Sky is changing. Though it’s always been the UK top dog when it comes to satellite TV offerings, it’s now introducing Sky Q, a new premium line up of set-top boxes, as well as a clever new broadband hub and refined remote. It’s so ambitious in its aims, so comprehensive in its feature set, that it may well turn out to be the ultimate way to watch and manage TV.
The aim is to bring Sky’s live TV prowess seamlessly together with its online packages, while also offering multi-device, multi-screen support through a new “Fluid Viewing” feature, letting you pick-up-and-play recordings and show no matter where you are.
First up, there’s the new, main Sky Q Silver set-top box. It supports 4K video and has a 2TB hard disk as standard. 12 tuners allow for the recording of four shows simultaneously without interrupting what you’re watching live, while advanced Wi-Fi keeps streams and downloads speedy.
This is paired with the new Sky Q remote. The Sky Q Touch Remote connects over Bluetooth and features a swipe-ready touch pad, in addition to the familiar Sky remote buttons. If it ever gets lost down the side of the sofa, push the Q logo on the front of the Silver box and it’ll help you locate the remote control with a beep. With a built-in mic, voice search is also planned a little further down the line, though this won't be ready at launch.
There’s also a Q Mini box. It doesn’t need to be connected to a dish, instead offering plug-and-play on-demand access to live TV over broadband. The Mini can also pair up with a main Sky Q box, letting you share recordings between boxes in other rooms, or control playback elsewhere.
The new Sky Q app answers a long-wanted feature missing from current Sky apps, by letting you take your box’s recordings on the go with you on mobile devices. It also lets you control each box’s playback and recording schedules.
On top of all that, there’s a new interface, putting recent recordings and online services to the fore.
From a colourful new Home scree, an A-Z listing option lets you organise recordings alphabetically, with streamlined ways to manage rentals and disk space. Movie cover art now features more prominently – there’s certainly a clear influence coming from the likes of Netflix and the Apple TV interface. A sidebar offers apps too - Sky News, Sky Sports News HQ and Photo management (including access to Facebook albums) feature, snapping to the side not unlike the Xbox One’s “Snap” feature, squeezing down the main video feed without stopping it. YouTube is supported, giving you full access to the zillions of clips on Google’s video service, and the Vevo app comes built in too, letting you access music videos directly. The boxes also support Apple Airplay and music streaming over Bluetooth for wireless tunes.
Finally, there’s the Sky Q Hub. Using the latest Wi-Fi technology, it also acts as a Powerline networking hub. When on the same network as the Sky Q Hub, all the new Sky Q boxes then become Wi-Fi hotspots, boosting your signal around the dead spots of your home.
“Sky Q is a brilliant way for customers to consume content on their terms,” said Jeremy Darroch, Sky CEO at today’s event. It’s a premium option to complement existing services.”
“It’s the very best Sky experience. Everything starts with the customer. Our job is to bring the best content from around the world to the customer. That means having a mindset that’s disruptive.”
“Our ambition is to reimagine TV for the way people live their lives today.”
Sky Q will be available in the UK and Ireland from early 2016. Pricing is yet to be revealed, but we’ll keep you posted – expect it to be pricey, but it looks like it’ll be worth it. It’s hard to argue against when every grumble you can think of with a modern TV offering is answered as has seemingly been done here.
More details and hands-on impressions to follow.