BSkyB Unveils New HD EPG

--Rebrands Sky Anytime on PC as "Sky Player"

UK satellite TV provider, BSkyB, has announced plans to launch what
it describes as a "new EPG for the HD era."
The HD Sky Guide, which
builds on the company's existing Sky Guide EPG, is scheduled to
launch on all Sky HD boxes this fall. According to BSkyB, the new
guide is based on extensive customer research and takes advantage of
the latest set-top box technology to create a foundation for future on-
demand enhancements; it sports a new look-and-feel and offers new
features designed to make it easier for customers to search, discover
and navigate a constantly expanding line-up of content, the company
says. "The HD Sky Guide will make our best TV product even better,"
Brian Sullivan, managing director of BSkyB's Customer Group, said in
a prepared statement. "Because we believe in giving customers as much
choice, control and flexibility as possible, we want to provide an easy
way for them to find, store and watch the programs they love. This is
truly an EPG for the HD era."

According to BSkyB, the new HD Sky Guide offers the following features:

  • a new look, presented in HD-quality resolution, that makes all menu
    options easily accessible from a single-screen layout.
  • series stacking, which means that programs that appear in the EPG's
    planner or in its search results and that belong to the same series from
    the same channel will be "stacked" together under one listing, in order
    to make it easier for customers to find the programs they are looking
    for.
  • improved search functionality, allowing customers to search for any
    show airing over the next seven days by entering a program name or by
    genre and sub-genre (e.g. "Movies: Comedy").
  • an improved "Now, Next and Later" banner that lets customers view
    information on any program, up to 12 hours ahead, without interrupting
    their TV viewing.
  • a "Record" icon that appears in the TV Guide grid to highlight
    programs that are set to record.
  • a new "Series Link" prompt that means that customers no longer have
    to go to the EPG's planner each time they want to set a series link.
  • ”Mini TV" (i.e. picture-in-picture) functionality that allows customers
    to browse the EPG and watch TV at the same time, and that can also be
    used to preview programs while browsing (note: if customers prefer,
    they can turn the "Mini TV" off and return to a full-screen grid view).

According to BSkyB, Sky HD is its fastest-ever selling advanced TV
service. The company claims that around 465,000 households have
opted for the HD service to date.

In other BSkyB news: The company has rebranded its Internet
download service (formerly Sky Anytime on PC) as Sky Player, and
added a number of new enhancements to the service, including
progressive downloading (allows a program to be watched even as it is
being downloaded) and the incorporation of various live channels. The
"Anytime" umbrella brand was originally used by Sky to designate its
on-demand TV (i.e. push-VOD) and mobile services, in addition to the
Sky Anytime on PC service. Sky says that its TV, PC and mobile
Anytime services have now "all developed to such an extent that each"
needs to "be given its own brand identity." It says it decided to assign
the Sky Player brand to its online service "in recognition of the public's
growing awareness of additional online video 'player' services," and
that the new brand will harness this awareness to "better help
newcomers to the service understand its core functionality." Sky
Anytime TV, meanwhile, which is currently available in 2.7 million
Sky households, will retain its current branding, and Sky's mobile
service will shortly be rebranded, the company says. The new Sky
Player brand is being supported by a promotional push across Sky's
various programming channels. "The changes we are making to the
service today will give Sky customers an even richer online
experience," Griff Parry, BSkyB's director of on-demand, said in a
prepared statement. "Our leadership in the breadth and depth of content
is being supported by improvements to the service's functionality, such
as live channels and instant play-and-watch. As a core component of
Sky's multiplatform strategy, Sky Player's role is one of offering Sky
customers more value from their relationship with Sky. The renaming
of the service helps provide our customers with a clearer understanding
of what the service delivers, particularly in light of immediate content
playback."

Key features of Sky Player, according to BSkyB, include:

  • entertainment, lifestyle/culture, and documentary content from Sky
    One, Sky Arts, Sky Real Lives, Sky News, National Geographic
    Channel, Nat Geo Wild, The History Channel, The Biography Channel,
    and the Crime & Investigation Network.
  • the largest legal movie download service in Europe, offered through
    Sky Movies, Sky Box Office and Sky Box Office World.
  • on-demand sports clips from Sky Sports and ESPN Classic.
  • live streaming feeds of Sky Sports 1, 2 and 3; Sky Sports Extra; Sky
    Sports News; and Sky News (for a £10 subscription, but free to Sky
    Multiroom customers).
  • progressive downloads, allowing viewers to watch content
    immediately after they begin downloading it.
  • personalization, offering different user-types different top-level
    pages.
  • support for non-Sky customers, meaning that both customers and
    non-customers of Sky TV will now use the same Web site (though
    various elements of the service that are offered to Sky subscribers as
    part of their subscription are only offered to non-Sky customers on a
    paid-for basis). Previously, non-Sky customers could only access the
    service through a separate site.