Satellite broadcaster Sky has launched an innovative new movie download service for UK subscribers to its premium movie and sports packages.
For no additional cost, subscribers will be able to download 200 of the movies currently showing on the network’s movie channels, plus over 1000 sports clips.
The new offering, called Sky by Broadband, requires a Windows XP computer and a 1Mb broadband network connection. It’s managed by a neat-looking PC application which controls all your downloads. Movies take around two hours to download on a 2Mb connection, and are available to be watched – as many times as you like - within 30 days.
Due to licensing deals, some sports content – such as Premiership football highlights – only stay on your hard drive for 7 days before being automatically deleted.
The system uses Windows Media Video 10 at variable bit-rate – so the sizes of files will vary but on average a movie will take up about 750MB of hard-drive space, and from the short demo we saw, the quality is close to that of a DVD.
At present, no high-definition content is available, although it seems like the logical step forward when Sky’s HD service goes live in the first half of 2006. Not least because the Sky HD set-top box will be broadband-connected, and therefore able to download content from the service to watch on your TV rather than on a PC.
The new service does have its limitations, however. For a start, only one PC can be activated per subscription – so you won’t be able to download sports highlights to your office PC if you also want to watch movies on a desktop at home.
Also, movies are highly protected. Unsurprisingly, they can’t be burned to DVD, but more frustratingly nor can they be transferred to a portable video player. However, a Sky spokesperson did admit that the company was still investigating a ‘Sky To Go’ portable video player that allowed subscribers to view shows recorded with the Sky+ PVR.
Finally, Sky used today’s press conference to announce details of the Sky By Mobile service – we’ll have the full details for you first thing tomorrow.
Sky Movie downloads draw closer