British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) has announced that it has signed a number of further contracts with technology and equipment suppliers ahead of the forthcoming launch of its High-Definition Television (HDTV) service.
Following last month’s announcement that Thomson would be the initial manufacturer of Sky’s HDTV set-top box, the latest agreements put BSkyB on track to launch HDTV in the UK and Ireland in 2006 – notably four years ahead of the BBC’s slothful launch date in 2010.
The agreement will see Sony constructing and equipping a new HDTV studio at BSkyB’s Isleworth headquarters and kitting out additional equipment for edit suites and dubbing facilities at the same site.
Lovers of spec sheets will be thrilled to learn that the Sony studio equipment will include the latest HDC-1500 studio cameras and over 60 HDCAM and HDCAM SR format VTRs, complemented by MVS-8000A series multiformat production switchers and DVS-8000 digital effects plus Sony HD LCD monitors.
Additionally, Sony will smooth BSkyB’s transition to HDTV production with a “this button does that” staff training package.
BSkyB will also be deploying Tandberg Television’s MPEG-4 part 10 (H.264/AVC) video encoding and distribution system for the launch of its HDTV service.
The studio will be fitted out with Tandberg Television HD video head-end with statistical multiplexing with Tandberg EN5990 HD MPEG-4 AVC enabling efficient bandwidth utilisation and high picture quality.
If that roll out of spoddy specifications hasn’t got you excited enough, you’ll be pleased to learn that even more equipment lists will dispatched from BSkyB headquarters in due course. Whoopee!
Alun Webber, BSkyB’s Group Director of Engineering and Platform Technology, said “The launch of HDTV is the most significant development for BSkyB’s broadcast infrastructure since the launch of Sky digital in 1998. These supplier contracts keep us on track to launch HDTV in 2006 and ensure that Sky customers continue to receive the highest-quality viewing experience available.”
Sky is promising a full set of HDTV programming channel line-up when the service goes live, including sports, movies, entertainment and documentary programming.
The system will support both 720p and 1080i picture formats, with broadcasters being able to choose the format which is most appropriate to their individual requirements.
Initially, Sky’s HD receivers will have both a digital HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) and an analogue component connector for viewing HD content.
HDMI delivers the best possible picture quality to a HD display by maintaining an all-digital connection to DVI equipped displays possible using a suitable adapter cable.
Notably, when Sky’s HD content is viewed on a display using the receiver’s HDMI connector it will be protected by HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection).
HDTV is already taking off in the States and with the BBC dragging its heels with their own implementation of HDTV, this move by Sky may prove to be a significant one.