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Sky Launches Ultra HD with Broad Sports, Movies and Entertainment Package

by David Mercer | Jul 14, 2016

Sky has announced the launch of its Ultra HD service on August 13th. As expected, this coincides with the first live Premier League game of the season featuring champions Leicester City (how strange that still sounds) at newly promoted Hull City. Owners of Ultra HD TVs (supporting 2160p, 50fps and HDCP 2.2) as well as Sky’s new Sky Q Silver box, assuming they subscribe to Sky Sports, will see an on-screen prompt which will take them to the Ultra HD broadcast. They can also set forthcoming Ultra HD sports events to record through the Sky Sports home page.

Sky’s initial Ultra HD offer will include a combination of live sports and on-demand movies and TV shows. It will broadcast 124 live Premier League games during the season, as well as every Formula 1 race in 2017. In addition it will offer 70 broadcast premiere movies, over 30 recent releases for rental from Sky Store, and the “biggest ever library of movies” in Ultra HD. TV content will include natural history and documentaries, new dramas, comedy, arts and box sets.

Sky does not mention HDR (high dynamic range) in its press material. As I mentioned back in February, Sky's position is still that it will “take a view on HDR once the standards are finalised”, so we can assume the initial lineup of programming will not be broadcast with HDR capability. This will be disappointing to owners of the latest HDR-compliant Ultra HD TVs but is not surprising given the continued uncertainty about HDR content standards. I would expect these to be resolved sufficiently for Sky to upgrade its Ultra HD service within the first year or so.

BT surprised a few people by leaping ahead of Sky a year ago with the introduction of the world’s first live 4K sports channel. As was always inevitable, Sky has now responded with a more comprehensive Ultra HD offer. In this game of leapfrog we can expect BT to upgrade its offer in due course, but for the moment Sky has regained its lead.

Future developments will include the expansion of other live Ultra HD services, but for the moment on-demand downloads are the most effective approach to delivering Ultra HD content when there is not enough 4K production to support full-time broadcast channels.

The competitive games may be fascinating to watch but the real message is that Ultra HD is here to stay and will represent the state of the art in TV viewing for many years to come.

David Mercer

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