Sky Adds HD Channels By Making Them Lower-Def

Sky TV giveth and Sky TV taketh away.

The satcaster has confirmed it’s been able to launch more HD channels by reducing their bandwidth.

It’s understood Sky’s sports channels and its upgraded Action and Classics movie channels are beaming out in 1440x1080i rather than the 1920x1080i standard.

“Yes, some of our channels have this compression,” Sky spokesperson Kirsty Way says.

“I’m sure you are aware that some content comes to us like this. But it does vary across the platform, as is standard practice internationally.

“With a finite amount of bandwidth and now a time frame/path to unlock more, we have been able to plan and allocate that bandwidth accordingly.”

The reallocation of bandwidth means Sky can squeeze five channels instead of four on to each of its four DVB-S2 muxes.

One industry source says the only long-term solution is for Sky to shift all muxes on sat to DVB-S2 H.264 (or maybe H.265), but that would require replacement of its set-top boxes.

“There are very likely to be more changes before we reach the point of increasing bandwidth availability and we will make announcements at the time,” Way says.

Reducing resolution may not be ideal but the upgraded movie channels still look much better than they did previously, with 95% of their schedules HD-ready.

And Sky has announced it’s investing $125 million investment over the next two years in new software and equipment.

The long overdue overhaul will allow it to double its satellite bandwidth, enabling internet connections for all decoders, more channels and the ability to broadcast ultra high definition. 

“We have firm plans for a major upgrade that will significantly enhance the service we provide to our 865,000 customers,” chief executive John Fellet said in a statement.

“As well as providing customers with the latest technology, a big upside of this project is that it allows us to double the amount of satellite bandwidth we can access, providing a path to ultra-high definition or 4k and the capacity to add new channels.

“By the end of this investment programme, every Sky set-top box will have the ability to be IP connected, providing access to VOD services for all of our customers.

“The simplicity of using My Sky and providing on demand services through the same set- top box will be a winning combination for our customers.”

Sky will also launch an SVOD service targeted at non-Sky customers this year. The service will feature TV shows, including HBO exclusives, and movies for a flat monthly fee and no contractual obligations. 

From March, My Sky decoders will have their operating software upgraded with an HD electronic programme guide (EPG).

Improvements will include an enchanced series link and search functionality that will allow shows from a series to ‘Series Stack’ in the planner under one header and access to a “huge library” of on demand content via an ethernet lead, Wi-Fi or power line device and store to watch at their convenience.

Content will be downloaded progressively, so subscribers can watch shows while the download completes.

Sky says access to VOD content and the upgrade will cost subscribers nothing beyond their connection devices and data usage.

Sky also will replace 460,000 non-My Sky decoders from March with a new decoder that is My Sky-capable with features like personal video recording, high definition and access to on demand content.

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5 Responses to “Sky Adds HD Channels By Making Them Lower-Def”

  1. So as the resolution has reduced by 1/3, surely the cost of the HD ticket must now be cheaper by the same margin? Have they also reduced the resolution of the HD versions of TV1, 2, and 3 that they put up for MySky viewers? Could they change the HD logos to “HD Ready” or “Almost HD” as that would be more accurate?

  2. All good points, although the quality of any service’s HD is always up for debate, be it FTA, satellite/cable or streaming. Blu-ray remains the ultimate expression of 1080, which is why there will always be a market for packaged media. The days of Sky charging an HD ticket should be well and truly over regardless of this debate — HD in all its compressed variations is now as commonplace as colour and should no longer be marketed as a premium extra. Sky has yet to clarify which channels are affected by the reduced HD resolution but I understand it is limited to the sports channels and Action/Classics movie channels. Chances are The Zone will be 1440x1080i when it launches in November given it will be part of the basic tier.

  3. Typical Sky halfassery. They have always been cheapskates with the tech. What’s the bet they will have frequent cock-ups like everyone else who has used 1440×1080, eg. iTunes, BBC … ?

  4. Thanks for finding out the truth from Sky. What difference does it make if they miss a third of the pixels anyway. No one seems to have noticed.

  5. Not that I watch the E channel that often but still when I do I notice how bad the picture quality is, wish it would get an upgrade to HD 🙂

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