Sky Drops Microsoft Windows Media For MPEG-4 On HDTV

Sky Drops Microsoft Windows Media For MPEG-4 On HDTVSky has for quite a long time been evaluating the best CoDEC for their High-Definition TV (HDTV) service. They currently deliver their content using an MPEG-2, which given the extra bandwidth that HD requires would make the demand on satellite bandwidth too high.

To address this, they have been evaluating new forms of video compression. The two final runners have been Microsoft’s Windows Media format, and MPEG-4.

We learnt today that they have made their decision – they’re dropped Microsoft’s Windows Media format and running with MPEG4.

Richard Freudenstein, COO of BSkyB used his speech at DVB World to talk about Sky’s HDTV service. The general points have been covered in other publications, like Digital Spy.

We were a little surprised that Sky announced that HD content would be deliverable to ‘normal’, ie Standard Definition (SD) TVs. Up to this point we’d always thought that Sky’s HD content would only stay in HDMI/HDCP world (ie the content would be encrypted until it hit your eyeballs).

We dug a little deeper with Sky to find out more.

Content that’s watched/recorded on the Sky HD service _will_ be recordable, but in Standard Definition. This will be delivered over RGB or RF (standard aerial cable), so recordable on current DVD/VHS recorders.

There will be an HD output, via component. This will not be the full HD resolution, but down sampled (our words, definitely not Sky’s. They refused to use those words).

This doesn’t necessarily apply to Pay Per View (PPV) content.

When we asked about the recording of full resolution of HDTV, Sky tried to initially bounce the question with “HD-DVD recorders are not available so the question does not arise”. Well I’m sure you know they’re currently sold in Japan and they are within reach in the UK, especially by the time the Sky HD service is launched.

When we dug further, we were told that as specs of the HD DVD recorders that would be available in the UK were unknown, no definitive answer could be given. If you know differently, please get in touch.