Here in the Big Issue column
we take a regular look at the current issues that surround Sky+ and give
our comment and analysis.
|This Month - Sky+ Stand &
Deliver by James Payne
on Thursday 29th May 2003
the latest release of Sky's figures, it is of no surprise to see that more and
more homes are deciding to subscribe to Sky Digital. The benefits of digital
satellite seem to be immense, with superior sound and picture quality coupled
with the ever increasing new channels and interactive content.
Casting my mind back to when I first ordered "plain old"
Sky Digital, my main concern was the fact that you could still only watch one
satellite channel at a time, and as this was no different to analogue, was it
really worth the money. Still temptation got the better of me, and I took the
plunge. As most people, I didn't regret the decision, and it wasn't long before
I was wanting more.
The same old problem kept occurring; there was always more
than one programme on at the same time. The amount of times I went without
watching decent programmes, just because there was something else on another
channel. It all became very annoying and painful.
And one day, Oh praise the lord, or should that be Mr.
Murdoch - a new machine called Sky+ was announced! "You're surely pulling my
leg?" I thought, "I can now record one Sky channel whilst watching another, and
I don't even have to use video tapes! It really must be my birthday!! I must
have one of these machines. All I have to do now is convince the wife." (Oh
come on we've all been there)
The convincing didn't really take very long. After
informing her that it was compulsory for all thirty somethings to have this
box, along with "Well the new series of Friends, ER and Big Brother will only
be available to subscribers with Sky+", she then came round to my way of
thinking (not all based on truth I admit).
|(Above: ER, the
place where James Payne would be if his wife finds out that Sky+ really isn't
the only way to see new episodes of the big budget American drama
and the fact that I promised to do all the housework for the following two
months. As you can imagine I was straight on the phone to Sky ordering the
little beauty. Unfortunately my waiting period for installation was about two
months, but considering the product had only just launched and interest was
high, I accepted this and spent the next sixty days like an excited hormonal
teenager anxiously waiting for his 1st date !
The installation was straight forward and
within 20 minutes I was merrily playing with my new toy, and scratching my
head, marvelling at the way that if you pressed this button whilst watching
live TV, the picture actually paused, but then enabled you to press it again
and carry on watching without missing anything.
Now with the much anticipated Sky+ marketing campaign
creeping up on us & lots of potential new users on the horizon, I asked a
trio of users of their own experience of the ordering, installation and use of
Now when our three new users, "Kevin" "Starkicker" &
"Ian" felt that the time was right to order, the call went off to Sky. Would
they be lucky? You bet!
Installation dates for all were given for within 7-10
days. In an ideal world it would be nice if everyone could get at least 5
lottery numbers, beer would sell at a £1 a pint and Spurs would
occasionally finish higher than mid table every damn year. It would also be
great if you could order a product and it could be delivered in about a couple
of days, but in reality this is never going to happen. 7-10 days is very good.
The ordering process is very easy and straight forward. It
may sound daft, but tell them what you want, get them to repeat it back to you
and you shouldn't have any problems. With the installing options given these
days, it is not always a case of fixing a dish at standard height and one box
in the living room.
Over to Kevin to continue the story:
Hi, I'm Kevin Fox, and my installation involved the dish
being fixed at roof height. This should never really be a problem, however if
it gets to a certain height then Sky have to ensure that it is carried out by a
special heights team. This wasn't the case here, and after it had been
confirmed by Sky customer services that it wouldn't be a problem, the
installation date was set.
Assistance was given to the installer by myself, as
earlier I had loosened the mast fixings, and ran the cables through the loft
ready for the install. Unfortunately as it turned out, the digital out on the
Sky+ box was faulty, however after the box was changed by the same installer
this problem was then corrected.
This box however had a fan that ran continuously for one
and a half hours, but after a power cycle it has been quiet ever since. It's
reassuring that the installer recognised the fault and went out of his way to
correct it and therefore keep me, the customer, happy.
So Kevin was content with his install, let's see what
another user experienced:
Hi I'm Starkicker - I don't know about anyone else, but
if you received a phone call at 07:50 in the morning, would you be rather
Hold on a minute though thankfully, it was just the Sky+
installation engineer wanting to come round in 15 minutes. So far so good. Now
I'm sure most installers like the job to be as quick and easy as possible, and
in this case I think he was happy.
It wasn't just one new Sky+ box to install but also the
relocation of the existing digibox for the mirror sub. This was not to delay
the installer though, with the telephone points in the correct places he was
all complete in about an hour. So I was one happy customer, and when I thought
things couldn't get any better, I then realised I'd been given the new Sky+
Version 2 box which is what I wanted.
Last but not least to have his Sky+ installed was Ian
Sime, let's hear what Ian thought:
ORDERING I called to order Sky+ in the evening, and
the whole process went very smoothly. I was aware that the current standard
offer was £199 for the box and £50 for the installation, but I also
knew of a few people who had been told that they could have the installation
for half-price recently.
The Sky salesman was very polite and helpful, and enquired
as to whether I was interested in a mirror subscription. When I told him that I
wasn't, he did not try the hard sell, he just accepted this and moved on. I was
given an installation date of 6 days from the phone call, which was better than
I had expected.
INSTALLATION The engineer arrived earlier than I
expected (8:40 am !) so that was a good start. He seemed a little offended that
I had told Sky that I wanted the PVR2 model of Sky+, but he soon got over it.
He left my existing cable in place, and simply ran another cable alongside it
for the second feed. The job was done within an hour or so, and he left the
place neat and tidy.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS Sky+ is what I have waited a
long, long time for. It is so easy to use, Sky+ and makes a BIG difference to
my viewing habits. The ability to record whilst watching another channel is
great, as is being able to record whilst watching something you recorded
earlier - which in fact is probably more useful in my
Timeshifted viewing is another major bonus for my viewing
habits, as I had always previously had to wait for a programme to finish
recording before watching it. No piles of videos with 'god knows what' on them
is great as well.
|Within the first week I had only 1 Series Link problem,
and this appeared to be down to the broadcaster (Eastenders on BBC1). I am a
little disappointed at how easy it is to delete a programme from the Sky+
Planner. Instead of having a confirmation when you try and delete a Keep
programme, this should instead be the norm, and you should not be able to
delete a Keep programme at all - you should have to remove the Keep flag first.
All in all though, I am very happy indeed with Sky+, and I
can never see a time when I do not have this functionality again.
With all new users machines nicely installed, what is the
group consenus on their first impressions?
Well not surprisingly they are very happy
opinion is that it it's certainly living up to expectations and all the hype.
Viewing habits have
certainly been changed.
Being able to watch and record is
To start watching a programme whilst it is still recording is great
Zooming through the
adverts to catch up with live TV is quite remarkable.
"How on earth did we manage before?" they
Minor irritations like
broken series links occasionally arise, and obviously the sooner this is sorted
out the better.
So what can we say about this "small straw poll" of users
whole it appears that Sky is actually realising that there is a demand for this
product, and acknowledges the importance of keeping the customer
me wrong, some of their customer support staff still leave a lot to be desired,
however it does seem that steps are being taken to listen to the customer and
improve the service.
Unfortunately there's nothing worse than waiting on the
phone for 20 minutes only to then be told that there's currently a two month
waiting time for installation. With the different ways of being able to order
Sky+ these days, the thing to remember is that the customer needs to remain
fairly accommodating. Install dates will be given that don't suit, turn these
away a couple of times and you could easily be looking at weeks/months down the
But overall the future of Sky+ is looking good. With the
imminent arrival of the new marketing campaign, and hopefully dual record just
around the corner, who could possibly resist the temptation of changing their
viewing habits for ever?
My sincere thanks go to Kevin Fox, Starkicker and Ian Sime
who took the time and effort to pass on their experience, and therefore helping
me put together this article.
Many thanks guys, much appreciated.