Broadband News

Go out for a picnic with Sky

August saw news on the latest brand to emerge from the Sky stable. More details are now available in a press release over at the Sky corporate website.

Sky Picnic will allow customers to pick any mixture of TV, broadband and telephone services, with the TV content being delivered using the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform.

The actual launch of the Picnic service is still dependent on approval from Ofcom due to the delivery method for the three TV channels. To receive the TV service will require a new set-top box (even if you already own a FreeView box). Each channel will initially be a MPEG-2 stream, switching to MPEG-4 once approved by Ofcom. The channels will include Sky One, Sky Movies, Sky Sports 1, a children's channel and a factual channel. Importantly the new set-top boxes will still allow access to existing FreeView channels.

The advantage of MPEG-4 over MPEG-2 is that you can provide a better quality picture for the same amount of data transferred, or alternately keep the quality the same and fit more channels onto a service.

Unlike Sky satellite TV there will be no subsidisation of the set-top boxes and while Sagem is the initial manufacturer other set-top box manufacturers are expected to produce boxes.

Interestingly there is a hint of something happening in the PC arena, with a comment about Picnic being available 'on future generations of PCs'. Precisely what this means is a mystery, but may refer to a DTT tuner that works with a PC.

Those keen to learn more can register at for more info.


I would have no problems with this if the Sky boxes contained a CAM/card slot to enable reception of competitors' pay channels and if a CAM was available from Sky to use with other boxes/IDTVs. Otherwise, it's encouraging monopolies and vendor lock-ins, exactly what happened with satellite, and it's what the USA fibre market is being criticised for in a news item also posted today! Remember also that it's changing the licence of the Freeview muxes, the principle of what Freeview is has gone right out of the window.

  • csimon
  • over 12 years ago

This is deeply annoying, and if OFCOM had any sense it would put a stop to this right away. There is already a pay TV system running on Freeview, that does basically the same thing as this. Why do we need another, with a totally different subscription, chewing through more Freeview bandwidth?

My suggestion is that Sky loose their capacity on Freeview and it is reassigned for use as space for HD content.

  • ian9outof10
  • over 12 years ago

Your suggestion probably only has one fatal flaw with Sky being withdrawn from Freeview. They own it as a stakeholder, with ITV/BBC/C4 & Five.

The looser of the project will probably be Topup TV, as they will probably get sucked into a subscription battle with Sky on the Freeview platform, if it goes ahead.

  • helpmeplease
  • over 12 years ago

Much equipment is now in circulation with MPeg2. I have 2 digital TVs and a freeview DVR... They should not be allowed to undermine the system which is already in place by using Mpeg 4 which is incompatible. Ofcom should prevent that. Sky are greedy. They have already monopolised satellite in the UK. They should leave Freeview alone.

  • shaunhw
  • over 12 years ago

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