Will Sky Q Change the Game?
As we approach 2016, we’re nearing the 14 year anniversary of Sky’s groundbreaking Sky+ box. At its launch, it offered something that no over pay-TV service could – the ability to record and manipulate live TV. That, alongside Sky’s superior film and sport offerings made it a compelling option, and now, almost 14 years later there isn’t a TV offering on the market which doesn’t offer those features. Indeed, Sky+ remains the flagship TV service in spite of competition. Put simply, it really did change the game.
Now, Sky are preparing to launch their all new TV platform. It brings together a host of new features, plays catch up a little and projects the company into the future, but will it change the game like Sky+ did? Let’s examine the landscape, shall we?
Upon it’s launch, the pay-TV landscape was much the same as basic YouView is today. You got a limited selection of channels that could only be viewed live. There was no catch up TV, no On Demand content, no streaming and no recording (unless you knew how to program a VCR). It’s what you can call TV 1.0. Oh, sure, we’d gone from black and white to colour and added more channels than we’d know what to do with, but the basic mode of TV operation remained exactly the same. You had to be there live and if you wanted to make a cup of tea, you’d miss whatever happened on the screen.
As you can imagine then, TV felt like a completely different experience when Sky+ came around though. In 2015, however, we’re in a period of almost constant TV innovation. We’ve seen the rise of Netflix and its acolytes, the growth of YouTube, Chromecast, Apple TV and increased competition from Virgin and BT. These days, there are a million ways to improve the TV watching experience in your home, so what does Sky Q do differently?
Firstly, Sky Q is doing a lot of catching up. On the hardware side of things, Sky Q is half the size of the outgoing Sky+ box and comes with a 2TB hard drive as standard, enough to record hundreds of hours of HD programming to view back later. It also increases the number of tuners to 12, which enables things like recording four channels simultaneously whilst watching a fifth, or having the whole house watching different channels at once.
Also filed under ‘catch up’ is the user interface, which is now a sliding, modern affair that eliminates the distinction between live, on demand and recorded content in search. The box also now features built in applications like YouTube and Facebook, something that smart boxes have had for some time now. All of this is navigated through a completely redesigned remote control, which features a touch pad for easier scrolling and a microphone to dictate searches to the box, both of which are features found on things like the Fire TV and Apple TV.
As for new features, there’s the new Sky Q Mini boxes which hook up to your main box through built in wi-fi and allow full access to its tuners and DVR, all linked together via an ingenious Sky Q Hub which uses your home electrical network to connect everything together and boost your wi-fi to full your entire home. It also communicates with your smartphone via a new Sky Q application, effectively turning your tablet into another TV, with full access to everything you’d normally have on your Sky Q box.
The real next gen feature, and by far the most requested feature on the Sky contact number 0844 800 8115 is 4K UHD programming. Rumour had it that Sky Q would feature 4K support and the company were happy to announce that it did, but didn’t go much further than that. They’ve said that they’ll talk in more detail about 4K programming in mid 2016, but with BT’s UHD TV service already on the market and both Netflix and Amazon now streaming 4K programming, their silence on the issue is strange.
However, they could be preparing to launch a brand new kind of 4K service, one that truly would change the game. See, the current 4K TV services all rely on streaming in order to bring those ultra high definition images to your screen. Sky, meanwhile, could offer the first broadcast 4K TV channel in the world, beaming images directly into your home without the need for a fast internet connection. That would truly open the doors for 4K TV to everybody and truly make Sky Q a game changer in the market, something that none of the service’s other features could boast of.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that Sky Q is a significant upgrade over Sky+, and does enough to keep it at the head of the pay-TV pack in the UK. Pricing and availability are as yet unknown, but if Sky can keep the cost of this new package low enough, they should see the new service adopted with speed.