Sky Movies will be replaced by Sky Cinema this July, introducing better HD at no extra cost and more films than ever before
Sky has just announced that it will be rebranding its Sky Movies service to become Sky Cinema this July. Starting on the 8th of next month, Sky Cinema will be the new home of Sky Movies, offering more content and better quality films than ever before.
Instead of having four new movie premieres every week, Sky Cinema will have one every day, ensuring there’s always a steady stream of content for you to consume. There will also be a renewed focus on world cinema, with a new world cinema film premiering every Wednesday.
Sky’s popular pop-up channels will also be growing in number with Sky Cinema. Instead of having one appear only a few times a year, Sky Cinema will see new ones appearing every month, with a dedicated Sky Cinema Pixar channel coming in October, a Sky Cinema Fairytales channel coming in the summer, and a dedicated Sky Cinema Star Trek channel to celebrate the launch of the new Star Trek Beyond film in July (and again in September for Star Trek’s 50th anniversary). There’ll even be a Sky Cinema Tom Hanks channel, following on from last year’s Tom Cruise pop-up channel.
Sky Cinema will also see Sky implement a new master format to improve its HD picture quality and widen the dynamic range of the audio, making explosions sound louder and whispers more hushed. This new HD standard, which uses a third more pixels and four times as many colour shades as its current HD standard, will come as standard, too, and it will be available at no extra cost to all new and existing Sky Cinema customers on Sky and Virgin Media.
Another key new feature coming to Sky Cinema is Movie Restart. This will let you go back and watch a film from the very beginning, which will be extremely handy if you come across a movie halfway through or simply miss the first five minutes.
Of course, the big question on everyone’s lips is when Sky Cinema will start supporting Ultra HD movies. Sky said it wasn’t ready to announce exact details just yet, but it did say that Ultra HD movies will be coming to Sky Q by the end of the year.
Everything you need to know about Sky
The first premium TV provider in the UK, Sky delivers its TV via satellite to millions of homes in the UK, although it has expanded its reach via the internet streaming Now TV service. It’s on the brink of releasing its most ambitious multi-room, multi-device TV service with the recently-announced Sky Q – I’ll have more details on that and a hands-on review shortly. In the meantime, here’s how you can get Sky and its various services in the UK.
How to get Sky in the UK and what you get
The core Sky service is delivered by satellite to a Sky+ HD box. This PVR has dual HD tuners, so you can record two channels at the same time (or watch one and record another). Sky also has a comprehensive on-demand service available, with programmes downloading directly to the Sky+ HD box. This means that you don’t need to worry about streaming bandwidth, as you don’t need a constant download speed, and that Sky can offer the best quality catch-up TV. When I tested Sky+ HD I found that its on-demand service, including iPlayer, was broadcast quality; streaming services are significantly worse. As well as catch-up shows, Sky also sells movies (you get a ‘free’ DVD in the post, too) and lets you rent top titles. Sky’s main pull is the quality of its content, ranging from the latest HBO shows, such as Game of Thrones, on Sky Atlantic, to Premier League football and the F1.
Sky+ HD costs from £20 a month for the basic package, which gets you 35+ entertainment channels, including the big main Sky channels in standard definition (Sky One and Sky Atlantic), plus the 11 free HD channels, including BBC One HD, BBC Two HD, ITV HD and Four HD. Most people will want to take the Family Bundle (£36 a month), which gets you 75+ entertainment channels and 50+ HD channels, including Sky One HD and Sky Atlantic HD. Movie channels and sports channels can be added on as optional extras.
If you don’t like the idea of a contract, or you only want some of Sky’s content for a short period of time, then Now TV could be the service for you. Delivered over the internet, Now TV brings you the best of Sky’s content (Sky Atlantic, Sports and Movies) for lower cost with no contract. Entertainment channels cost £6.99 a month, movies cost £9.99 a month and sports start at £6.99 for a day. Sky also offers its own-brand broadband, which costs from £10 a month, although more expensive and faster fibre connections are also available.
Recent Sky stories
Sky offering free LG TV to new subscribers
Giving new customers cheaper deals or incentives to sign up is a tried and tested marketing tactic. Sky is doing just this for new customers who sign up to its Sky TV bundles including The Original, Sky Movies, The Variety, The Family, Sky Sports and The Complete packages.
Those who sign up before April 21st get a 32in LG TV of a currently unknown model number. Alternatively, if you’re not in need of a new television, you can also opt for a Samsung Galaxy Tab E; £100 Amazon or Tesco gift cards, or a £100 prepaid MasterCard.
Those who sign up get a 32in LG TV of a currently unknown model number, which, according to the T&Cs, may vary. Alternatively, if you’re not in need of a new television, you can also opt for a Samsung Galaxy Tab E; £100 Amazon or Tesco gift cards, or a £100 prepaid Mastercard. You’ll also need to claim any of the £100 gift or prepaid cards within 28 days of activation. It will take 28 days to receive the Galaxy Tab E, too.
Sky is also offering temporary 6-month discounts to new subscribers for its Sky Movies and The Complete bundles. The former is £29 a month, down from £38, and the latter is £74.74, down from £80.
Of course, with these deals Sky is hoping to reel you in and keep you for the foreseeable future once you become accustomed to the service. These offers are only for new customers, leaving long-time subscribers out in the cold and many angry. This is exacerbated by the fact that subscription costs are actually rising for many existing subscibers, increasing by £2 in June.
Sky launches Sky VR Studio
Sky is getting in the VR game with the creation of its own Sky VR Studio. Launched today, the studio looks to put viewers ‘in the heart of the action’ and with Sky’s wide-ranging access to some of the biggest sporting events, that’s an exciting commitment from the company and a huge boost for the future of VR.
Its first efforts are a pair of VR experiences shot during Formula 1 testing in Barcelona, made in partnership with the Williams F1 team. These will be made available via Facebook’s 360 Video service, also appearing on both Facebook-related VR headsets, the Oculus Rift and the Oculus-powered Samsung Gear VR.
That’s just a beginning though, Sky is committed to creating over 20 such VR films during 2016. These will cover a wide range of content, including more sports events, major cultural events and news stories. First up will be insider VR footage of Anthony Joshua’s bid for the heavyweight title and Team Sky’s bid to retain the Tour de France this summer.
With Sky still having the lion’s share of Premier League football coverage in the UK, it can surely only be a matter of time before we see top-flight action shot in VR. I’ve long held the view that ‘virtually’ selling the best seat at Old Trafford, or any other ground, many millions of times over to die-hard fans around the country (and around the world) could be a significant moneymaker to add to the league’s current huge wealth.
The announcement follows experiments in 360-degree video by Sky News, which had already covered the migrant crisis and the Star Wars premiere. Hopefully, Sky will also do a deal with Sony to bring the content to its PlayStation VR platform when that launches in October – with initial stock having already sold out.
Sky is looking to bring a dedicated Sky VR app to such platforms later in the year. That, of course, may also herald a paywall, allowing access to Sky subscribers and blocking out everyone else. First, though, the financial viability of VR beyond gaming will need to established, and if Sky can’t make it pay, I suspect that no one can.
Sky+ upgrade boost for binge watching
While Sky Q is this year’s big launch, the company hasn’t taken its eye off the ball for existing Sky+ customers and continues to develop the interface for that. This time around, Sky is focussing on on-demand, boosting the way that you can watch boxsets of your favourite TV shows. Now, rather than having to download a TV show episode by episode, Sky has introduced a Download All feature, so you can grab everything in on go. Shows will be downloaded starting with the first episode, so you can get watching quickly, while other episodes download in the background.
Next, similar to how Netflix can jump to the next episode in a TV series, Sky has implemented a Watch Next option. When one TV show finishes and the credits are rolling, you’ll get an on-screen prompt asking you if you want to watch the next show: tap the Green button to go and the next episode will start playing. You’ll need to have downloaded all episodes for this feature to work.
In addition to giving catch-up on existing TV shows, Sky is also looking to make all shows some TV series available in one go, similar to how an entire Netflix series is available in on go. This has started already with The Knick and Alan Partridge’s Mid-Morning Matters both available in their entirety before the broadcast schedule has finished.
Other updates include more recognisable show images in on-demand, movies in the watchlist appear by the date they expire, and you get even more suggestions of what to watch in the Top Picks section, with Sky showing eight suggestions. The new update is rolling out now, so you should have these new features soon, if you don’t have them already.
Sky awakens the force with new Star Wars remotes
Star Wars fever is definitely back and you’re going to struggle to move this Christmas without bumping into branded products. The latest tie-in comes courtesy of Sky, which is selling Star Wars themed remotes, to celebrate Sky Movies getting the existing films on-demand and via the dedicated channel, which are available from the 11 December until the 3 January.
There are 10 remotes to choose from, each one featuring characters from the films: Darth Vader (two varieties), Storm Troopers (two varieties), R2-D2, C-3PO, Luke Skywalker, Yoda, Princess Leia and Han Solo. Essentially, it’s all of the classic characters and none of the bumbling newer ones. Aside from the new design, they’re regular Sky remotes with the same layout and features as the regular Sky+ model. It means you can pause and rewind to watch your favourite bits, and delete Episodes I, II and III if you accidentally record them.
Each remote costs £25 and is available through the Sky Store. If you’re not sure which one you want, check out our gallery of all of the remotes below – for me, it’s got to be one of the Darth Vader models.
Sky boosts movie features with Sky+ HD update – 20/8
You certainly can’t accuse Sky of sitting on its laurels and not updating its main product, as it has released another update and improvement to its Sky+ HD box. This time around, it’s all about improving the movie experience for Sky Movies subscribers, adding a range of new features to make the service easier to use.
First up is the More Like This feature, which will give you recommendations based on the title that you’re looking at. Customers can just hit the Yellow button on their remote to bring up the new details. It’s a neat way of getting more from your box and adds a feature that’s already common with streaming movies services. Next, you can build your own Watchlist, saving titles that you’re interested in as you discover them. A click of the green button does the job quickly. Again, it’s a feature that exists with a lot of streaming services, such as Netflix, but it’s an important one to have, as it means you can quickly start watching something you want to watch, rather than ploughing through the guide.
Customers in Italy have had the Watch from Start tool for a while, but it now makes its appearance in the UK. If you find a film that has already started on one of the movie channels, you can just tap the green button and the film will be downloaded to your box, so you can start watching it. As Expert Reviews proved in its Sky+ HD vs Virgin Tivo article, Sky’s on-demand service downloads the broadcast-quality show, so you don’t have to suffer inferior quality for the sake of convenience. Later on in the year, the company will roll out Rotten Tomatoes scores, so you’ll have a better idea of what’s worth watching, too.
Sky has started to roll out the new update now and has promised that it will be available to everyone later in Autumn. As usual with these updates, your box will download and complete the upgrade automatically, provided that it’s powered on. Check out how the Sky EPG has evolved in our full gallery.
Sky records 1.5 billion on-demand downloads in a year
Sky recorded a huge surge in people using video-on-demand services over the past year, according to the company’s latest trading figures. The broadcaster recorded a total of 1.5 billion on-demand downloads over the past 12 months, an increase of 60% on the year before.
The company reports that 65% of Sky homes have now connected their set-top box to the internet, giving them full access to Sky’s on-demand services, such as Box Sets and catch-up TV services such as the BBC iPlayer. The Box Sets themselves – which allow users to stream entire series of television shows via their Sky+ box – have recorded more than 600 million views since their launch last year. Sky says that’s the equivalent of the fourth most popular channel on its service.
The company also reported “strong growth” in Now TV, the on-demand and streaming service that doesn’t require a full satellite subscription. Although it doesn’t offer specific figures for Now TV adoption, the company claims it sold three times as many Sky Sports passes in the past year as it did in the year previous, largely “thanks to increased awareness of the new Now TV week pass”, which gives access to all the Sky Sports channels for seven days for £10.99. Recently Sky also introduced a month pass for £31.99.
Sky has overcome many of the reliability problems that beset Now TV in its early days, where streams would routinely fail on big occasions such as key football matches or new episodes of popular series such as Game of Thrones. An updated version of the Sky Now streaming device was launched last month, although it still won’t deliver the Full HD streams that many were hoping for, even though the hardware is technically capable of delivering that resolution.
Sky is reported to be improving the on-demand facilities with its new 4K-compatible set-top box, SkyQ, which is expected to be unveiled imminently. The box will reportedly record up to four TV channels simultaneously and allow users to wirelessly stream recorded content on other devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
The shift towards fibre broadband – which Sky now offers for “free” with premium television subscriptions – and on-demand viewing raises questions over the long-term future of satellite broadcasts.