HD Heads-Up for Sky in 2019

Speculation on the future of Sky’s ownership continues to crank up ahead of today’s last annual general meeting for retiring chief executive John Fellet.

The AGM also coincides with relief at last on the horizon for Sky customers who feel HD-deprived.

A new HD channel, SoHo2, launches on November 7 and next year should see a  big uptick in Sky’s HD services, including 4K delivery of content.

The upgrade is long overdue for HD Ticket-holders who want to see general or niche content in HD, from entertainment to documentaries to news.

For years their monthly HD Ticket surcharge has subsidised sports and movie subscribers who can choose from more than a dozen HD channels.

The imbalance continues with this weekend’s relaunch of BBC Knowledge as BBC Earth and a new Vintage movies channel that will replace TCM from December 1.

BBC Earth will showcase some of the broadcaster’s finest wildlife documentary series, including Planet Earth II, but in SD — which is risible when PEII already can be streamed in 4K (and many other BBC natural history series in HD) on Netflix.

And while interchangeable HD movie channels abound on Sky, those that appeal to film buffs and discerning subscribers languish in SD: Rialto and Sky Movies Vintage, which will be dedicated to genuine classics from the 1940s-1970s.

Confirmed for the initial schedule are Casablanca, The Wizard of OzIn the Heat of the Night, Some Like It Hot, The Trial, The Colditz Story, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, West Side Story and A Star is Born.

“The enduring appeal of timeless films is undisputable and we know our movies customers love to regularly revisit their favourite cinematic moments,” Director of Entertainment Content, Travis Dunbar, said.

“Creating Sky Movies Vintage seemed like the next logical step in ensuring we continue to offer Kiwis the most varied and rich movie offering available in New Zealand.”

Vintage is what Sky should be offering more of — but in HD: content that in this market can’t be streamed and often which doesn’t get distributed on Blu-ray.

However, at least the HD drought appears to be ending as Sky prepares to catch up with satcasters in the US, UK and Australia and offer more services in HD and 4K.

“We know HD content is important to many of our customers,” a spokesperson says.

“We continue to review our HD offering and we’re absolutely looking at how we can offer more content in HD.”

Sky’s MPEG-4 and DVB-S2 upgrades will help to facilitate this by improving video compression and freeing up transponder capacity for more HD channels.

“Specifically MPEG-4 does offer better compression of video and higher quality of video which also means the SD channels should be given more band width which should visibly improve the quality.”

Sky has been in HD negotiations with some of its channel providers to resolve contractural issues.

It justifies the cost of the HD Ticket on the basis of having to pay “significantly higher costs” for acquiring, receiving and broadcasting HD content.

“Customers are able to make the choice as to whether they want the HD Ticket as part of their package and we also give this option as not everyone is able to view content in HD,” the company says. “It’s also worth noting that Netflix also charge for an HD service.”

The satcaster’s also been working with Cisco to update the look and functionality of Sky boxes and says the software upgrade to the Infinite Video Platform (IVP) will provide a “better, richer viewing” experience via satellite and IP delivery.

The first IVP-based product is expected to launch around March, with more to follow later in 2019.

The new devices will support 4K content from satellite transmission, IP delivery and apps with third party apps with 4K content.

In his last annual report after 27 years with the company, Fellet says Sky will continue to aggregate its own content with the world’s leading entertainment brands through a combination of linear channels, on demand content, and the best of global and local apps.

“We’re also building on our voice capability, and will be able to allow seamless voice search across all content delivered via our enhanced TV service.

“And our new fluid viewing capability will mean your chosen content will follow you from the big screen to your mobile and tablet.”

But the Oscars won’t be part of that content. Fellet’s revealed Sky has lost the rights to telecast the Academy Awards.

“We could double every one of our bids and never lose anything,” he writes about the content wars, “but before long we would have half the content with the same content costs.

“The biggest advantage we have in bidding is our 28 year history of viewing statistics. When we lose bids they tend to be high profile events which for whatever reason have lost their way.

“The Oscars are a perfect example. As I write this, Sky has been informed that we were not the highest bidder for the Oscars in 2019. The Oscars are one of my favourite shows of the year, in part because I am in the industry.

“But for reasons I am not sure about, and in spite of our best efforts, we have seen the ratings decline four years in a row. I am not sure who won the bid.

“I am not sure their bid would have been as high if they had the benefit of our data and content insights.”

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2 Responses to “HD Heads-Up for Sky in 2019”

  1. There’s a discussion here at Geekzone on the possible sale of Sky to NBC Universal.
    https://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=106&topicid=242216

  2. Still talk talk talk. Wake me up when something actually happens rather than “discussions”.

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