Sky Revamps Movie Channels to be All HD

Today Sky completes its movies rebrand with the launch of Sky Movies Comedy (channel 31 from 10am) and Sky Movies Collection (channel 35 from 8.30).

Their availability follows the consolidation of Sky’s Classics and Vintage channels under the Classics banner.

Comedy replaces Extra (which started the transition last week with a predominantly comedy schedule) while Collection usurps the pop-up movie channels with differently monthly themes based on everything from genres to actors to franchises to filmmakers.

The loss of Extra also means selected Rialto movies will no longer screen on the Sky Movies service.

As a result of the changes, Sky will still have seven full-time movie channels (although Collection won’t be 24 hours a day) — but every one will be in HD whereas previously Vintage was SD-only.

The rationalisation was overdue as for too long Sky’s movie menu has felt like a cinematic smorgasbord rather than offering subscribers distinctive choices.

The revised line-up is still wanting, and we’ll have to wait for the next decoder upgrade for 4K movies, but is a step in the right direction towards more varied fare.

It’s amazing that Sky still doesn’t offer more specialised channels in an era when streaming services have diluted the value of the modern Hollywood movies that used to be a compelling reason for people to subscribe to Sky.

Even with these changes, Sky’s channels still lean too heavily towards movies released in the past 20 years rather than providing access to titles that aren’t readily accessible in this territory on streaming services.

Rialto, as a separate premium subscription tier, fills this void to a certain extent.

But Sky’s extensive relationships with distributors mean it should be able to offer within its general movie service a better selection of documentary features, and art house, independent, foreign and classic movies than it does.

Vintage was a half-decent attempt to redress this but limiting it to SD was ridiculous. Happily, the union with Classics means all movies on the service will now be in HD.

But the troubling downside of this new arrangement is there will be fewer genuine vintage titles — those that Sky defines as spanning the 1940s-’70s — because they will have to share the 24-hour schedule with the Classics era movies (predominantly ’80s and ’90s).

What more, Sky continues to stretch the meaning of classics by this month slipping in a couple of titles from the 2000s.

Initially, expect Sky to add 10 titles a month to the Classics schedule, which, in the interests of variety, has moved from daily triple-plays of an eight-hour block to a 24-hour playlist.

Subject to ongoing deal negotiations, it hopes to increase the number of new monthly Classic titles from November.

But there’s a risk the ratio of Vintage to Classics titles may favour ‘newer’ movies at the expense of older titles.

All Sky will say is for the first few months the channel will have about a 50-50 split between Classic and Vintage titles.

“We’ll always aim for a vintage presence on Sky Classics and have committed to Wednesday and Friday 8.30pm slots until next year to include War movies and Westerns, which were our highest rating genres on Sky Vintage.”

Sky says the rationalisation of the Classics and Vintage channels wasn’t due to neither being popular enough to warrant two channels for older movies.

“Our Vintage and Classic offerings resonate well with Sky Movies customers, but we are aware that there are other genres that have appeal also, which is why we’ve introduced Sky Comedy and Sky Movies Collection.

“We also felt by combining Sky Movies Vintage and Sky Movies Classic we could give customers a much stronger and varied channel which celebrates classics stretching from the golden age of Hollywood through to more modern masterpieces.

“We have expanded our studio output deals to include a wider variety of movies which fall under the classics umbrella to update our offering and will continue to work with existing partners who have supplied classic movies to us previously.”

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