In an update to our news piece about Sky rejecting EPG slots to new channels, we now bring you the latest on how these services will be affected.

The main reason Sky will cease to launch additional EPG locations is due to lack of hardware memory space on some older Sky set-top boxes. There۪s been a rapid growth in the number of services listed in the EPG since Sky Digital’s launch in 1998, which have served to fill memory space on boxes. There are already over 600 television and radio services listed in the Sky EPG, compared with fewer than 200 at launch of the platform. When taking into account regional variants and interactive services, there are currently almost 1,000 services on the platform.

Every additional service listed in the EPG increases the amount of set top box memory needed to display the EPG. The amount of memory contained in each set top box is, however, finite. While Sky continues to take steps to ensure that memory is used efficiently, there are very significant memory constraints in several models of boxes which are currently in use by viewers. The move to refuse applications from new broadcasters is to safeguard the interests of both viewers and platform users.

What happens now…

ۢ Sky will proceed with launching services in the launch queue, but with extreme caution (It is to continue with the schedule of two launches per week until the end of the year, the point to which dates have been allocated). Sky will review whether it can maintain this launch frequency into 2008.

ۢ To facilitate the launch of channels not already in the launch queue, Sky is formalising the trading of slots on the EPG this will simplify the process for acquiring another broadcaster’s EPG position (moving away from the current ‘grey market’ towards more straightforward trading of EPG positions).

When quizzed current broadcasters if these changes will affect them, we got the following responses:

Ajay Ochani, STAR UK Marketing Manager said, “From STAR’s perspective Sky is changing the process in order to optimise the user experience. Clearly happy consumers are something every service provider is interested in. It does not affect any of STAR’s current plans.”

Rohit Jaswal from NDTV openly admitted that it could look at the option of replacing its current service with a new channel, as a last option. There have been talks of bringing its yet-to-launch entertainment and lifestyle channels in the UK but only if there is space on the platform.

“We would be exploring the possibility of launching our travel and lifestyle channel – NDTV Good Times – on Sky and would work with Sky to probably swap the EPG slot of 24×7 with that to Good Times, if the need arises.

Technology has always been a constraint, including in India, especially with the launch of many channels and we are confident that Sky would able to find a solution very soon.”

ZEE Network recently applied for six new channels, which are on due to launch next year. There’s also talk about MAX Mix adding more channels to its existing bouquet. Other independent channels from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are eyeing the saturated UK Asian TV market for launch. A lot of these channels are in the pipeline to launch before the end of the second quarter of 2008.

This new channel launch being introduced by Sky could also have the affect of filtering out channels that are not faring so well and who may wish to consider trading their EPG space. They have the option of selling their EPG space(s) to another broadcaster at a market rate.

Another method that has previously worked with a small number of channels is the idea of launching on Sky Digital without an EPG channel number but being accessed via the main EPG menu. We asked Sky Digital if this could be an option of launching a channel. Our spokesman at Sky said that channels launching on the platform would need to do so through an EPG listing.

Nicola Bamford, Sky’s Director of Channels and Operations, said:

“Sustained growth in the number of services is a testament to the success of the platform. There is no other TV platform in the UK which provides such a level of access for broadcasters or such diversity for viewers.

Our goal is to safeguard the interests of both viewers and service providers. After careful consideration, we believe the revised launch process will provide the fairest and most efficient way to launch new services into the EPG.”