Sky has unleashed two immense upgrades to existing subscribers from today. And best of all – they’re free. First up, customers will find three new channels in their Electronic Program Guide (EPG) to watch. Unlike other content bundles, like Sky Cinema and Sky Sports, these will be completely free of charge. The new channels are Sky Documentaries, Sky Nature, and Sky History, which will launch with a range of on-demand content as well as live channels. And that’s not the only boost dropping on Sky Q boxes nationwide from today, Wednesday May 27, 2020. Subscribers will finally be able to tune-in to shows and movies in HDR quality after years of delays.
Sky Q first confirmed plans to bring the colourful HDR upgrade to viewers back in February 2018. In the two years since, there has been a torrent of rumours about missed release dates and problems bringing the format to its Sky Q hardware. But two years after the announcement about its intentions to support HDR – and five years since the HDR-compatible Sky Q hardware was unveiled in November 2015.
Is it worth the wait? High Dynamic Range (HDR) can display a higher level of contrast between light and dark areas of the screen – so you won’t lose any detail in a movie scene when someone is in a darkened room, looking out of a small window to the brightly lit outdoors. Panels without HDR support will often blow-out the detail in the light – or smudge the blacks. HDR TVs are capable of brighter images too.
Sky customers finally set for the broadband speed boost they deserve
In a nutshell, HDR looks much better. Whether you’re watching a terrifying horror movie with endless scenes set in gloomy corridors or dingy caves, or whether you’re watching the latest David Attenborough-narrated nature documentary with colourful, brightly-lit scenes in rainforests – HDR will greatly improve your viewing experience. Of course, you’ll need to update your TV to an HDR-compatible set (these are usually at least 4K, but not always).
HDR support will be enabled via a software update. Sky rolls out updates to its set-top boxes overnight, so you’ll unlikely to ever see the process taking place. Instead, you’ll switch on your Sky Q box and you’ll be treated to the visual upgrade. You might not see the software land on Wednesday May 27, depending on how long it takes to roll out the updates to the millions of boxes in use nationwide.
As for what you’ll be able to watch in the stunningly vivid format on launch day, thankfully, Sky’s new channels will arrive with HDR content to check out the new format – with more in the pipeline for later this year.
The first HDR-compatible shows will be nature documentaries Gangs of Lemur Island, Pridelands: Wilderness Reborn, and Malawi: Wildlife Rescue, which will be available to watch live or on-demand from Sky Nature.
Sky will be bringing much more HDR content over the course of the coming year. Sky Originals shows and movies will be produced with support for HDR – just as the satellite broadcaster supports Ultra HD with its original productions. A select number of Sky Cinema films will be available in HDR in time for Christmas. When it comes to live sport in HDR, unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until 2021 for that.
As for Netflix and Disney+, which are both available as additional add-ons to your monthly Sky subscription, these will benefit from an HDR boost on compatible shows and films in the coming months. Sky hasn’t given an exact release date as yet. Disney+ has previously stated that it will benefit from Ultra HD, which is included at no additional charge on the video on-demand service, sometime “this summer”.
To view the new vivid format, you’ll need a compatible Sky Q box with a Sky Q experience or Ultra HD subscription.
Speaking about the colourful upgrade, Sky Group Chief Product Officer Fraser Stirling said: “We’re really excited to be launching HDR on Sky Q. We’re starting with some of our brilliant new Sky Nature shows on demand, with loads more fantastic HDR content coming throughout this year, like Sky originals and movies, followed by live HDR sport in 2021.”