Sky Picnic for Freeview

Sky has announced details of its plans to offer broadband, telephone and digital terrestrial television services under a new brand to customers across the UK. It says the new business will operate under the Picnic brand and will offer customers a variety of flexible options to combine the services that they want.

Sky claims key features of Picnic will include: TV, broadband and telephony, with customers able to choose 1, 2 or 3 services in any combination. There will be instant access to some Sky channels through an aerial including Sky Sports 1, Sky Movies, Sky One, a children’s channel and a factual channel.

The decision to proceed with the launch of Picnic is subject to the outcome of Ofcom’s review of the proposed increased choice of TV programming. Ofcom has said that it plans to launch a consultation on the initial licence changes later this autumn.

Sky wants the Picnic TV service to be in MPEG4. It says: “The new (STBs required) will help to lead future innovations on the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform such as the adoption of MPEG-4 compression standards, which allow viewers to benefit from an increased choice of channels. The Picnic TV service will initially consist of 3 MPEG-2 video streams but, subject to approval by Ofcom, Picnic aims to move to MPEG-4 and add a fourth channel dedicated to Sky News.”

Continuing with the existing “horizontal market” model for DTT equipment, the Picnic compatible boxes will be produced by multiple manufacturers and sold by a variety of retailers. Manufacturers will be responsible for the specification of their boxes and will decide which additional features to include, such as PVR functionality or the ability to receive pay-TV services from other providers. The initial manufacturer will be Sagem, but Sky is not subsidising manufacture and says it is expected that others will follow shortly after launch. In addition, Picnic aims to make its TV service available on future generations of PCs.

James Murdoch, Sky’s Chief Executive, said: “The launch of Picnic will be a big step forward for customers who are hungry for value and simplicity. We are looking forward to the conclusion of the regulatory approval process so we can get going delivering a great service and real savings to customers.”

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