Sky+ HD

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Sky+ HD
Sky+ HD logo
Original author(s) BSkyB
Developer(s) BSkyB
Initial release 22 May 2006; 8 years ago (2006-05-22)
Stable release
For Models; DRX895w, DRX890w, DRX595, DRX895 and DRX890
R009.066.77.08P (May 6, 2014; 2 months ago (2014-05-06)) [±]
Development status Current
Website www.sky.com/products/ways-to-watch/sky-plus-hd/

Sky+ HD is the brand name of the HDTV service launched by BSkyB on 22 May 2006 in the United Kingdom and Ireland to enable high definition channels on Sky 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 26 July 2013, Sky announced that the total number of homes with Sky+ HD currently stands at 4,786,000.[1]

Subscriptions[edit]

A subscription to the original HD pack carries an extra fee of £10.25 (€15.00 in Republic of Ireland) a month on top of the standard Sky subscription. This fee allows customers to view any HD channels which correspond to the channel packs they subscribe to. Thus, Discovery HD and National Geographic HD will only be available if you have the entertainment extra package in addition to HD. Before that someone without the Knowledge Pack (part of the Entertainment Extra as of September 2011, which corresponds to the Variety Pack) could not view the SD Discovery or National Geographic but they can view the HD versions. Additional Pay-Per-View events on Sky Box Office HD are not available to customers unless they subscribe to the Sky HD pack.

The HD package, like Sky TV has a one year minimum subscription and after this point an 31-day cancellation period is needed.

In January 2010, customers started being 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.

As of late 2013, the £10.25/month HD pack is not offered to new customers - instead, customers with the basic entertainment channels may obtain selected channels in HD by subscribing to the Family package, which presently carries a £5 per month premium over the cost of the regular Variety package.[2] Access to HD versions of Sky Sports and Sky Movies now requires a separate HD pack subscription, priced at £5.25 per month.[3]

Sky+ recording facilities are included at no cost if a customer subscribes to any Sky TV package. Sky+ recording facilities carries an extra fee of £10.25 if a customer does not subscribe to any Sky TV package. Viewers who do not take a subscription Sky TV package or the Sky+ service will still receive all free SD and HD channels, but cannot use the recording facilities.

Free channels[edit]

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 One HD, BBC Two HD and Channel 4 HD are broadcast free to air. ITV HD launched on 2 April 2010 in England and Wales, and can also be viewed without an HD subscription, although viewers in some regions may require a viewing card. (Viewers in Scotland and Ireland, or viewers without viewing cards, can manually tune in the channel via the 'Other Channels' function.) Channel 5 announced on 17 March 2010 that Channel 5 HD would be added to the Sky platform in July 2010, however it requires a viewing card.[4] NHK World HD was added to the EPG in July 2011, with channel number 518, becoming the second HD news channel (after Sky News HD). It is also free to air.

Technical information[edit]

The Sky+ HD Digibox (V.1) backpanel.

The first generation of Sky+ HD Digibox were produced by Thomson. Sky have since added Samsung, Pace and Amstrad as manufacturers. The Thomson box has been discontinued and is no longer available as an A-grade/refurbished item due to its inclusion of YPbPr component video.[citation needed] 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.[5]

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 2E, Astra 2F and Eutelsat 28A satellites at 28.2°E and 28.5°E in a new DVB transmission standard, DVB-S2. BBC HD was broadcast using DVB-S but switched to DVB-S2 on 6 June 2011.[6]

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 20 March 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.

On 1 October 2010, Sky began the process of downloading open-source software to Sky+ HD receivers.[7] Unlike the majority of software upgrades made by Sky, the open source licences require Sky to notify customers that the download has taken place. Subscribers are notified with an on-screen message that refers them to a dedicated section of the Sky website.[8] The website also includes a download of the open source components including the building environment. Sky says that it has found a number of Open Source Software developments that provide capabilities that benefit the software used in the Sky+ HD box.

Channels[edit]

The launch line-up consisted of Sky1 HD, Sky Arts 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 (now Sky Movies Box Office).

Currently, there are 66 HD Channels available on the Sky+ HD EPG. All HD channels in the UK can be viewed using Sky HD.

On Demand[edit]

Main article: On Demand (Sky)

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 at the time didn't broadcast in HD. These have included Sky News (Technofile, Diana: The Last Word), Disney Channel (High School Musical 2) and Nickelodeon (iCarly).

Developments[edit]

Increase in HD channels[edit]

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.[9]

The Sky+ HD Guide[edit]

The 2012 Sky+ HD electronic programme guide.[10]

Since the launch, the Sky+ HD EPG has been based upon the Sky Guide, which has changed little since the launch of Sky 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 9 December 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.[11]

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.[12]

To find out the make and model of your STB, please look at the back panel of your Sky STB. To check the firmware version, using your remote control, please do the following:

Press Services ---> 0 ---> 3 = System Details

The firmware version is the 1st number on the list, the 'Model Number'

Status Date Available via DR Stream Manufacturer Model Supplied HDD Available Personal HDD Storage Latest Firmware Version on DR Stream Future Firmware Version Notes
Latest 6 May 2014 Sky DRX895w 2TB 1.5TB R009.066.77.08P R009.066.77.08P Built in Wi-Fi
Latest 6 May 2014 Sky DRX890w 500GB 250GB R009.066.77.08P R009.066.77.08P Built in Wi-Fi
Latest 6 May 2014 Sky DRX595 N/A N/A R009.066.79.00P R009.066.79.00P Standard box for Multi-screen & Freesat from Sky
Discontinued 6 May 2014 Sky DRX895 2TB 1.5TB R009.066.77.08P R009.066.77.08P Replaced with DRX895w (Built in Wi-Fi)
Discontinued 6 May 2014 Sky DRX895 1.5TB 1TB R009.066.77.08P R009.066.77.08P Replaced with 2TB model
Discontinued 6 May 2014 Sky DRX890 500GB 250GB R009.066.77.08P R009.066.77.08P Replaced with DRX890w (Built in Wi-Fi)
Discontinued 15 May 2014 Amstrad DRX780 300GB 160GB R009.066.85.00P R009.066.85.00P
Discontinued 8 May 2014 Samsung HDSKY 500GB 250GB R009.066.84.00P R009.066.84.00P
Discontinued 8 May 2014 Pace TDS850NB 300GB 160GB R009.066.84.00P R009.066.84.00P
Discontinued 8 May 2014 Samsung HDSKY 300GB 160GB R009.066.84.00P R009.066.84.00P
Discontinued Unknown Thomson DSI8215 300GB 160GB Sky+ 8.3.2 no future updates Phased out Summer 2013
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.[13] The service, delivered by broadband internet, will utilise the Ethernet port of existing Sky+ HD boxes. Sky's Anytime+ will only be available to Sky broadband at launch but sky say it will be on all service providers in the near future. Although the service may be similar to DirecTV's VOD offering that also uses an operating system built by NDS Group. NDS Group was formally a Permira/News Corporation company, but currently part of Cisco. Sky have started the phased roll-out of the new guide software for this service.

On 29 April 2010, BSkyB revealed that their new video-on-demand service would be named Sky Anytime+.[14] "It will be a broad offering at launch with a large range of content across the range of content that we show," CEO Jeremy Darroch said. "[It will feature] progressive download using the broadband return pathway and the hard disc in a combined way. All of the boxes are VOD-ready, so we'll be able to roll it out to all of the box population." Sky Anytime+ began a staggered roll out from 26 October 2010. In March 2011 it was confirmed by Sky that the Thomson Sky HD boxes would not be suitable for the new Anytime+ service. Customers with Thomson boxes are being offered New boxes.[15]

On 1 February 2011, BSkyB introduced a new EPG for Sky HD subscribers which switched the standard definition channels with the high definition simulcast. For example, Sky News HD, which was on channel 517, switched to channel 501. The same happened for other non-regional HD channels, including Syfy, Comedy Central, Sky Sports, E4 and Sky1.

On 18 March 2014 Sky began the process of updating compatible Sky+HD boxes with its redesigned electronic program guide. This redesign aimed to give Sky's On Demand and Catch Up content equal prominence alongside the familiar linier TV service.

The update adds a new Home screen which is accessed using the TV Guide button on the Sky remote control. This Home page features 8 "tiles" which are direct links to Sky's services/content:


  • TV Guide
  • Planner
  • Catch Up TV
  • TV Box Sets
  • New Series
  • Best of On Demand
  • Sky Movies On Demand
  • Sky Store

Sky’s new search feature was also brought forward by placing it directly on the home page, making it easier to use as customers do not to navigate to it, they can simply start typing while on the home page to search.

A new series option was added to the Sky+HD box, this lists all new series that are starting soon or started recently allowing users to select a program and choose a live episode to record, or download a previous episode for Catch Up if available.

At the same time Sky released an update to its Sky+ app, this features a similar looking Home page to the Sky+HD box bring the services more in line with one another. This app update also added the New Series option as well as additional Standby, Select & Back Up buttons to the Sky+ app’s remote control feature.

3D[edit]

Following demonstrations in December 2008,[16] 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.[13] 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 vs Manchester United football match on Sunday 31 January 2010. The 3D match was available in nine hand-picked pubs in England and in Ireland.[17] On Monday 29 March 2010, Sky 3D appeared on the EPG at number 217, showing "Programs Start on Saturday". Sky launched its 3D services on 3 April with the Manchester United vs Chelsea football match being broadcast in over a thousand pubs across England in 3D.[18]

1TB Storage[edit]

A new model set-top box was introduced in late 2009 and early 2010, which offers a new storage capacity of 1 TB available to the user.[19] The new box allows for up to 240 hours of recording. The original Sky+ HD Box has one 300 GB Hard Drive or 500 GB hard drive depending on the model. All the Sky HD boxes use SATA to connect to the hard drive. The 1 TB box, currently made by Amstrad, is being marketed by Sky as "Sky+ HD 1 TB" and the hardware is significantly different to the original Sky HD receiver. It is the first box marketed by Sky to support 1080p in addition to existing 1080i resolution. The Sky+ HD 1 TB box actually contains a 1.5 TB drive; however, only 1 TB is available for user storage, with the remaining 500 GB being reserved for system usage. The additional space is currently used for Anytime.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Results for the twelve months ended 30 June 2013". BSkyB. 26 July 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  2. ^ http://www.sky.com/products/ways-to-watch/sky-plus-hd/
  3. ^ http://www.sky.com/shop/tv/high-definition/
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "Fault hits 90,000 Sky+ HD boxes". Digital Spy. 14 February 2009. 
  6. ^ Pryde, Alix (2 June 2011). "Changes to BBC HD channels on satellite on 6th June". BBC. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  7. ^ "Sky adopts open source set-top software". Broadband TV News. 1 October 2010. 
  8. ^ "opensourcesoftware". British Sky Broadcasting. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  9. ^ Forrester, Chris (30 April 2008). "BSkyB: On way to 30 HD channels". Rapid TV News. Archived from the original on 2 May 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2008. 
  10. ^ "New Sky+HD EPG rolling out this spring". British Sky Broadcasting. 30 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "Sky TV EPG update 2014". [pocket-lint.com]. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  12. ^ Scott, Katie (29 May 2008). "BSkyB previews HD Sky Guide". Pocket Lint. Retrieved 31 May 2008. 
  13. ^ a b "Sky to launch 3D TV in 2010 following record Sky+HD growth". British Sky Broadcasting. 30 July 2009. 
  14. ^ "Sky Christens True VOD Service "Sky Anytime+" As ARPU Rockets". paidContent:UK. 29 April 2010. 
  15. ^ "Sky Introduces Sky Anytime+". British Sky Broadcasting. 22 October 2010. 
  16. ^ "Interview: How Sky 3D is drawing closer". TechRadar. 27 May 2009. Retrieved 27 May 2009. 
  17. ^ "Sky makes 3D history". Sky Sports. 28 January 2010. 
  18. ^ "Sky Television claim first 3D broadcast as a success". The Drum. 3 April 2010. 
  19. ^ "Sky 1TB Box". British Sky Broadcasting. 11 February 2010. 

External links[edit]