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Sky to try and bring MPEG4 to freeview platform
Friday 09 February 2007 16:34:21 by Andrew Ferguson

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.


Posted by ETEE over 10 years ago
The full Sky press release is here [url][/url]

I would be extremely surprised if this goes ahead as it will affect the present licences held. There is likely to be a severe reaction from other members of Freeview (BBC, ITV & C4). Also it is unclear whether NGW agree to the change or not.
Posted by shaunhw over 10 years ago
Sky are on a loser IMHO. People won't change their existing freeview boxes, to new ones, and then PAY, just for four Sky channels.

In anycase they shouldn't be allowed to change the broadcasting standard to an incompatible format. This should only happen, when UHF TV is totally digital, and there is more bandwidth.
Posted by aclift over 10 years ago
Freeview is just that FREEVIEW!

None of this pay for channels rubbish.
Posted by alwall over 10 years ago
errrr.....sorry have I missed something....
isn't it called F-R-E-E-V-I-E-W.
My dictionary says "free : not costing or charging anything"
Posted by shaunhw over 10 years ago
Well, not everything there is freeview. There is also TopUp TV which one pays for.

Sky was given the UHF Spectrum on the grounds that they provided free to air programming. If they don't want to do that anymore, then they should have their licence to broadcast taken away, and offered to other bidders.
Posted by Somerset over 10 years ago

...remove the to air...
Posted by DougM over 10 years ago
Just how many people does Sky expect to bin their freeview boxes or integrated digital televisions so they can pay for the privilege of one extra channel?!

If Sky would use current DVB standards with encryption they'd have a much larger potential audience, have a greater chance of getting approval and save the environmental damage of producing yet another generation of television equipment.
Posted by shaunhw over 10 years ago
Well I shan't be binning mine... I've got a sky box anyway.....

Typical Ofcom.. The viewers come last.. All they are interested IMHO in is the needs of business, and imposing censorship on people.
Posted by Sandgrounder over 10 years ago
Re: "At first this sounds en exciting prospect..."

Not at all. Sky should not be allowed to meddle with the terrestrial broadcast standards in this way. It is an awful prospect.
Posted by mattwhiting over 10 years ago
I hope we can get MPEG4 into Freeview by one route or another: given that it basically offers double the quality for the same bandwidth, plus support for HD-capable codecs such as H.264, this is the future...
Posted by ismoore999 over 10 years ago
So this means that part of the spectrum will be occupied by the Sky monopole that could otherwise be used for Freeview services and will provide services that most cannot access. Sky already has the free satellite service. Where does it's power end?
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