Sky Anytime+ launch preview - what will the new video-on-demand service offer?
Sky's new Anytime+ video-on-demand service was announced back in June - as we reported here on whathifi.com - but is now finally ready for launch from Tuesday 26th October.
As you can see in these preview screenshots, Sky Anytime+ has the same look and feel as the latest Sky+ HD EPG (electronic programme guide), complete with mini TV option. Just like that EPG, the new service will be rolled out to eligible customers in phases, rather than arriving as a simultaneous update.
From Tuesday, Sky customers will be able to login at the Sky Anytime+ website and see if/when the new service will be available on their box.
To recap, Sky Anytime+ will initially only be available to Sky+ HD customers that also subscribe to Sky Unlimited or Sky Everyday Lite broadband services.
Why? Sky's says "this requirement is due to Sky's confidence in its network to offer the level of security and delivery necessary to guarantee a high-quality customer experience."
Hmmm...Can't hurt sign-ups to Sky Broadband either.
Sky Anytime+ promises 'thousands of hours' of content, including - depending on which Sky+ HD packages you subscribe to - 600+ movies, entire TV series 'boxsets', sports and arts.
Unlike Virgin Media's video-on-demand service, however, there's no BBC iPlayer on offer - though Sky says it does plan to provide 'selected third-party content' in time.
Users can navigate through the content by genre (eg movies, up top of this page), or channels (see above), or use the Showcase tab (see below) for an overview of the latest content, which - as you can see - will include HD and 3D programming.
Sadly, however, it appears users won't enjoy the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound of many Sky broadcasts and movies - at this time, only stereo sound is promised.
We suspect the lack of surround sound is to streamline Sky Anytime+ download speeds. The content is downloaded to your Sky box's Planner from the Sky Broadband network via a wired or wireless connection between the Sky+ HD box and Sky Broadband router.
New Sky+ HD customers will be able to have this connection made at installation; existing customers will be able to sort it themselves or request an engineer visit.
Sky Anytime+ works on a 'progressive download' basis - meaning you can start watching content before it's fully downloaded to your planner.
Sky estimates it will typically take around a minute to download enough content to begin watching your chosen show, movie or match - though of course this will depend on the speed of your broadband connection.
Downloaded content will have the same playback functionality - and parental controls - as regular Sky viewing.
What about Anytime?
If you haven't signed up for Sky's broadband services, the existing Sky Anytime service will continue to be available alongside Anytime+. Sky also pledges to extend Anytime+ to users of other broadband services at a later date.
We hope to have our access to Sky+ Anytime from next week, when we'll report back on performance - both the sound and picture quality plus the reality of the streaming experience.