Sky now taking orders for HD TV service
by Bob Crabtree on 24 March 2006, 15:54
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Following close behind the BBC's announcement that it will be showing the World Cup in HD, Sky has at last confirmed the pricing and launch date of its high-definition satellite service Sky HD.
Subscribers will pay £299 for a high-def-compatible set-top box plus £10 per month on top of their Sky digital subscription. Installations are due to start happening in May and will initially be free to new and existing Sky customers.
Anyone who registered an interest in Sky HD before Thursday March 23 should now be able to pre-order the service on line. This involves putting down a £30 deposit before midnight of April 5, after which, says Sky, it will make contact to arrange the installation. Other folk will have to wait until April when subscriptions to Sky HD will be thrown wide open.
The Sky HD box can act as a hard-disk personal video recorder but taking advantage of these features requires a Sky+ subscription that's £10 per month or free to those who subscribe to two or more Sky Premium Channels.
An HD-compatible TV set is also required and is not part of the package. However, there is no shortage of owners of HD TV sets. According to Sky, 2.1 million HD TVs will have been sold in the UK by the end of the 2006, compared with 700,000 at the end of 2005. That's why so many people will be relieved to hear today's declaration from Sky and yesterday's news from the BBC.
All Sky HD subscribers will receive four HD channels - Sky One HD, Artsworld HD, National Geographic HD and Discovery HD - plus the Sky Box Office HD pay-per-view movie channel. The initial HD line up, according to Sky, will be:
Sky Movies 9 HD, Sky Movies 10 HD and Sky Box Office HD
Sky Movies 9 HD requires a subscription to Sky Movies 1, while Sky Movies 10 HD requires Sky Movies 2. The company says little about about what HD movies will come "free" apart from mentioning Kill Bill: Vol 1, Spider-Man 2 and Big Fish, but does reckon that its chargeable service, Sky Box Office HD, will offer up to ten extra movies in HD each week
Sky Sports HD
This channel is only available to those who subscribe to Sky Sports 1 & 2. Sky says that Live Barclays Premiership football and Guinness Premiership Rugby union are already being produced in High-Definition by Sky Sports. From the start of the domestic cricket season, England's home Tests and one-day internationals and country matches will, it reckons, also be produced in HD. From the 2006-07 season, Sky HD will offer live matches in the Coca Cola League in high definition, together with live coverage from the Carling Cup.
Sky One HD
Sky One will be simulcast in HD and offer, "a selection of high quality entertainment with a range of Sky One shows and cutting edge series from the US in HD". Sky One series confirmed for HD include 24, Rescue Me, Bones, Over There, Stargate and Stargate Atlantis.
This will be simulcast in HD and showing a selection of arts programming including opera, dance and classical music. Artsworld HD performances said to have been confirmed for 2006 include The Marriage of Figaro, Othello, The Who Live at the Isle of Wight, Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight Festival (fully remastered in HD) and Anthony Minghella Directs Madam Butterfly.
Discovery HD, it's reckoned, "will bring audiences even closer to their world with breathtaking imagery and expansive detail, featuring a selection of programming from Discovery's extensive library of more than 1,000 hours of high-definition content ranging from culture, engineering, science, technology and nature to travel and lifestyle themes".
National Geographic HD
This channel is promising a range of HD content including "innovative factual programming, produced in the UK and around the world, covering natural history, wildlife, science and world exploration with the added benefit of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound".
Commenting on Sky's latest news, the company's director of product strategy and management Brian Sullivan, said, "Sky is just weeks away from an exciting new era that will transform the television viewing experience. Sky HD customers will be able to enjoy stunning picture and sound quality from the widest range of HD channels in the UK and Ireland. We're delighted that the BBC has said that its HD coverage of the World Cup will be available to all customers with a Sky HD box as a non-subscription channel."