Has hard drive recording in the UK finally come of age? That’s the big question after Sky announced it has now sold over 105,000 Sky+ boxes (up to the end of June 2003).
Of course, it’s still a tiny amount, especially as a proportion of the broadcaster’s rapidly growing customer base (6.84 million now receive its channels via a dish, 12.26 million if you count the number watching Sky channels via cable and Freeview).
But it’s a significant milestone given that Sky+ is still an expensive proposition for most people. Not only is there the cost of the box (£249), there’s also the extortionate additional monthly subscription of £10 – just to be able to be able to record programmes directly onto the 40GB hard drive.
So how has Sky managed to achieve some modicum of success in the PVR (Personal Video Recording) market where so many other manufacturers are either floundering, or have failed (TiVo)?
Much has to do with the integration of its superb Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) with recording functionality.
This contrasts with the approach by companies such as Philips and Pace who have both launched PVRs – analogue terrestrial and digital terrestrial, respectively – without an EPG. Other companies, such as JVC, Toshiba and Panasonic have also launched combi products, pairing a DVD Recorder and PVR – again without an EPG.
For the customer, being able to record directly from the TV listings is clearly the simple most important function of these products – far more so than pausing live TV, nice though it is.
But Sky can’t expect to ahead of the game for too much longer. microsoft is breathing down its neck with its new Media Center 2004 operating platform that promises full integration between the EPG and recording facilities (see story in Tech Digest earlier this week) while other consumer electronics will surely launch more advanced products in the coming months. The PVR market is set to get very interesting indeed.