A New Hybrid Future for Talk Radio

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.


Screenshot of Talk TV website, 21/04/2022.

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.

W in a Slightly Different Place on Sky

Unfortunately, time has gotten the better of me lately, and updates have been few and far between. Apologies for any disappointment caused.

I had hoped to have posted about this over a week ago, but the now free-to-air UKTV channel W has changed channel number on Sky. Premium channel Albi has now been promoted on the EPG, and has taken over W’s prominent number of 109, with W now on 132. This updates the previous post.

Curiously, despite now being on Freeview channel number 25, W is still included within the TV packages of BT TV and TalkTalk TV, streamed via broadband on channel number 311 in both cases. This is despite both platforms piggybacking on Freeview terrestrial signals for free-to-air channels. However, this odd situation will still be of benefit to viewers in some areas, as most commercial channels are not available on Freeview relay transmitters.

In what appears to be a move to free up capacity on Freeview transmitters for W, the Together Channel has now been moved to the limited coverage COM7 multiplex. The community led channel is supported by other broadcasters with bandwith and programmes gifted to the channel. It is unclear where this channel will be accommodated on Freeview once the temporary COM7 multiplex closes in June (2022). Carriage on other platforms is currently unaffected at this time.

W Going Free-to-air

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.

Colors and Colors Rishtey Join Sky Glass

Sky Glass, the streaming service from Sky based on their specialist TV, has seen the addition of two international channels, Colors and Colors Rishtey.

ABS Broadcast worked with IndiaCast Media Distribution to fast-track the launch of the two channels, owned by Indian joint venture Viacom18.

Despite being a product from satellite provider Sky, Sky Glass offers a more limited selection of channels than the satellite based service. Although structured in a similar way, two different sets of channel numbers are also used.

Colors and Colors Rishtey are the first additions to the Sky Glass platform since it launched.

New Name for Paramount, Same Great Action

The Paramount Network channel is changing name tomorrow (19th January 2022). The channel will become 5 Action, but will otherwise continue unchanged.

Paramount Network currently shows original programmes including Trucking Hell, reruns of shows such as Police Interceptors, and a variety of movies. The channel forms part of ViacomCBS’s Channel 5 portfolio, alongside othe ‘5’ branded channels.

Previous changes saw Paramount Network merge with 5 Spike (launched originally as Spike). Paramount Network absorbed most 5 Spike programming, and inherited the most prominent channel numbers on the platforms it broadcast on.

The name change clears ViacomCBS to reuse the Paramount name for the forthcoming Paramount+ subscription streaming service. Meanwhile, the soon to be 5 Action will continue to be available on terrestrial (Freeview), cable (Virgin Media), and satellite (Freesat and Sky).

Newstalk and UCB Ireland Leave Satellite

Changes that have escaped my attention until I started using satellite TV myself, are the removal of two radio stations, Newstalk and UCB Ireland, from satellite transmissions. Both changes appear to have occurred this year (2021), with Newstalk leaving satellite on the 31st August.

This will impact on most on Sky viewers in both the UK and Ireland, where both services could be found on the Sky EPG. Both services were broadcast free-to-air, so could also be accessed via generic satellite receivers, including dedicated Freesat receivers in manual or non-Freesat mode. Both stations are aimed at Irish listeners and continue to be available on other platforms, including FM (Newstalk), and Saorview terrestrial TV (UCB Ireland) in Ireland. For satellite listeners seeking Irish radio, stations from RTE continue to be available.

Both changes are understood to be cost driven, although few if any public announcements appear to have been made. Unlike with analogue radio, where there is one clear platform that proves most popular (FM), digital radio has struggled to see a clear winner.

DAB in particular has seen mixed fortunes, with DAB seeing a lot of investment in the UK, but hasn’t seen widescale adoption in Ireland. After a brief foray into semi-national DAB, RTE closed the only national DAB multiplex in Ireland, with commercial broadcasts never commencing beyond a handful of trials. The UK, although seeing more investment, has seen a race to the bottom with DAB and the newer DAB+ format. Broadcasters have sacrificed bit rates to squeeze on an ever increasing number of stations. This has (broadly) widened choice, but at the expense of audio quality, to the point at which some stations become unlistenable.

Going back to Ireland, beyond on-line listening, it would appear that digital listening is struggling in the popularity contest, with neither satellite or DAB able to muster much interest.

Sky Offer TV Without a Satellite Dish

On the 18th October (2021), Sky launched Sky Glass, a new way to access Sky TV without the need for a satellite dish. Unlike other Sky TV services, Sky Glass uses a specially designed TV, eliminating the need for a separate box. The new service utilises an internet connection, with a minimum speed of 10mbps to stream the channels, instead of a satellite dish. However, the TV can be connected to a terrestrial aerial, which functions as a backup only for a limited number of channels, should the internet connection fail.

The channel line up broadly mirrors that of the main Sky service, with all Sky Channels (including Pick and Challenge), plus those from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, ViacomCBS, Warner Bros. Discovery, UKTV, and BT Sport available. HD (high definition) channels are include as standard, including (for the first time on any platform) all BBC One regions in HD, and HD versions of 5 Star, 5 USA, and Paramount Network not currently in HD via satellite.

However, not all channels available with Sky’s satellite service are available on Sky Glass, as Sky has not concluded carriage deals with all broadcasters for inclusion on Sky Glass. Notable absentees are Freesports, GB News, Great TV and other Great branded channels, children’s channel Pop, QVC, and the Now branded music channels, amongst others. Some of these may be added in the near future, but Sky are yet to confirm this.

The usual Sky Q features, such as voice control and the pausing of live programmes are also included in the new Sky Glass TVs. However, unlike with previous Sky Q and Sky HD boxes, recordings are stored ‘in the cloud’ on a remote server instead of the users device. It is unclear what impact this will have, but this should enable users of the TV to access recordings on another device should the TV fail. However, Sky have not confirmed this. One drawback is that viewers will be unable to access recordings without an internet connection.

The new Sky Glass TVs are ulta HD (4K) compatible, and also feature Dolby Vision, 5 speakers, and a sub-woofer. This reduces the need for an external sound bar. The TV is available in 3 sizes; small (43″), medium (55″) and large (65″), and can be bought upfront or with the cost spread over 24 or 48 months. The TV costs £26, £34, or £42 a month respectively if spread over 24 months (not including the subscription). An ongoing Sky subscription is required to access most features, however. Sky will deliver and set up the TV, but although the Sky Glass TV can be wall mounted, you will need to arrange for this yourself.

Like Sky Q, Sky Glass can also be added to other TVs, using a device called Sky Puck. This is a set top box which plugs into your existing TV, costing £50 each. This adds a £10 surcharge to the subscription cost, but a single surcharge covers all Sky Puck devices. Unlike Sky Q miniboxes, the new Sky Puck devices are 4K compatible.

This is not the first time Sky have innovated with a new product idea. Sky has already successfully launched dish free services in Germany and Italy, but this has been with a more convential set top box based service. Time will tell if the new Sky Glass service is successful.

Plusnet TV Service to Close in October

Plusnet is closing its YouView based TV service, which combines the standard terrestrial TV service from Freeview with additional premium channels delivered over an internet connection.

The wind down of the service commenced during January, when the service was withdrawn from sale to new customers. During March, a number of channels were removed for existing customers.

The final two stages will happen in October and November. On 1st October (2021), existing customers will no longer be charge for the service. A final switch off date is scheduled for the 1st November, at which point the remaining channels will be switch off, and associated recordings will be lost.

Plusnet TV viewers can continue to use the YouView boxes after the switch off to access Freeview channels, but will no longer have access to technical support.

Although trials began in 2013, Plusnet TV did not launch until 2015, meaning the service has been available for only 6 years. The move comes as parent company BT switches focus away from multi-platform services to the wide scale roll out of fibre broadband. BT had already slimmed down its TV offering, rebuilding it around Sky’s Now (formerly Now TV) platform.

Sky Content Changes

Sky is making a further change to its channel line up, with Sky One set to be closed, and two new channels launched in its place.

Sky Showcase will take Sky One’s current EPG slot and numbers, and will become a channel showcasing content from Sky’s entire channel portfolio, including its sports and film channels. It remains to be seen if there will ben overlap with the Sky Replay channel, which recently rebranded from Sky Two. It will be linear only, without an on-demand platform attached, something which is a rarity in current trends.

A new channel, Sky Max, will become home to the latest premium content from Sky, with drama’s such as A Discovery of Witches and COBRA, and comedy panel shows including A League of Their Own and the returning Never Mind The Buzzcocks, to feature on the channel. Sky Max will be available in both linear and on-demand forms.

Comedy shows Code 404 and Hitmen Reloaded, both previously on Sky One, will find a new home on the Sky Comedy channel, which is being updated with a revised programme line-up.

All three channels will be or are available to Sky, Virgin Media (cable), and BT TV customers. The changes see the end of a long history for Sky One, which launched in April 1982. At over 39 years old, it’s the oldest non-terrestrial TV channel in the UK.

All of the above changes will take effect from the 1st September (2021), alongside a wider reshuffle of channel number/EPG allocations. Additionally, NBCUniversal’s new Peacock streaming service will soon be rolled out to Sky customers across Europe later this year (2021), at no extra cost.

Channel Numbers Confirmed for GB News

The full set of channel numbers for GB News has now by confirmed.

On the Sky satellite platform, GB News will be on 515, aquiring that number from Nigerian news channel TVC News. On the Virgin Media cable platform, GB News will be on number 626. This is in addition to the already confirmed channel numbers 216 for Freesat, and 236 for Freeview.

On Freeview, GB News will be in standard definition, while on all other platforms the channel will be in high definition (HD) only. For satellite viewers, this means users of non-HD devices will be unable to watch GB News.

The channel will launch on Sunday 13th June at 8am, with special programming to mark the launch.