Sky's Anytime video on demand service is to get a massive overhaul later this year. Called Sky Anytime+, we got a sneak peak at at a preview event today which will allow Sky viewers almost instant access to over 500 movies and hundreds of hours of programming.
Piped into your existing Sky HD set-top box through an Ethernet connection, movies and shows will be offered up in standard definition as opposed to full HD, presented in a dedicated section of the Sky EPG. Programmes can be watched within a minute of selection n a 2MB broadband connection, taking around 20 minutes to download an average-length film.
Downloads can be queued, trailers can be watched and the whole system can be searched using a revamped interface tailored to hunting out specific VOD content. Content is subdivided by genre and channel, and can be searched using the alphabet characters on the Sky remote. Downloads can also continue while the box is on standby, using less power to grab shows and movies overnight.
Sky's Box Office service is now fully on-demand too. Purchase a flick and it becomes available within minutes, rather than having to wait for one of the scheduled slots to begin.
A background over-the-air update later this year will upgrade all existing Sky HD boxes with the software needed to run Anytime+, so you wont have to really do a thing to get going with the new service. You wont need to upgrade your Sky HD box in any way, as it already features an Ethernet port which can be used to download the films to your box. However, a Wi-Fi unit will be available for those who'd rather a fully wireless set-up, which looks something like a mini Sky box. Made by NetGear, you'll need a separate Wi-Fi box for each Sky HD box you want to connect to your router.
There is a catch however, and it's a rather big one. The service will only be available to those who also subscribe to Sky's own broadband package, or at least initially.
That means subscribing to Sky's £7.50 a month 20MB broadband tariff. The service comes with an unlimited download quota , which is handy as you'll burn through most limits within a few hours of using Sky Anytime+. Of course, the VOD content you can access is also limited to the Sky TV package that you've already purchased. Don't expect to be streaming movies if you cant already access the Sky Movie channels.
With the service going head-to-head with Virgin's own VOD service, you can understand Sky's reasoning for this closed approach to other ISPs. It's good to hear they are planning to roll it out to other ISPs in the future, but it would have been great to have this feature from the off.
Providing it eventually rolls out to all broadband providers this service could be very exciting indeed. More news on this as we get it.