Karl Pilkington Comes Out of Retirement for Sky

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  1. Karl Pilkington Comes Out of Retirement for Sky

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    Karl Pilkington may have declared his retirement from acting and public life back in 2015, but it seems as though Sky have managed to tempt him back to create an all-new scripted sitcom for the channel.

    The sitcom is called Sick of It and as well as starring in the sitcom, Karl will write the entire series – a first for the man with the head like a ^”*&!?@ orange – and star in it too. The sitcom will sit alongside a new Romesh Ranganathan sitcom in a 10 pm timeslot on Sky 1, designed to kickstart Sky 1’s new comedy ambitions.

    Sick of It finds Karl taking on two roles – himself and that of the voice inside his head as he muddles through the mundane life he might well have led had he never met Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant – the two men who thrust him into the limelight.

    In the show, he’s recently been ditched by his long-time girlfriend when we first find him and moved into his elderly aunties house. His closest companion is the crotchety, hilariously misanthropic alter ego who takes the form of his doppelgänger, voicing the true version of what the fictional Karl things and feels, without fear of offending others.

    As Karl attempts to get his life back on track, the voice in his head guides, misdirects, criticises and dispenses ‘unorthodox’ life lessons.

    Speaking of the series, Karl Pilkington said: “For most people, the inner self is there to help make decisions but mine mainly confuses me and pushes me in the wrong direction. I’d say that doing this series was inner self’s idea. I’ve only just realised that I’m playing myself twice but only being paid once. Like I say, my inner self-doesn’t really look out for me.”

    The series will be produced by the award-winning team behind An Idiot Abroad and The Moaning of Life. It’s being written by Karl Pilkington and Richard Yee, who is also executive producing alongside Krishnendu Majumdar. Richard Yee directs. From Me+You Productions and Alrite Productions.

    The new British comedy is joining a line-up of shows on Sky 1 from some of the biggest names in comedy, including Jack Whitehall, Nick Frost and more. The 10 pm slot is due to become Sky 1’s major comedy slot, with Bounty Hunters, Sick Note, The Reluctant Landlord and Sick of It all making their way there later this year.

    It’s a move by Sky to try to revitalise their Sky 1 channel, which is available on all pay-tv packages through the Sky contact number, after much development time and money was spent on their Sky Atlantic channel.

    Sky 1 is currently home to panel shows like A League of Their Own and Duck Quacks Don’t Echo, alongside Harry Hill’s Tea Time, The Russell Howard Hour and more. However, aside from Stella and Trollied – both of which are nearing the end of their lives – the channel lacks not a single scripted sitcom, hence the move from Sky to bring sitcoms back into the fold at Sky 1.

  2. Sky to Launch ‘The Next Jamie Vardy’ in September

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    The news that Leicester City hero Jamie Vardy was setting up a training academy for the next generation of non-league football stars to showcase their talents set a ripple of excitement through the football world. Now, Sky have announced that a six-part fly-on-the-wall documentary will air on Sky 1, following Vardy as he searches for the next big star from the lower leagues.

    Starting on the 16th of September, the new series will take a look behind the doors of Vardy’s V9 Academy, and follow Vardy as he seeks to discover new talent from non-league football and help future professionals realise their dreams by providing a unique insight into the top level of the sport.

    With unprecedented access to the academy, the series provides a glimpse into the lives of talented amateur players who have been shortlisted to attend the academy, where they will play in front of scouts from around the world in a bid to become “the next Jamie Vardy”. The series will also act as an autobiography, of sorts, reflecting on Vardy’s years playing non-league football at Stockbridge Park Steels in 2007.

    The series is produced by Zig Zag productions and will also be broadcast on Sky Sports’ new dedicated Premier League channel in September, which customers can sign up to by using the Sky contact details to upgrade.

    Jamie Vardy said: “There’s massive talent out there in non-league football and I hope this documentary has demonstrated that, by putting the spotlight on players trying to find a way to the top. I’m now hopeful that some of the clubs, scouts and players that were sceptical about what John (co-founder of V9) and I set out to do are won over. There are many more hidden gems to be found outside the league and V9 will do all it can to help players realise their ultimate dream of playing professional football for club and country.”

    Adam MacDonald, Commissioning Director at Sky 1, commented: “Jamie completed one of the most remarkable stories in the history of English football by winning the Premier League title. Now he wants to offer that fairy tale opportunity to others like him, with the V9 academy. We can’t wait to use this unique access to show Sky customers the real stories behind non-league players hoping to make it to the big time.”

    John Morris, co-founder of V9, said: “With the right attitude, V9’s talented players can take the top-level by storm. The remarkable aspect of Jamie’s story is that a player of his quality is proof that hidden talent can lie undiscovered if you look hard enough. The academy has proved that there are league players within the non-leagues, with the documentary showcasing some great examples of why it is never too late to fulfil your dream of being a professional footballer.”

    Sky 1 is a free channel for all Sky customers and comes pre-packaged with many other pay-TV suppliers deals.

  3. Sky to Launch new Soundbox Speaker

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    Recent years have seen Sky take the visual aspect of television to a new level for UK based customers with the launch of broadcast 4K TV, but for many of us, the audio aspect remains frustratingly limited.

    Although Sky do send audio in high bitrates for HD and 4K customers, the vast majority of homes make do with the standard audio of their televisions, which are typically thin and lacking in quality. That’s a shame, because with programming like Game of Thrones currently airing, audio has rarely been more important to the television experience.

    That’s why Sky have teamed up with the French audio company Devialet, one of the most innovative and exciting names in audio, to create a new all-in-one sound system that’s designed to push television audio up a few notches.

    Designed to fit in one single compact speaker unit, the speaker – known as the Sky Soundbox – delivers loud and immersive sound that (Sky promise) will surpass “many of the best home cinema systems available today”.

    The Sky Soundbox combines Sky’s knowhow in television with Devialet’s well-reviewed audio technologies for the first time. Devialet, who produced the stunning Expert Pro amplifier and Phantom wireless speaker, have never partnered with another brand before, speaking to the level of risk in the partnership – it’s also the first time Sky have ever launched a home audio product before.

    The speaker itself will combine six woofers (for low frequency sounds like bass or explosions) with three full-range speakers (which will handle all other sounds) into a single device. Devialet and Sky are promising that the speaker will bounce the sound around your room, delivering spatial surround sound. It’s worth noting that though Sky and Devialet are promising 360-degree sound, that’s simply not possible without a number of speakers around you. Nevertheless, an approximation of surround sound can be made with a single speaker.

    The speaker has a number of benefits for Sky customers, with the speaker automatically reconfiguring its sound profile for Sky Q customers watching a variety of entertainment or sports programming. Additionally, the Soundbox will analyse incoming audio in real time, helping to adjust audio levels to better realise vocals or explosions.

    Stephen van Rooyen, Chief Executive Officer, Sky UK and Ireland, commented: “Sound is a vital part of visual storytelling – whether you’re watching the season finale of your favourite drama, or an epic Premier League clash. That’s why we’ve partnered with audio industry leaders Devialet to launch Sky Soundbox and take the TV experience to the next level for our customers. Great TV deserves great audio – we believe Sky Soundbox is the Ultra HD of home audio.”

    Quentin Sannié, Chief Executive, Devialet, said: “Sound is the future of television. We are very proud to be partnering with Sky, to help them to unleash the full emotional impact of their content, through powerful, immersive, fully integrated sound. This first partnership illustrates our ability to pursue Devialet’s vision to enable revolutionary experiences through audio, and bring them to the widest number of people through partnerships with like-minded companies who are looking to challenge the status quo.”

    Sky are encouraging customers to avoid using the contact details for Sky to book, instead recommending that they go to sky.com/skysoundbox to register their interest. The speaker will go on sale in the Autumn for £799, but current and new customers can get the box at £299, whilst Sky Q multiscreen customers can pick it up at £249. Time will tell whether it’s worth that money, but with two giants of home entertainment behind it, we’d suspect the speaker to live up to the hype.

  4. Sky and Virgin Media Strike Unusual Deal

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    Sky and Virgin Media enjoy something of a tetchy relationship at present, and who could blame them? Together, they monopolise a huge portion of the pay-TV, broadband, mobile and home television markets.

    True, whilst the two companies are fierce rivals on all fronts, they’ve found room for cooperation in the past, like in the appearance of Sky channels like Cinema and Sports on Virgin TV platforms. However, that was mandated by the media regulator Ofcom, who demanded that Sky’s services be available on all platforms.

    Now, in a show of rare cooperation, Sky and Virgin Media have announced a strategic partnership which will enable businesses of all sizes to benefit from a more advanced form of TV advertising across both platforms. Advertisers will soon be able to leverage a potential audience of more than 30 million viewers, putting it on par with the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

    The partnership centres around Sky’s AdSmart platform, which uses location data for each individual customer and deep knowledge of customers traits and habits to surface adverts which are specifically relevant to their location and life, in much the same way online adverts work. Additionally, Sky will benefit from technology developed by Virgin Media owner Liberty Global.

    The partnership targets both linear (traditional) TV and Video-On-Demand platforms across both systems to “transform the scale of addressable TV advertising in the UK”, whilst making use of the trusted and quality medium that is television.

    To understand why this is quite a big deal you have to understand the nature of traditional television advertising. Because television is the same across the whole country (bar some region specific channels), competition for advertising slots was high and the only feasible way to advertise would be to be a national business.

    That locked out a huge number of smaller business who, when the internet matured, abandoned any hope of advertising on TV and moved online. This, in turn, created a vacuum for advertisers on TV and, as small businesses did well advertising online, a decline in demand for TV advertising.

    That’s what these new platforms aim to address. By offering hyper-local advertising, they can charge significantly less for a slot, enabling smaller businesses to leverage the TV platform. When Sky and Virgin claim this will be akin to a revolution for TV advertising, they aren’t kidding – it’s a real reformulation of the equation, and one which should have the contact Sky phone lines lighting up in short order.

    Virgin Media’s Chief Executive Tom Mockridge commented: “Quality programming deserves to be supported with quality advertising. In partnering with Sky we’re putting the UK and Ireland at the forefront of TV advertising innovation. We’re giving consumers advertising that is more relevant to them and giving brands a trusted destination to deliver intelligent, tailored TV campaigns to a targeted audience.”

    Andrew Griffith, Sky’s Group Chief Operating Officer, said: “Addressable TV is the high quality, brand safe and transparent medium that leading brands have already been adopting in their thousands. Today’s partnership takes that to the next level with the extension of AdSmart to millions more homes meaning more relevant ads for Virgin customers and a larger platform for advertisers.”

  5. Sky Announce New Long-Term Partnerships

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    As Sky continues to expand across Europe and develop itself into much more than a mere television provider, they’ve been laying down vital groundwork to fund their growth.

    However, their success will likely always be underpinned by a continued dominance in the pay-tv sector. That’s why the company have this week announced two new long-term strategic partnerships with major American content providers – A+E and NBC Universal.

    A+E Networks® boasts a portfolio of industry leaving programming and a strong commitment to producing entertainment in the countries they’ll primarily be sold. Here in the UK, that’s meant favourites such as Ronnie O’Sullivan’s American Hustle and Britain’s Next Top Model, but Sky is more than the UK these days.

    With a presence in Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria, Sky’s extension of their relationship with A+E means that they’ll get more top programming like Mafia Queens in Italy and History Hunters in Germany, along with the very best of their US programming, like their critically acclaimed re-imagining of the iconic Roots, which will come to HISTORY in the UK this summer.

    The partnership encompasses A+E Networks’ six brands in Europe: HISTORY; Lifetime; Crime + Investigation; H2; A&E; and BLAZE and will feature on Sky’s non-linear streaming platform Now TV.

    Rob Webster, Group Director Partner Channels, Sky said: “It’s great to have built on Sky’s decade-long relationship with A+E with this pan-European partnership. Customers across all of our regions continue to enjoy world-class content thanks to Sky’s partnerships with companies like A+E who trust us to treat their brands and content as if they were our own.”

    At the same time, Sky have announced that they’ve secured a multi-year extension to their partnership with NBCUniversal, which covers both NBCUniversal film properties for Sky Cinema and NBC Universal’s range of television channels.

    Sky customers in the UK and Ireland will be able to enjoy a selection of NBCUniversal’s fantastic television channels, which include the Universal Channel, Syfy and E! Entertainment and Movies 24. Meanwhile, customers in Germany and Austria will enjoy Universal Channel, Syfy and E! Entertainment and 13th STREET.

    In addition, Syfy and NBCU International’s all-reality service, hayu, will launch in 2018 on NOW TV in the UK. In Germany, Syfy will launch on Sky Ticket in 2019.

    More importantly for Sky though, this deal will ensure more tent-pole, first-run movies like the Jurassic Park, Despicable Me and Fast & Furious franchises will continue to appear on Sky Cinema, alongside the critically acclaimed films from Working Title and Focus Features, which also belong to NBCUniversal. Quite simply, securing this deal was vital to the health and prosperity of Sky Cinema going forward.

    Gary Davey, Managing Director, Content, Sky commented on the deal: “It’s been a very successful year for rights negotiations and we are very pleased to have secured this long-term deal for our customers. Our focus remains on providing our customers with content of the highest quality and NBCUniversal’s movies, television programming and channel brands are globally renowned.  Our partners’ trust in Sky as the custodian of their brands and content enables us to not only establish, but extend, these long-term relationships and we look forward to continuing to work with NBCUniversal International.”

  6. Sky Unveils Three Broadband Initiatives

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    2017 is poised to be a fascinating year for the home broadband market. With rumours of Virgin Media climbing down from their ultra-fast broadband perch to offer slower, ultra-low cost broadband and the likes of TalkTalk re-energising their business after a torrid couple of years which has seen hack after hack crumble their satisfaction ratings.

    Clearly then, Sky had to do something to get themselves ahead of the game, and today they’ve done just that with not one, not two, but three separate bits of news which should bring a smile to the face of the broadband buying population.

    The first news is that Sky have today launched the UK’s lowest priced combined fibre broadband & line rental deal, available for just £20 per month, with a one off set up cost of £19.95. The deal is available exclusively for Sky TV customers, either new or existing.

    The deal is for Sky’s fibre broadband, which has an average 34Mbps download speed, and comes with a 25GB monthly usage allowance – which might prove to be a problem for stream-happy families. Nevertheless, Sky are positioning the broadband deal as the perfect accompaniment to their TV package and their On Demand content.

    Additionally, Sky are launching the Sky Broadband Tech Team, which is due to take customer service duties for broadband away from http://www.contacttelephonenumbers.com/sky-contact-telephone-number/ and move them into their own team.

    This new, dedicated, UK team of broadband experts are specially trained to resolve customers’ broadband problems, and will build on Sky’s excellent history of customer service. That customer service has seen them listed as number 1 by Ofcom for the last two years, and the new helpline will help cement that reputation.

    Their role will extend from helping customers get the best broadband speeds to solving the majority of broadband issues online or over the phone. If needed, the team will be able to dispatch a specially trained engineer to the affected home. Additionally, better training means that the team will be able to provide a more personal experience to customers.

    Speaking on the new fibre broadband offer and Tech Team, Lyssa McGowan, Director of Communication Products at Sky said: “Faster and more reliable internet is becoming ever more important for our TV customers. That’s why we are offering Sky Fibre at such a brilliant price, exclusively for our Sky TV customers, alongside launching our new, dedicated Broadband Tech Team, so they get the best service in town.”

    The two initiatives are being launched with a new ad campaign which will feature characters from the upcoming Lego Batman movie, with the ad hitting screens from the 28th of December.

    The final bit of broadband news is perhaps the most interesting one, because Sky have become the first company in the UK to advertise average download speeds when selling their broadband service.

    To date, Sky (and every other broadband supplier in the UK) has advertised ‘up to’ speeds, which highlight the best case scenario that a customer can experience. The change means that now customers buying broadband from Sky will see a more realistic estimation of their broadband speeds.

    Though Sky are the first company to offer realistic average speeds in their advertising, it’s likely that they won’t be the last. In November, the Advertising Standards Agency concluded that broadband providers should stop misleading customers with best-case-scenario speeds. Currently, the guidelines state that at least 10% of subscribers see the advertised speeds, which leaves plenty of room for misuse.

    Indeed, the Committees of Advertising Practice are currently reviewing that guidance, and look set to announce a change which would bring an end to optimistic broadband speed reporting. That recommendation is due out in Spring 2017, so this move from Sky could simply be them getting ahead of the game and making the change before it’s legally required.

    Whatever the reasoning, it’s a move that should be applauded from Sky, who are making the broadband buying world a fairer place.

  7. How Will 21st Century Fox Buying Sky Affect You?

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    When it comes to pay TV, there’s no bigger company within the UK than Sky. Created from the buyout of the failing British Satellite Broadcasting and merged with Sky Television Plc back in 1989, BskyB (now simply Sky) endured a rocky start to life. The subsequent decades, however, have seen the struggling pay TV supplier become the dominant force in the market, outmuscling the likes of BT, Virgin and a host of smaller suppliers.

    More recently, the purchases of Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland have meant that Sky has been able to stretch out across Europe, unify their offerings and add a mountain of new customers to their service.

    Now, Sky is about to be taken over by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. It’s the second time such a deal has been proposed, the first of which was scrapped as the phone hacking scandal broke in 2009. However, unlike the 2009 deal, the 2017 takeover of Sky will cost a great deal more.

    The deal will see 21st Century Fox take the remaining 61% of Sky that it doesn’t presently own. As part of the deal, Sky’s shareholders will be bought out and receive £10.75 for each share. That places a value on the company of £18.5 billion.

    Though accepted by Sky’s board and shareholders, the path isn’t yet clear for the takeover. The Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, can still decide to launch an investigation into whether the takeover raises public concerns. In this case, those concerns would be around media plurality. If requested, Ofcom would be tasked with examining the deal.

    It’s a move which has been supported by the Shadow Culture Secretary, Tom Watson, who said: “When she stood on the steps of Downing Street this summer, the prime minister said to the people of this country that ‘when we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you’. This is a big call. The government needs to decide whose side it’s on.”

    Nevertheless, it’s expected that the deal will go ahead. So how will that affect you? Join us as we answer the biggest questions.

    Will this drive prices up?

    As yet, nobody really knows the answer to that question. However, in the short to medium term it’s fair to say that price hikes are unlikely.

    In fact, it’s more likely that if you’re shopping for a pay TV contract in the near future you’ll see lower prices. Why?

    Well, with a long way to go before the ratification of the takeover, the companies behind some of our other favourite premium TV services will be looking to lure in as many new customers to their ranks as possible before the landscape changes dramatically. That could lead to special offers, steep discounts and more.

    Will this change or void your contract with Sky?

    Of particular interest to customers using the Sky telephone number is whether the takeover will change or void their contract with Sky. The good (or bad) news on that front is that no, your Sky contract will remain unchanged.

    Additionally, it won’t be possible for Sky to raise the cost of your contract midway through your term, as it would break your contract and allow you to walk free.

    Will the takeover affect Sky Mobile?

    Sky’s recent announcement that they’re getting into the mobile landscape with their own network caught the entire industry’s attention, but will 21st Century Fox’s takeover stop that?

    The answer, we feel, is a resounding no. In fact, it’s much more likely that Sky Mobile is part of the reason why Fox are so keen on the takeover. Quad-play deals bundle mobile, home phone, TV and broadband into a single package and have proven extremely popular in the UK for companies like Virgin and BT. As such, the potential to offer such a deal represents a significant growth opportunity for Sky.

    Why now?

    Perhaps the biggest question on people’s minds is ‘why now’? Well, it’s a number of factors.

    Primarily, the timing is down to Brexit. As the value of Sterling crumbled in the aftermath of the vote to leave, the cost of buying British companies fell dramatically. It’s also important to note that the last 5 years have seen Sky go from a UK only operation into a pan-Europe giant with a customer base swelling to over 22 million.

    James Murdoch said it best in a call to analysts earlier in the week when he said: “Sky is much more than a satellite distribution company, it’s a creative, commercial and consumer powerhouse,”

    Under 21st Century Fox, Sky would have the power to negotiate much harder for a range of rights and even expand out to other markets around the world.

  8. Sky Make Bold Push into VR with new App

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    It’s no secret that Sky have been interested in VR (virtual reality) for a long time now. Since the company invested in Jaunt, an upstart VR content provider in 2013, the pay-TV giant have been actively investigating the potential for VR in home entertainment.

    Now, with VR rapidly growing in popularity and public awareness, the company have launched a dedicated VR application for smartphones – Sky VR. The app, which is available now to download for free, showcases a range of immersive, 360-deegree videos from Sky. On top of that, it also features the best VR content from Sky’s partners, including Star Wars: Red Carpet, Anthony Joshua: Becoming World Champion and clips from Disney’s The Jungle Book. All you need is a Google Cardboard headset and you’re ready to go.

    But what is VR, and why does Sky’s push into it matter? Read on to find out.

    VR: What you need to know.

    VR, or Virtual Reality, is not a new concept. Indeed, the sci-fi writers of the past have long talked up a future where the digital is almost indistinguishable from the real. Indeed, as recently as the 1980s there were efforts in VR coming from the likes of Nintendo, as well as other major players. However, because the technology wasn’t quite ready, VR never truly shone.

    Now, thanks to huge leaps in screen and processor technology, VR is back in a big way. The most basic VR experiences allow you to look around a space in 3D, whether that’s an art gallery, a football match or the view as you jump from a plane.

    More complex VR experiences typically revolve around gaming, and often require dedicated high-end PCs in order to run. VR headsets from Facebook owned Oculus and HTC have meant that you can now walk around incredibly realistic environments and interact with objects within them as you would in real life.

    Many are suggesting that virtual reality content is the next step in entertainment, allowing us to feel as though we’re truly there. Current VR experiences are split into two camps; those you can experience on a phone with a Google Cardboard headset (like Sky VR) and those which require dedicated hardware (like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive).

    Why does Sky’s commitment to VR matter?

    Sky has consistently placed itself at the very forefront of consumer technology, pioneering things like on-demand content, pausing live TV and 3D TV. Though 3D has proven to be something of a non-starter in regards to how we watch TV, VR has a much greater buzz about it than almost anything that’s come before.

    By launching a dedicated VR app, Sky are preparing themselves for the next generation of home entertainment at a time when console manufacturers like Microsoft and Sony are preparing their own VR headsets for gaming.

    Sky customer services has been awash with customers wondering when Sky would get in the game, as it were, and though it’s early days for Sky and VR, the signs are promising. Their first round of content was created in conjunction with Google, but Sky have been spotted recording a range of sporting events in VR.

    So, in the future, if you’re enjoying a football game in Sky sports from the vantage point of the stands, you’ll know it all began with Sky VR.