Sky is expected to launch the next generation of its set-top box in the Spring, bringing new features and a sharper picture to its thousands of subscribers.
Sky has reportedly moved up the release of its future hardware in order to counter the threat posed to its subscription model by BT’s exclusive deal to show Champion’s League football matches in the summer.
The new set-top boxes will offer 4K Ultra-HD pictures, which are four times as sharp as current 1080P high definition broadcasts, but Sky is expected to charge a further premium for access to this content.
The move towards Ultra-HD follows a failure of the entertainment and technology industries to successfully interest consumers in 3D technology, which most found to be dark and annoying with the need for special glasses.
Few homes currently have 4K televisions, but prices for compatible models are rapidly coming down, and Sky expects the technology to be as ubiquitous as 1080P televisions in the future, and will start to broadcast in 4K once penetration levels improve.
In contrast, BT plans to begin trials of 4K streamed content by May, in order to hopefully have the technology ready to stream Champions League football in the autumn. BT’s services are internet based, which means that the broadcasts should be available on tablets and smartphones from launch, but 4K resolution will require a superfast internet connection. BT hopes that the football will push people to upgrade to its fibre broadband services to enjoy the sport in the highest clarity available.
Mobile is the battle ground between both BT and Sky, with BT recently acquiring EE and Sky buying O2, and both companies seeing the value in offering quad-play options, where subscribers use their services to access content broadcast, through their broadband connections, and through their mobile connections.