If you want the biggest possible range of television channels, a Sky satellite dish installation sticking out your wall is pretty much a necessity. Add to this the availability of broadband and a telephone service and you've just about got all your communications and entertainment needs sorted out.
The number and variety of digital TV programmes on offer is undoubtedly impressive, with several sports and movie channels plus a news channel, children's programmes and several other channels covering entertainment, music and knowledge. You can organise everything from the website (www.sky.com) and create virtually any combination of programmes you like, with various packs available that you can select them to build your perfect package. However, you need to exercise a little restraint to prevent the cost getting out of control. Selecting Sky World, for example, which comprises six Entertainment packs plus Sports and Movie packs, costs almost £50 per month at the last count. You need to do some serious TV watching to justify that sort of cost.
Depending on what you subscribe for, you might get a free Sky+ box thrown in so that you can record, pause and rewind live TV or just free installation. Keep an eye out for vouchers and discount codes circulating the web or even special offers from Sky like getting money off if you've been referred by a friend.
There's also high definition from SkyHD which, unless you've never watched Sky and therefore missed the incessant advertisments, seems to be the future of all TV especially with HD TVs gaining sales ... well, why buy a tv without HD? Then you never have the option, right?
If you want to watch in different rooms, you'll need the Multiroom option with further boxes costing more money and increasing the monthly subscription. There are several gadgets you can buy and install from third party retailers allowing you to watch your Sky television programs in another room, but not different channels to what is showing on the main subscription box in your home. If you want different channels in different rooms, you're stuck buying Multi-room though this only includes an extra skybox in most cases, not a new satellite dish install.
If you want an all-in-one package, you can get a basic SkyTV package, telephone landline with free evening and weekend calls plus broadband for a reasonable cost. However, you can then add all sorts of bits and pieces that boost the cost. So working out the right option to give the best deal shouldn't be taken lightly. Timing can also be crucial because there are offers from time to time, with email alerts so you don't miss them.
The SkyPlus service is a great idea, but all too many programs are being missed due to "clashing" with non-existent programs with untaped series finales receiving the most aggrieved reviews. Opinions of the service tend to range between the extremes. On the one hand, users praise the choice of channels, interactive functions and easy-to-use menus. The opposing view has complaints of poor customer service, a lack of human contact, excessive adverts, high costs, overwhelming new set top box breakdowns and difficulties in cancelling subscriptions.
Well, certainly their navigation can get confusing. You would think that a brand with only three letters in their name would not have the website problems faced by companies like kelkoo, where phonetics let even the hardened web searcher down. But with Sky's main site www.sky.com (www.sky.co.uk goes to the same place) being taken up by the television programming it shows, you have to start clicking to get to the product information. Click from the main site and you'll stay within that site, but type products in to a search engine and you'll see addresses such as packages.sky.com in the listings. Some of you have taken to typing in product names as web addresses - don't, as many are owned by completely different companies such as www.skytv.com and www.sky-tv.com which current just display ads for related services.
Unlike the colourful squares problems indicating a problem with dish alignment - there have been several reports of Sky+ digital boxes freezing for no apparent reason, which can either be fixed by switching off and on or by an (often chargeable) engineer visit. This problem was featured on the BBC's Watchdog programme, which reported one viewer having nine boxes installed in a year and others suggesting the fault occurred soon after the warranty expired. This leads to all sorts of conspiracy theories, including that the company can apparently control these boxes remotely over a telephone line and can also receive information about users' viewing habits.
Whatever your opinion, it is without doubt a service that is successful and expanding. October 2009 sees the launch of the SkyPlayer catch-up service on the Xbox. This offers several live pay TV channels, with existing subscribers able to access premium content via their games console. A 3D channel is due for launch in 2010 and the intention is to make this available in pubs first, which might give a boost to the struggling industry.
The company had a well-publicised spat with Virgin Media in 2007, with the latter complaining of some channels being denied to cable customers. This resulted from a breakdown in negotiations, with claims of charges being unfairly increased. At the time, the two companies seemed to be vying to buy ITV. The matter was eventually resolved in 2008 with the channels restored on cable.
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