The New Sky Glass TV - an Unprecedented Hardware Land Grab?

Today, Sky launched Sky Glass, the new way to get the full Sky service, available 18th October, by streaming via the internet instead of a dish and... it's interesting, but in all the wrong ways. The issue is choice, or rather the way Sky denies choice while promoting it as a must-have premium product and the ramifications of this.

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As a Sky customer, I've been looking forward to the new Sky-by-Internet service for a good couple of years now in case it offered something better than the hybrid satellite and internet service that they've got now with Sky Q, which works quite well (annoying design niggles with the Sky Q firmware aside). As such, I was expecting a new version of the Sky Q box or something similar. Basically, another external box of some kind, but that's not what we've got.

Stifling Choice

For those on Freeview and Freesat, what they lack in content they make up for in choice. That's a choice of DVR boxes from many manufacturers to receive the service, all competing to make the best box, with some great choices available. Therefore, a quality box isn't hard to find and personally, I found that Humax made the best ones, before I moved over a few years ago to the Dark Side, Sky TV, for the content.

What Sky have done is to launch an all-in-one TV. It's a high end 4K HDR model coming in three sizes, 43", 55" and 65" and various colours. It contains a sound bar and has the new Sky Glass functionality integrated into it. It's literally just one cable for the power and a wireless connection to your router, making it all very convenient.


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Sounds great, right? A bit expensive, but that's par for the course for Sky (the TV is bought, not rented like Sky Q boxes) so what's the problem? The problem is that one can only use the Sky Glass service using Sky dictated equipment.

First, it was the DVR (same limitation as Virgin) but now the whole TV, including audio peripherals. Out of all the hundreds of models of TV and speakers out there, it can only be this one? That's outrageous! It would also force people to get rid of, or repurpose, their current TVs, which might well be better than this one, eg 80" OLED, for example. Ridiculous. What if one wants to watch the service on a 32" TV due to space considerations and not bother with a 4K subscription? Nope, no can do.

It also shuts out their main competitor, Virgin Media, since no one would buy this TV and then consider using this with any service other than Sky, since an initial Sky subscription is a condition of purchase. I wonder if it even has HDMI sockets for external input. Should really for connection to a console etc, but given what I've seen so far, it's worth double checking.

Lucrative Monopoly

It looks to me that Sky are trying to create a lucrative monopoly in all hardware required to watch their content and that is anti-competitive. I wouldn't be surprised if they get pulled up by Ofcom about this, or certainly complaints from Virgin and BT should be incoming. At least it appears that this TV doesn't require Sky Broadband to connect to the internet.


I'm going to keep a close watch on how this product develops and may post follow-up articles about this. In particular, if Sky also introduce a separate box for accessing the service, then this problem will disappear. They might just do that if the protests and official complaints are loud enough. It wouldn't surprise me if the existing Sky Q boxes could deliver this service with a firmware update. In the meantime, purchase of these TVs should be boycotted by the general public, but alas are unlikely to be.

Sources: Sky, Sky News, BBC News, ISPreview
 

HEXdidnt

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That's fascinating... In a car crash sort of way.

I can see this backfiring on Sky as it just doesn't seem logical to buy a TV dedicated to a single content provider, especially at those sizes. OK, if it turns out that it has got external inputs, maybe it's not such a bad investment... and I presume that it still offers access to all the Freeview/Freesat content, so you're not stuck with Sky and nothing but.

Even so, as someone who once felt they were missing out due to not having had satellite or cable TV (mainly back when the BBC lost The X-Files to Sky, and all the big shows started debuting there), and now barely watches TV, I nevertheless find this blatant attempt at creating a monopoly rather disturbing, and can only hope they get shut down, or forced to open up the hardware to alternative content providers.
 

Mort

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I've not been a Sky fan for years. Although I had to go to to the darkside via NOWTV to watch a few programs I was missing.
But as someone who prefers voucher only payment, they restricted this too much to be useful. So I do without now.
Sounds like this is taking the all-in-one idea to the extreme. More to go wrong, and more control to just one evil empire - instead of several.
 

Mars

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Being forced to buy a new TV set... seems ridiculous, I doubt that they will succeed. In time Sky will have to give in and be more flexible; but you never know, there are many suckers out there who would fork out, just to have the Biggest and the Latest. Maybe this is the crowd that Sky is after.
 

Mort

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Some would buy it no matter what.

But here's something that always bugs me.... the adverts go on about how wonderful the new tv is for sound and picture.

However - what are you watching it on? Your current set!
So really how can you say the quality is much better?!
Why do people fall for that? It's not like a real-life comparison at DixonsCurrysCarphoneWarehouseWhateverTheNameIsThisWeek?
 

Retro

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@Mort That's why they try to bamboozle you with all those whizzy special effects in the ad for people that have no idea of what they're looking at, with no hint of specifications. Pathetic.

On top of that, the software is currently not fit for purpose. The product is garbage that should be returned for a refund. I'd like to know what kind of dysfunctional management at Sky released this product in this state. How can it be this bad after all these years of development? Completely unacceptable. They won't be seeing my money that's for sure.

 

chrisns

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Wired have weighed in with their assessment of the TV here. An interesting read.
 

Mort

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I've a Samsung standard Smart set myself. No real complaints - pictures ok, does what I need.
Previously had a 3D set - but didn't work as well for others at home as myself, triggering migraines. Also a replacement was tricky to get when they got phased out.
Sticking with more standard Smarts if I ever have to replace - with not too much built in to lock you, and to go wrong.
 
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