SKY HAS PUSHED OUT the biggest overhaul of its Sky Q service in the two years since launch.
Front and centre is the arrival of Spotify, first promised last year and rolling out to customers as of Thursday. We did have a little hassle getting it working but once it was up, it worked a treat. You won't even need to remember your login - just start playing a track on your phone and beam it via Spotify Connect. Once it's playing on the TV, you're done.
The rollout coincides with a brand new UI which gives the 'lightboxes' with highlights bigger prominence and adds further personalised screens, much like Netflix. The options have been shrunk to a sidebar, along with a PIP mini-screen.
The new UI reflects the fact that the number of people likely to be watching Sky Q on a 4:3 set is damn near zero, and so the full 16:9 real estate is in use.
Jeremy Darroch, Group Chief Executive, Sky commented: "Sky Q keeps getting better and better. With this suite of innovation, we are taking the user experience to another level - and we won't stop there.
"We will continue enhancing Sky Q and finding new ways to bring customers more of what they love, and in so doing ensure we appeal to every household and everyone in that household. With Spotify joining our Sky Q platform, we are giving customers the best home entertainment experience in Europe."
More UHD (4K) content is rolling out, but at present, there's still no linear channel for it. Instead, it's available on demand, or where live coverage is offered, it's accessed with a coloured button from the relevant channel.
As an extension of this, both Sky and Sky Q get a new channel numbering system is rolling out on 1 May. It will see documentaries merged with entertainment channels as the delineation between the categories is increasingly blurred.
More innovative (and very welcome) is that timeshift (+1) channels will now get their own separate tab, and will be moved to the 200s, with the same suffix as the main channel - for example - If E4 is on 136, E4+1 will now be on 236.
For HD customers, the SD versions of channels will stop clogging up the main part of the guide and will be removed to a separate tab in the 800s, again with parity of the last two digits, so BBC Two SD will now be on 802 if you have BBC Two HD at 102.
(The exception to this is regional public service channels - BBC One, ITV and Channel 4).
Sky is also previewing the next tranche of updates for later in the year.
We've already heard that Netflix will be integrated into the Sky UI, but there's also a bunch of new stuff around AI personalisation coming too - you'll be able to ask for "movies for me", "weather near me" and about your favourite sports teams.
The Sports section will also be rejigged to reflect favourite sports and teams, while a new "kids mode" will be released to go with the Sky Kids app.
But perhaps most noticeably, and hidden away in the menus, is that Sky will be breaking out of the box with apps for third-party devices (perhaps Roku who already make Sky's Now TV boxes) and Smart TVs.
There's no timescale for this stuff, but we're expecting to see it all during 2018. Once it's all rolled out, we'll re-review Sky Q as it will be a very different proposition from the beast we first saw. µ
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