Pick, a free-to-air channel operated by Sky but without Sky branding (similar to sister channel Challenge), is to be rebranded to Sky Mix. Existing programming will be maintained, however additional content from across Sky’s portfolio will be added.Continue reading Sky to Revamp Pick
BBC Alba, operated jointly by the BBC and MG Alba, is now available on satellite in HD for the first time.Continue reading HD Upgrade for BBC Alba
New based opinion channel GB News has introduced subtitles for the first time.
Implemented around a month ago (but missed by the author until now), the system is based around automatic speech recognition alongside human intervention, to provide live subtitling with a claim accuracy of 98.5%.
The channel’s license from regulatory Ofcom does not yet mandate subtitles or other accessibility features, but the channel has brought these in voluntarily. A statement from CEO Angelos Frangopoulos states, “While we always planned subtitles, we brought them forward when viewers contacted us in their hundreds to request better accessibility to GB News.” (Source: Media Mole, January 2023, unverified).
GB News is available on most major TV platforms, including via satellite (Sky and Freesat), cable (Virgin Media), and terrestrial (Freeview – limited coverage). An additional audio only feed is available on DAB+ digital radio in most areas.
Narrative Entertainment UK are making a line-up change, to their network of four ‘Great!’ branded channels, once the annual Great Movies Christmas channel comes to an end.
In line with the now annual Christmas tradition, Great Movies Classic has temporarily rebranded as Great Movies Christmas, showing a variety of festive films. However, instead of reverting back at the end of the festive period, Great Romance will launch in its place on January 5th 2023.
The channel will remain free-to-air, and will specialise in feel good romantic films, instead of the more general selection of classic films of its predecessor. It is presumed the annual festive Great Movies Christmas will return again over the 2023/24 festive season.
Great Movies Christmas is currently available on Freeview channel no. 52 (limited coverage), Freesat channel no. 303, channel no. Sky 319 (satellite, not Glass/Stream) and Virgin Media channel no. 424. Great Romance will take over on these channel numbers on January 5th 2023, joining Great Movies, Great Movies Action, Great TV, and Children’s brand Pop, in Narrative Entertainment’s portfolio. This is the first significant change to the line-up since Narrative’s acquisition of Sony’s former TV channel portfolio in the UK.
The BBC has set a target date of April 2022 to complete the roll out of BBC One regions in high definition (HD).
Regional versions of BBC One are already available in HD on Sky’s Glass online platform, Virgin Media (cable and internet delivered Virgin Media Stream) and BT TV, albeit in some regions this upscaled to HD. The target confirms the in intention to roll out BBC One HD to all regions on satellite and terrestrial based platforms, including Sky, Freesat, Freeview, and Youview.
This work will involve splitting the terrestrial (Freeview/Youview) multiplex PSB3 (also known as BBC B) into further regions, to allow each version of BBC One to broadcast terrestrially. This will also allow ITV to show all of their local regions in HD on Freeview, and will end the need for the red screen on BBC One HD advising viewers to switch back to the standard definition version.
Another part of the work required will see additional BBC One HD streams added on satellite, as each version of the channel needs a separate stream to broadcast, with the Sky or Freesat receiver selecting the relevant version of the area the viewer is located in. HD versions of BBC Two Northern Ireland, BBC ALBA and BBC Parliament are also on their way.
Due to bandwidth restrictions, the BBC is understood to be planning to phase all satellite services from the DVB-S broadcast standard to DVB-S2. DVB-S2 is more efficient, but this will mean that users of older non-HD equipment will eventually lose access to BBC services, if they choose not to upgrade equipment. One benefit from this is that there will no longer be a need for standard and high definition duplicates on each channel. This will also affect BBC radio services broadcast on satellite, as these utilise leftover space not large enough for TV broadcasts.
More details will be published on this website as the plans develop.
Following my earlier post on ITV dropping encryption on HD (high definition) versions of ITV2, ITV3, and ITV4, it is now possible to confirm that new versions of the channels are now available on the Freesat EPG.
Occurring just a day after my previous post, users of Freesat HD compatible equipment can now find the HD version on the usual channel number for ITV2, ITV3, and ITV4. Only on version of each channel (not including +1 timeshifts) is on the EPG, meaning viewers will not see the effectively now redundant standard definition feed.
Users of earlier standard definition only equipment continue to see the standard definition version channel, again the channel numbers are the same before.
ITV Be and CITV remain standard definition only, for both Freesat and Sky viewers.
ITV has dropped encryption on HD version of ITV2, ITV3, and ITV4 on satellite, opening these services up to more viewers.
The change means Sky viewers no longer require an active subscription, meaning ITV2 HD, ITV3 HD, and ITV4 HD can now be viewed free of charge. As yet, these versions haven’t joined the Freesat EPG, but can be manually tuned in (as is the case for generic satellite receivers.
Up until very recently although these channels were free to air in standard definition, the HD were exclusive to subscribers, a situation that continues with Channel 4’s spin-off channels including E4 and More 4.
Separately, Viaplay Xtra (recently rebranded from Freesports) remains free-to-air, and has not become encrypted as anticipated by the author. All of the above changes have been observed by the author, and verified by www.digitalbitrate.com.
A few changes have been or are being made to music channels. This will be a longish article, but I felt it wise to wait until I had the full details, rather than post multiple very short articles.
I shall begin with the easiest change, relating to terrestrial (Freeview) only. Now 90s has moved down to channel number 87, to allow for the new Earthx channel take over number 79 (an article on Earthx will follow later this week).
A little more complex, is that of Classic Hits (formerly That’s TV Music), which has resulted in increased coverage. On the Manchester only Freeview multiplex, Classic Hits has replaced Country Music Entertainment, giving a 24 hour service to the Greater Manchester area. The latter remains available on compatible internet connected devices, via the OnDemand365 streaming portal. The Manchester version is labelled Classic Hits MCR, and has taken Classic Hits original number 91.
The part-time version of Classic Hits continues, but now broadcast from 4am to 7am, instead of 1am to 7am. This allows That’s TV (UK) to extended it’s broadcast hours to 4am, with both services continuing to timeshare. The UK version of Classic Hits has taken over Country Music Entertainment’s channel number 88, benefitting from a slightly higher and more prominent EPG position.
In addition Classic Hits has also launched on satellite, and can be found on Sky channel number 366. The service is free to air, and can be manually tuned in to other satellite receivers, but is not yet available on the Freesat EPG.
Trace Urban, Trace Latina and Trace Brazuca have joined the Channelbox streaming platform, which can be accessed via the portal on Freeview channel number 271 and via mobile phone apps.
Lastly, Spotlight TV (formerly Keep It Country) have now confirmed the channel is leaving the Sky and Freesat platforms, on or around the end of August. The channel is looking to join the above mentioned Channelbox platform, although at the time of writing has not yet done so. The channel was for a time the only music channel on the Freesat platform, and has blamed the decision on the methods used to calculate viewing figures. The channel is expected to continue in a more limited, and largely online based form.
Talk Radio, the speech based station from Wireless Group (owned by News UK), will become a hybrid TV and radio channel with the launch of Talk TV. The development of the channel has been forming discussion for sometime, but there are now enough confirmed details for a full news article.
Talk Radio have been streaming an online TV channel Talk Radio TV for some time now. Largely, this comprises the same audio feed as the station on DAB+, with the addition of a studio video feed, and a scrolling news ticker. Daytime content will be carried over to the new hybrid service largely unchanged.
In the evenings, new primetime shows will be added, hosted by well known names such a Sharon Osborne and Piers Morgan. The audio for these will be rebroadcast on Talk Radio, but will be broadcast from new TV studios.
A website has now appeared online, but helpfully this only confirms the start date of the new Talk TV service, which is the 25th April (2022). Channel availability confirmed so far includes terrestrial Freeview on number 237, satellite platforms Freesat (217) and Sky (526), and cable platform Virgin Media (number not yet confirmed).
NB. All channel numbers confirmed are based on details obtained from platform websites or direct observations.
UKTV, part of the commercial arm of the BBC, is relaunching its W channel. As part of this, the channel is going free-to-air, and is joining the Freesat satellite platform, and terrestrial platform Freeview. The channel is currently a premium offering available to subscribers to Sky and satellite, and cable TV provider Virgin Media.
The move has been speculated for some time, but has now been confirmed by the broadcaster. Prior to confirmation, clue to the move have become far more visible, with a Freeview license issued by the regulator Ofcom, and the commencement of free-to-air tests on satellite. W and its corresponding +1 channel are now available on Sky without an active subscription.
From Monday 28th March (2022), W will be available on existing Sky channel number 109 (or 110 for viewers in Wales), and Virgin Media on existing number 125, as well as launching on Freeview number 25 and Freesat number 156.
As part of the launch on Freeview, a wider channel number shuffle will take place. 25 is currently occupied by Dave Ja Vu (Dave +1), which will move to number 74, currently occupied by Drama +1. Drama +1 will in turn receive a promotion to channel number 60, currently occupied by part-time placeholder ITV4 +1. No new number is yet available for ITV4 +1, but this service will likely move further down the order.
Depending on equipment, you may need to retune your Freeview TV or set top box to update the channel names on the channel lists. Some equipment will detect new channels automatically on existing stored frequencies, so will automatically pick up the new feed from Drama +1, and change names in the channel lists accordingly. W and Dave Ja Vu will be using existing feeds, so will not disappear without a retune, but your equipment may not update the service names automatically, so a re-tune may still be required.