Sky launches new catch-up TV service
Filed under: TV, Phone & Broadband
You may not be aware of it, but a pitched battle is raging among pay-TV providers for our eyeballs and (more importantly) our wallets and purses.
Sky plays catch-up
On Wednesday (26 September), Sky upped the ante in the pay-TV war by announcing three improvements to its service, which already includes 10.3 million TV customers in the UK. Here they are, all of which are available now:
1. Catch-up TV
Over nine million Sky customers subscribe to Sky+, a personal video recorder (PVR) service that was launched 11 years ago in September 2001. This set-top box allows users to pause, record and instantly rewind live television, similar to the popular TiVo service.
Sky+ is upgrading its EPG (electronic programming guide) to include Sky+ Catch Up. This seven-day feature in Sky's On Demand service (formerly Sky Anytime+) now allows users to watch programmes from Sky, ITV Player and Channel 5's Demand 5. Also, Sky has indicated that free-to-view shows from BBC iPlayer will arrive this autumn, with programming from Channel 4's 4oD to follow early next year.
Sky+ Catch Up is divided into simple categories, making it easy to search and find what you want to watch by most popular shows, genres and days. Even better, this upgrade comes at no extra cost; all you need do is connect to a broadband router to stream on-demand programmes via the Internet.
To get this upgrade, you can either wait for Sky to update your set-top box or force an update yourself via your box's set-up menu.
2. Double the storage
At the same time as unveiling its catch-up service, Sky announced the launch of a new Sky+HD 2TB (two terabyte) set-top box. This is double the personal storage of existing 1TB boxes, allowing users to store over 350 hours of HD (high definition) content. In contrast, Sky's main rival, Virgin Media, provides only a third as much storage capacity.
This new set-up box will be priced between £49 and £249, depending on your Sky package and customer status.
3. Sky+ app by zeebox
Recent research from Sky that found three-quarters of Brits are 'second-screen viewers' who combine viewing television with accessing additional content on second screens (such as laptops, smartphones and tablet PCs).
Hence, Sky has added the zeebox service to its Sky+ app for iPad, allowing viewers to interact with their favourite TV shows. This gives Sky+ viewers access to online and social-networking communities dedicated to discussing virtually every television show in the UK.
Sky's latest update also allows viewers to use their iPads as remote controls for their Sky+ service. Again, this upgrade is provided at no extra charge as a free download in the App Store.
Three best-selling bundles (TV, broadband and phone)
With more customers than all its pay-TV rivals put together, Sky+ is already the UK's most popular personal video recorder. Hence, Sky+ has been described by technology magazine T3 as "King of the TV services jungle".
That said, how does the pricing of Sky's packages compare with its rivals? Let's find out with a review of the latest Best Buys for bundles -- TV, broadband and home phone all rolled into one monthly payment.
There are as many possible bundles as there are clouds in the sky, so I've narrowed down this selection to one pick from each of the 'Big Three' (Sky, Virgin and BT). Here they are:
Here's why I picked these three deals:
1. This BT deal is by far the cheapest currently on offer, with a first-year cost below £179. That's less than £14 a month for TV, broadband and calls (excluding line rental).
2. Virgin Media's Essential Collection gives almost as many TV channels as BT, but potentially much faster broadband download speeds (depending on your area and distance from the local exchange), plus unlimited downloads.
3. Sky's broadband is slower than Virgin's, but customers get access to Sky Atlantic, Sky Anytime+, Sky Go and free WiFi from The Cloud when they're out and about.
Finally, as with all bundled deals, what you get depends very much on your postcode. The above examples are for a home in Greenwich, south London. For best results, always do a postcode search for the available deals in your area!
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