The Register has some details on a plan by Sky to squeeze four pay-TV channels into the space currently occupied by the Sky 3, Sky News and Sky Sports News channels available on the terrestrial digital TV service in the UK.
At first this sounds en exciting prospect, switching from MPEG2 encoding to MPEG4 encoding to allow the same amount of bandwidth to carry more content. The downside is that MPEG4 does not conform to the DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) standard and to access this service would require a Sky enabled set-top box. Sky is not about to launch this service overnight as it will need approval from Ofcom and National Grid Wireless who are the current transmitter of the Sky terrestrial channels.
Sky may be being clever by requiring a special set-top box to access its channels so it can lock people into the Sky product family. With BT Vision, the V+ box from Virgin Media and possibly the planned Virgin Media IPTV service in the market Sky is facing increasing competition in the digital TV arena, so by moving Sky content onto a closed platform consumers may be more reluctant to go elsewhere. How all the Freeview and IPTV hybrids will fair is hard to say but this may result in a replay of previous technical battles such as Betamax versus VHS, and the BSB squarial versus Sky itself. In these examples it was often the marketing power rather than technical ability that was the winner.