There’s nothing like an enigmatic invitation to get the blood pumping, and Sky have used that knowledge to craft one of the most mysterious product invites of recent memory. In a note to journalists and industry experts, Sky have invited us to ‘Set your TV free’ and join them on the 18th of November for a special event. The only question is; what could Sky possibly be announcing? Let’s look at the evidence, shall we?
Whilst the invitation itself features only the aforementioned ‘Set your TV free’ tagline, there are a few potential answers to the question, based on rumours we’ve come across during the last year. Those rumours have swirled around one thing in particular – 4K.
Now, it’s no secret that Sky have been working on the technology to broadcast 4K content to compatible TV’s across the country. For the last two years, Sky have been testing out their systems, even going as far as to beam a live football match in 4K back to their headquarters to examine the viability of such a broadcast. Of course, Sky wouldn’t be the first pay TV Company in the UK to offer such a service, as BT launched their BT Sport Ultra HD channel earlier in the year.
The potential difference between a Sky Ultra HD channel and the BT effort may come from the way that customers receive it. BT make do with a system based upon streaming technology, which means that customers need very fast internet connections in order to view the stream, and that its image quality suffers from compression required to make it a viable option for most people.
Sky, on the other hand, could utilise their existing satellite broadcasting technology to beam down 4K images directly into the home, alleviating the need for super-fast broadband and ensuring video quality. The proof comes in the form of a test channel that’s being broadcast from the SES Astra satellite that Sky use in the UK to beam channels into your home. It’s been broadcasting 4K clips to homes, showing that it can be done with the technology already in place. It seems pretty likely that this kind of innovation would drive huge amounts of customers through the telephone numbers for Sky in order to sign up.
Should 4K be the announcement they’re planning to make, it won’t be on its own. The current Sky+ HD boxes aren’t capable enough to decode 4K images, and would have to see an update. Which, of course, brings us to the other set of rumours we’ve been hearing about: a new Sky + box. The firm have reportedly been hard at work on a next generation set top box, internally codenamed Project Ethan for a number of months. Now, it appears that to have taken on the name SkyQ, and it comes with a host of exciting new features.
SkyQ would, of course, fully support the new 4K service that Sky would offer (in whatever form it eventually takes), but also bring other functions to the table. Reports are suggesting that the hardware would ship with a Netflix like on-demand video library and a completely revamped user interface, which would intelligently learn what types of content you like and offer smart recommendations. Further to that, SkyQ would blend live content, recorded programmes and on demand content together and offer them in the same place, removing the jarring leap that currently occurs.
Of course, this is all just speculation, but with rumours coming to a head and that November 18th date rapidly approaching, we might safely expect that 4K and SkyQ are exactly what we see.
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