Sky+ plus All you need to know about Sky Digital's Sky+

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Sky Plus                          

Sky Plus, or Sky+ is a subscription service which offers a personal video recorder fully integrated with a Sky Digital decoder. The system uses an internal hard drive. Once marketed as Create your own TV channel, this slogan is now rarely used.

Sky+ allows the user to record, pause live television and instantly rewind. These features are the first in its kind for Sky Digital, but the service has already rolled out in countries such as America and Japan with Tivo. This service launched in mid-2000, across many of the western countries, becoming an instant success.

Competitors in the UK Pay-TV market are NTL with their Video on Demand service and Telewest's version with 160GB hard drive, which can store for up to 80 hours of programmes.

Overview

Sky Plus was launched in October 2001. Critics of the system argued that it was too expensive and many people had believed that the box could not live up to expectations. Indeed, take up of the service was disappointingly slow; people who had it, loved it, but it was a difficult product to market because it was so different from anything that anyone had seen before. However, with a renewed marketing drive and new pricing model introduced in 2003, the Sky+ roll-out accelerated. BSkyB spent upwards of £20 million advertising the new service. Due to slow take-up of the service, in 2004 Sky began to waive the service fee to customers who were subscribers of their premium sport and movie channels. 

Sky Guide

Sky+ has its own Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) made by Sky. It lets viewers record programmes, find out what's on for the next 7 days, book Box Office movies and events and lots more. The current EPG software version (April 2006) is sky+ 4.01a.

Technical information

Combined digital satellite receiver/decoder and personal video recorder (PVR). Twin feed from dish - Allows simultaneous recording/viewing or two feeds to be recorded. The set-top box middleware is provided by OpenTV, but the EPG and all the software extensions that manage the PVR functions are produced by NDS under the name of XTV PVR. 

Versions

Sky Plus comes in three versions: Sky+ 40GB - First Version of Sky+. An average of 20 hours recording time. (Discontinued) Manufactured by Pace (v1) and then, later, by Amstrad and Pace (v2) Sky+ 80GB - Now officially and colloquially referred to as Sky+. Launched September 2005 as standard Sky+ box. An average of 40 hours recording time. Despite having a 160GB hard drive installed, only half (80GB) is available to the customer, with the other half "reserved for use by BSkyB" - although it is unclear at the moment what this disk space will be used for. Sky+ 160GB - Sky+ 160 an average of 80 hours recording time. Sky+ 160 is manufactured by Thomson only. The other versions were initially manufactured by Amstrad and Pace. Although both look similar, they have minor external differences (viewing card positions etc.) and significant internal differences. By December 2005, Sky+ 80GB boxes manufactured by Pace, Amstrad and Thomson were being installed.

Subscribers

As of August 2005, Sky Plus has moved from around 118,000 to 888,000 subscribers.

Sky+ Remote

A typical Sky+ remote control is similar to a typical Sky Digital remote, but provides controls for the extra features, e.g. rewinding the programme, record, play or pause, fast forward and stopping playback of the programme. The Sky+ remote uses entirely different codes to a standard Sky Digital remote control and so is, by default, incompatible with it. This is probably intentional, as some homes will have two subscriptions and would not want the risk of the controls operating the wrong equipment. However, the Sky+ remote can be programmed to operate a standard Sky Digital digibox, and vice versa.

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