNB. All of these issues are intermittent and by no means experienced by all users. Sky have continued their policy of attempting to resolve these issues via software updates, but the shortage of new boxes means that most, if not all, replacement units are in fact reconditioned boxes that have failed before. Another problem is that on certain HD television sets, viewers have been unable to view Sky Anytime recordings when using HDMI. This is caused by HDCP errors, so customers are having to use component insteadFact|date=January 2008.

Sky have also been criticised for not yet allowing the use of certain interfaces, such as the Ethernet, Serial ATA and 2xUSB ports (all of which have planned future useFact|date=June 2007).

According to James Murdoch (Chairman of BSkyB), Sky intend to combine Sky Broadband with Sky+ HD to offer a true on-demand service using the ethernet socket of the Sky+ HD boxFact|date=January 2008.

The other main cause for concern among those that took up the HD service during its infancy, is how few HD broadcasts are available. Many have been disappointed that of the 18 HD channels, only BBC HD, Luxe TV HD, Rush HD, the movie and documentary channels show exclusively HD footage. The others, to varying degrees, complete their coverage with upscaled standard definition programmes.

Channels

The following channels are available and can currently be found on the given channel numbers. Selecting these numbers on a non-HD digibox brings up an information banner displaying a contact telephone number.

The majority of these channels, such as Sky1 HD, broadcast the same programmes as the standard definition version, and only use HD for certain programmes.

The launch line-up consisted of Sky1 HD, Artsworld HD, 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.

Current HD channels

* Channel numbers are subject to change, when the remaining Sky Movies channels launch next week in HD.

1. Will be 100% HD from October 20th 2008.

ky 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).

Every Sunday "The Big New HD Preview Show", presented by Jason Barlow, showcases upcoming high definition content on both Sky Anytime on TV and the linear HD channels.

Future developments

Increase in HD channels

In the two years since launch, the number of HD channels available has more than doubled from 9 to 19 and is expected to grow to 30 in the coming year, making Sky+ HD the world’s largest HD offering outside North America. [cite news
last = Forrester
first = Chris
title = BSkyB: On way to 30 HD channels
publisher = Rapid TV News
date = 2008-04-30
url = http://rapidtvnews.com/index.php/bskyb-on-way-to-30-hd-channels.html
accessdate = 2008-05-06
] The next channels to launch have been announced as Sky Real Lives HD, and the Sky Movies channels. Further channels will be announced before the end of 2008, including MTV HD Europe, Crime & Investigation HD and Bio. HD.

However, this expansion of channels did not include ITV HD at launch, as the service will initially be exclusive to Freesat. [cite news
last = West
first = Dave
title = Confirmed: ITV HD is Freesat exclusive
publisher = Digital Spy
date = 2008-05-06
url = http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/digitaltv/a95312/confirmed-itv-hd-is-freesat-exclusive.html
accessdate = 2008-05-06
]

New electronic programme guide

in 1998. For two years, Sky have been working on a completely new EPG exclusively for Sky+ HD boxes which will appear during autumn 2008.

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 window 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, "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 current upscaled version. [cite news
last = Scott
first = Katie
title = BSkyB previews HD Sky Guide
publisher = Pocket Lint
date = 2008-05-29
url = http://www.pocket-lint.co.uk/news/news.phtml/15023/16047/BSkyB-previews-redesigned-Sky-Guide.phtml
accessdate = 2008-05-31
]

Video on demand

Sky have so far announced few details on their plans for a full Video on Demand service. However, they have made it clear that they plan to use the ethernet port on the HD box for VOD in the near future, and that the forthcoming EPG update is designed to "lay the groundwork" for this service. If a new VOD service was to be launched it would require the content to be delivered via a user's broadband connection, as the satellite technology cannot deliver content truly on demand.Fact|date=August 2008 James Murdoch has been referenced saying that due to the acquision of Easynet, Sky has a "backbone" for a delivery network of IPTV (Video on Demand Services). next year, and does not have the "backbone" which Sky gained from Easynet. [cite news
title = DirecTV on-demand
publisher = DirecTV
date = 2008-06-10
url = http://www.directv.com/DTVAPP/global/contentPageNR.jsp?assetId=P4750018&_DARGS=/DTVAPP/layout/component/topNavSections.jsp.62_A&_DAV=-1&_dynSessConf=2373458206437994118
accessdate = 2008-07-18
] [cite news
last = Welsh
first = James
title = Sky unveils new high definition EPG
publisher = Digital Spy
date = 2008-05-29
url = http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/digitaltv/a97056/sky-unveils-new-high-definition-epg.html
accessdate = 2008-05-31
]

ee also

* British Sky Broadcasting
* High-definition television
* High-definition television in the United Kingdom
* V+
* List of HD channels in the UK
* List of HD channels on Sky+ HD

References

External links

* [http://www.sky.com/hd Sky+ HD] at sky.com


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