Paying for the privilege
In 1989, most Brits would rather have listened to an entire Rick Astley album than pay for their daily dose of TV. What was the point? Now, no one baulks at choking up for the service, whether it's Sky, Virgin or Tiscali. For movies, football and hour after hour of shark docs, paying a monthly fee is now standard for most of us. And it means endless channel surfing that Freeview just can't offer.
24 hour rolling news in the UK
Headlines taken directly from The Day Today? Check. Slightly confused reporters yabbering over rolling shots of closed doors or nameless celebs? Check. Sky News was the first 24 hour news channel in the UK. Without it, we wouldn't have everyone from BBC to Al–Jazeera serving up rehashed headlines all day long. Or, for that matter, on the spot coverage of the biggest happenings around the globe.
Extravagant sports coverage
Sky's exhaustive (and sometimes tiresome) coverage of the Premier League is renowned the world over, spawning its own dedicated news channel and a massive 4,800 games since launch. Plus there's the first live coverage of an overseas England cricket tour, box office boxing bouts and, of course, world darts. And of course they gave the world Jeff Stelling. Where Sky leads, the BBC and ITV follows
Recording TV made easy
"Can you set the video player for 8?" These dreaded words were happily consigned to history thanks to Sky Plus. Now EPGs on myriad services mean we can snag whatever shows we want and store them a hard drive, without having to make sure the tape's in the right place, the VCR's clock's right and the Video Plus number checks out.
HD TV shows in Blighty
Freesat might offer a cheaper way for Joe Public to get HD, but it exists precisely because Sky handed over a paying alternative first. Sure, it's pricey, even with the box now at £49, but with 31 channels and the crucial offering of Premier League football and more movies than your local Odeon gets in a year, it takes some beating.
For more on Sky, check out our first thoughts on their 3D TV service.