Sky is planning to up its investment in 4K UHD content and will launch the Soundbox, its new retail product bringing Dolby Atmos sound to the living room, in mid-November, according to Gary Davey.
Speaking at MIPCOM, Sky’s managing director of content said: “We are operating across a whole range of genres… This year we will have about 1,000 hours of UHD content available in a combination of live and on-demand.”
Sky launched 4K in August 2016 with the Premier League and users have quadrupled since then, he said. He added that 4K was a primary reason for people to upgrade to the operator’s new-generation Sky Q set-top.
Sky will produce 124 live football games in 4K this year, and has a catalogue of about 100 movies in UHD, with a further 30 to be added before Christmas, said Davey. “I am pretty confident about the content part of the equation now, although there are other challenges,” he said.
Those challenges include “a lot of technical issues to resolve”, including lack of clarity about HDR and the way content is rendered on different TVs. Davey said that the MTV Europe Awards in London in November will be produced live in HDR and in Dolby Atmos.
Sky is also launching the Sky Soundbox in mid-November in partnership with French company Devialet. This will be sold as a straight retail proposition and is designed to provide cinema-quality sound to accompany TV transmission.
Multiple drama series including recent hit Riviera have now been filmed in 4K. Davey told DTVE that some six series were confirmed for second seasons next year.
Davey told MIPCOM session attendees that Sky in the UK has “led the charge on UHD with the Sky Q box,” but that there would be a similar product development roadmap for Italy and Germany. “I would think Germany and Italy will be offering UHD within a year,” he said.
Davey said that the cost differential between HD and UHD had “almost disappeared” and he believes that “we will come to a point pretty quickly where you won’t actually be able to make anything in HD”.
He said that Sky is now commissioning content that it would not have done without UHD.
However, he added that Sky does not have immediate plans to upgrade Sky News to UHD, claiming: “It is not a priority currently.”
Davey said that Sky’s content partners were also quickly moving to UHD. “Their lifeblood is their brands and we value those as much as they do,” he said.