Sky (United Kingdom)

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British Sky Broadcasting Limited
TypePay TV, Broadband and Phone
CountryUnited Kingdom
AvailabilitySatellite
Founded1990
SloganBelieve in Better
Broadcast area
United Kingdom
ParentSky plc
Official website
www.sky.com
 
  (Redirected from Sky (UK and Ireland))
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For a wider corporate history and profile, see BSkyB.
British Sky Broadcasting Limited
TypePay TV, Broadband and Phone
CountryUnited Kingdom
AvailabilitySatellite
Founded1990
SloganBelieve in Better
Broadcast area
United Kingdom
ParentSky plc
Official website
www.sky.com

British Sky Broadcasting Limited (marketed as Sky) is a telecommunications company which serves the United Kingdom.

Its corporate headquarters are based in London. Sky UK provides customers in the United Kingdom with digital television channels.It was the country's most popular digital TV service until it was overtaken by Freeview in April 2007.[1]

British Sky Broadcasting Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sky plc.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

The present service can trace its heritage back to 1990 when BSkyB's predecessors Sky Television plc and British Satellite Broadcasting encrypted their respective film channels – Sky Movies and The Movie Channel which required viewers to get decoding equipment and a subscription to watch the channels. After the two companies merged, subscribers could get access to both channels, and later the sports channel Sky Sports also became encrypted.

In September 1993, BSkyB launched Sky Multichannels which was the present digital platform's analogue predecessor. Sky Multichannels was a subscription package that gave access not only to Sky's own channels but also those of third party broadcasters.

1998 launch[edit]

Sky's digital service was officially launched on 1 October 1998 under the name Sky Digital, although small-scale tests were carried out before then. At this time the use of the Sky Digital brand made an important distinction between the new service and Sky's analogue services. Key selling points were the improvement in picture and sound quality, increased number of channels and an interactive service branded Open.... now called Sky Active, Sky competed with the ONdigital (later ITV Digital) terrestrial offering and cable services.

The new service used the Astra 2A satellite which was located at the 28.5°E orbital position, unlike the analogue service which was broadcast which was broadcast from 19.2°E. The old position was shared with broadcasters from several European countries, while the new position at 28.5°E came to be used almost exclusively for channels that broadcast to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

In addition to most channels from the Sky Multichannels package, Sky Digital launched with several new channels that were exclusive to the digital offer.

The switchover from analogue to digital proceeded relatively quickly. In Q3 1998, there were 6 million 'multichannel' TV homes in the UK (i.e. homes that watch television other than the traditional analogue terrestrial), and over half of these homes watched television using Sky's analogue service. Sky's digital service surpassed the analogue service in terms of subscribers in late 1999.[2] BSkyB's analogue service ended in October 2001, and the digital service would eventually be marketed as just 'Sky'.

New Astra satellites joined the position in 2000 and 2001, and the number of channels available to customers increased accordingly. This trend continued with the launch of Eurobird 1 (now Eutelsat 28A) in 2001.

HD[edit]

Main article: Sky+ HD

Sky launched its HDTV service, Sky+ HD, on 22 May 2006. Prior to its launch, Sky claimed that 40,000 people had registered to receive the HD service. In the week before the launch, rumours started to surface that Sky was having supply issues with its set top box (STB) from manufacturer Thomson. On Thursday 18 May 2006, and continuing through the weekend before launch, people were reporting that Sky had either cancelled or rescheduled its installation. Finally, the BBC reported that 17,000 customers had yet to receive the service due to failed deliveries.[3]

In early 2012, Sky released an update to its Sky Anytime service. This update offers customers the chance to buy and rent films from the Sky Store. In June 2012, Sky launched a new EPG for Sky+ HD boxes. The update included a new modernised look and improved functionality. As of 1 October 2012, Sky Anytime was rebranded as Sky On Demand which included ITV player and 5 Demand. BBC iPlayer followed in late Autumn with 4oD, launched in early 2013.[4]

Digibox[edit]

Originally Sky launched with a set top box known as the Sky digibox, however, in more recent years the Sky+ and Sky+ HD boxes have launched alongside the original box. Sky+ is a digital video recorder with an internal hard drive which allows viewers to 'pause live television' (by switching from a live feed to a paused real-time recording that can be restarted at any point) and schedule programs to record in the future.

Sky launched HDTV services in May 2006. The first photos of a prototype Sky HD receiver began appearing in magazines in August 2005. All Sky+ HD receivers incorporate a version of Sky+ using either a 300GB or 500GB hard drive (of which 160GB or 250GB is available to the user) to accommodate the necessary extra data.

EPG[edit]

Sky maintains an electronic programme guide (EPG) which provides information about upcoming programmes and a list of channels. Channels available on Sky are assigned a three digit logical channel number which can be entered on a remote control to access the channel and determines in what order channels are listed.

The EPG differs depending on the viewer's location due to limited regional availability of certain channels or conditions relating to their must-carry status. For example, this ensures that viewers get access to the correct BBC or ITV region or that S4C gets a prominent listing in Wales. Viewers in the Republic of Ireland have the domestic Irish channels on the top of the EPG, but don't have channels from ITV, Channel 5 or BBC Radio listed by default. Much of the missing content for Irish viewers is available through 'Other Channels' but Sky+ viewers cannot record from 'Other Channels'.

All channels are grouped into categories depending on their content. What section of the EPG a channel gets allocated is determined by rules set up by Sky.

BSkyB has no veto over the presence of channels on their EPG, with open access being an enforced part of their operating licence from Ofcom. Any channel which can get carriage on a suitable beam of a satellite at 28° East is entitled to access to Sky's EPG for a fee, ranging from £15–100,000. Third-party channels which opt for encryption receive discounts ranging from reduced price to free EPG entries, free carriage on a Sky leased transponder, or actual payment for being carried. However, even in this case, Sky does not carry any control over the channel's content or carriage issues such as picture quality.

In October 2007, Sky announced that they wouldn't accept new applications to launch channel on their EPG, citing "very significant memory constraints" on many of its older digiboxes.[5]

The EPG numbering is altered frequently when new channels launch or receive new numbers. A few times, the EPG has been substantially altered. For example:

Transmission[edit]

Sky is transmitted from the Astra satellites located at 28.2° east (2A/2C/2E/2F) and Eutelsat's Eutelsat 28A satellite at 28.5°E. It was the country's most popular digital TV service until it was overtaken by Freeview in April 2007.[8]

Sky's standard definition broadcasts are in DVB-compliant MPEG-2, with the Sky Movies and Sky Box Office channels including optional Dolby Digital soundtracks for recent films, although these are only accessible with a Sky+ box. Sky+ HD material is broadcast using MPEG-4 and most of the HD material uses the DVB-S2 standard. Interactive services and 7-day EPG use the proprietary OpenTV system, with set-top boxes including modems for a return path. Sky News, amongst other channels, provides a pseudo-video on demand interactive service by broadcasting looping video streams.

Provided a universal Ku band LNB (9.75/10.600 GHz) is fitted at the end of the dish and pointed at the correct satellite constellation, most digital receivers will receive the free to air channels. Some broadcasts are free-to-air and unencrypted, some are encrypted but do not require a monthly subscription (known as free-to-view), some are encrypted and require a monthly subscription, and some are pay-per-view services. To view the encrypted content a VideoGuard UK equipped receiver (all of which are dedicated to the Sky service, and cannot be used to decrypt other services) needs to be used. Unofficial CAMs are now available to view the service, although use of them breaks the user's contract with Sky and invalidates the user's rights to use the card.

Services[edit]

Digital terrestrial television[edit]

BSkyB initially faced competition from the ONdigital digital terrestrial television service (later renamed ITV Digital). ITV Digital failed for numerous reasons, including, but not limited to numerous administrative and technical failures, nervous investors after a large down-turn in the advertising market and the dot com crash, and BSkyB's aggressive marketing and domination of premium sporting rights. While Sky had been excluded from being a part of the ONdigital consortium, thereby making them a competitor by default, Sky was able to join ITV Digital's free-to-air replacement, Freeview, in which it holds an equal stake with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and National Grid Wireless. Prior to October 2005, three BSkyB channels were available on this platform: Sky News, Sky Three, and Sky Sports News. Initially BSkyB provided Sky Travel to the service. However, this was replaced by Sky Three on 31 October 2005, which was itself later rebranded as 'Pick TV' in 2010. On 8 February 2007, Sky announced its intention to replace its three free-to-air digital terrestrial channels with four subscription channels. It was proposed that these channels would offer a range of content from the Sky portfolio including sport (including English Premiership Football), films, entertainment and news.[9] The announcement came a day after Setanta Sports confirmed that it would launch in March as a subscription service on the digital terrestrial platform, and on the same day that NTL's services re-branded as Virgin Media. However, industry sources believe Sky will be forced to shelve plans to withdraw its channels from Freeview and replace them with subscription channels, due to possible lost advertising revenue.[10]

Video on demand[edit]

Sky is facing increased competition from telecommunications providers delivering pay television services over existing telephone lines using ADSL. Such providers are potentially able to offer "triple-play" or "quad-play" packages combining land-line telephone, broadband Internet, mobile telephone and pay television services. To compete with these providers, in October 2005, BSkyB bought the broadband Internet Service Provider Easynet for £211 million. This acquisition allowed BSkyB to start offering a Sky-branded broadband service as well as a "triple play" package combining satellite television, land-line telephone and Broadband service. Sky also offers some streaming live TV channels to a computer using Microsoft's Silverlight.[11]

Game consoles[edit]

On 29 May 2009, it was confirmed that Sky Go would be made available via Microsoft's Xbox 360 games console.[12] Although Sky Go is not available on the PlayStation 3, in November 2011 Sony Computer Entertainment struck a deal with Sky to bring some of its shows to the PlayStation Store Video Store. Users are able buy individual TV episodes in SD or HD.[13]

Broadband[edit]

On 1 March 2013, it was announced that BSkyB would buy O2's and Be's broadband services from Telefónica for £180 million up front plus another £20 million once customers have been transferred. Telefónica said the deal would allow it to concentrate on providing better mobile services, including rolling out 4G.[14]

In February 2013 BSkyB launched its broadband and telephone product in the Republic of Ireland, and have made significant headway into the Irish market as one of the few providers offering 'triple play' (Phone, broadband and digital TV)to the public. As BSkyB's Irish offering of broadband and phone is made via the existing telephone network(LLU & non-LLU), it is widely available. In Ireland, BSkyB operates under the identity of Sky Ireland with its headquarters in Dublin.

Content[edit]

High definition[edit]

Main article: Sky+ HD

Sky launched its HDTV service, Sky+ HD, on 22 May 2006. Prior to its launch, Sky claimed that 40,000 people had registered to receive the HD service. In the week before the launch, rumours started to surface that Sky was having supply issues with its set top box (STB) from manufacturer Thomson. On Thursday 18 May 2006, and continuing through the weekend before launch, people were reporting that Sky had either cancelled or rescheduled its installation. Finally, the BBC reported that 17,000 customers had yet to receive the service due to failed deliveries.[15] On 31 March 2012, Sky announced the total number of homes with Sky+HD was 4,222,000.[16]

3D[edit]

Main article: Sky 3D

Sky began to broadcast programmes in 3D in April 2010. This included new 3D channels, including a Sky Sports 3D and Sky Movies 3D. Sky previously experimented with 3D broadcasting by broadcasting an Arsenal vs Manchester United football game live in 3D in nine pubs situated throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.[17]

Restrictions[edit]

Sky subscribers in Ireland have a different choice of channels compared to the UK. The standard Irish channels RTÉ One, RTÉ Two, TV3, TG4 and 3e are available to all Irish subscribers. Irish channels are also available on satellite using Saorsat.[18] Free to air channels like the ITV and the Channel 5 family of channels, can only be tuned via the Other Channels section.[19]

Products[edit]

Sky utilizes the VideoGuard pay-TV scrambling system owned by NDS, a Cisco Systems company. There are tight controls over use of VideoGuard decoders; they are not available as stand-alone DVB CAMs (conditional-access modules). BSkyB has design authority over all digital satellite receivers capable of receiving their service. The receivers, though designed and built by different manufacturers, must conform to the same user interface look-and-feel as all the others. This extends to the Personal video recorder (PVR) offering (branded Sky+). BSkyB initially charged additional subscription fees for using a Sky+ PVR with their service; waiving the charge for subscribers whose package included two or more premium channels. This changed as from 1 July 2007, and now customers that have Sky+ and subscribe to any Sky subscription package get Sky+ included at no extra charge. Customers that don't subscribe to Sky's channels can still pay a monthly fee to enable Sky+ functions. In January 2010 Sky discontinued the Sky+ Box, limited the standard Sky Box to Multiroom upgrade only and started to issue the Sky+HD Box as standard, thus giving all new subscribers the functions of Sky+. In February 2011 Sky discontinued the non-HD variant of its Multiroom box, offering a smaller version of the SkyHD box without Sky+ functionality.[20] In September 2007, Sky launched a new TV advertising campaign targeting Sky+ at women. As of 31 March 2008, Sky had 3,393,000 Sky+ users.[21]

Marketing[edit]

Sky (formerly marketed as Sky Digital) is the brand name for Sky plc's United Kingdom digital satellite television and radio service, Slogans Sky have used for marketing include "What do you want to watch?", "Entertainment your way" and the current slogan "Believe in Better".[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Freeview digital overtakes Sky
  2. ^ http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/tv-research/dso3.pdf
  3. ^ "Sky HDTV launch runs into trouble". BBC News. 22 May 2006. 
  4. ^ "New Sky EPG 2012 – Should you let your customers loose on your betas?". Pear Digital. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Sky to reject new channel applications". The Guardian. 5 October 2007. 
  6. ^ "Sky in EPG shake-up". Broadcast. 31 March 2005. 
  7. ^ "Why Sky EPG Changes Won't Shake Viewing Habits". Tvgenius.net. 21 January 2011. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  8. ^ Freeview digital overtakes Sky
  9. ^ Oatts, Joanne (8 February 2007). "Sky to launch new DTT service". Digital Spy. Archived from the original on 5 March 2007. Retrieved 5 March 2007. 
  10. ^ Quinn, Ian (5 March 2007). "Sky rethinks Freeview exit and football strategy". Brand Republic. Retrieved 5 March 2007. 
  11. ^ BSkyB buys Easynet for £211m The Guardian, 21 October 2005
  12. ^ "Sky Player comes to Xbox Live". CNET. 14 September 2007. Archived from the original on 30 May 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2009. 
  13. ^ "UK PSN Store Now Offers TV Episodes". TheSixthAxis. 24 November 2011. 
  14. ^ "BBC News - BSkyB buys O2 and BE broadband businesses from Telefonica". BBC Online. 1 March 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  15. ^ "Sky HDTV launch runs into trouble". BBC News. 22 May 2006. 
  16. ^ "Key facts & figures". 
  17. ^ "Sky to Broadcast 3D Premier League Live Games This Weekend". TFTS. 28 January 2010. 
  18. ^ "SAORSAT". 
  19. ^ Tuning guide for all uk fta channels, Posters on www.boards.ie, 14 September 2007, retrieved 29 June 2009 
  20. ^ "Supertelly from Sky". Digital TV Advice. 29 January 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2010. 
  21. ^ "BSkyB's new Sky+ advert claims to show What Women Think". Tech Digest. 14 September 2007. Archived from the original on 18 October 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2007. 
  22. ^ Believe in Better sky.com

External links[edit]