Sky announces channel changes for May 2018

A tidier system for +1 channels and enforced HD swaps: Sky has confirmed the changes it will make to its channel listing in 2018.

The changes are due to take place on 1st May 2018, which will trigger some of the biggest moves in the history of Sky's digital satellite TV platform. Sky's final decision on the changes follows a recent consultation with broadcasters and follows growing unease at the cluttered set-up of the current channel listing.

From May 2018, entertainment and documentary channels will reside together in the channel 101-199 range, bringing channels such as Sky One and Discovery closer together. +1 or timeshift versions of entertainment and documentary channels will move to a new home in the 200 channel range. The +1's will receive a channel number mirroring the ordering of the primary channel, so that ITV+1 will appear on 203, Channel 4+1 on 204, Channel 5+1 on 205. If a primary channel changes its number in the 100 range, then the +1 will move in the 200 range as well. Exceptions to +1 channel number mirroring will apply if the 101-199 range fills up and there's an overspill to another channel range.

With documentary channels moving up with the entertainment channels, the news section will no longer be split after the number of news channels exceeded the originally allocated slots. Sport channels were reshuffled last summer, although Sky reserves the right to tidy up channel number allocations.

A precise listing of all the new channel numbers (for each individual channel) will be made available to viewers closer to the time. Channel operators will still be able to buy and swap channel numbers around to make the most of the changes.

In addition, Sky is to enforce a HD swap for regionalised services listed on their EPG prior to the 9th August 2017. ITV is expected to be affected the most by this change, as it is likely to force ITV HD to occupy channel 103 in all regions where the HD simulcast mirrors the existing SD service on 103. For example, viewers in the Anglia East, Central West, Granada, London, Meridian SE, Tyne Tees, West Country (both ex-HTV West and Westcountry areas) and Yorkshire West regions are expected to see ITV HD move to 103 by May 2018. The only exceptions to the rule will be if the relevant HD version of the regionalised channel was "not an exact simulcast" on 9th August 2017 - an opt-out will apply.

The changes may pass by many Sky Q users, who can create their own channel listing between numbers 1 and 99, ordering channels how they like them.

Other changes
Where there's an HD and SD version of a channel, the HD channel will occupy the highest ranking slot on the EPG on all HD boxes, with the SD channel moving into a new number range for "secondary channels". The order of this new range will closely reflect the order of the primary channels, but Sky concedes this may evolve over time as channels come and go. The secondary channel range for children's channels will sit at the end of the children's section of the EPG.

Where broadcasters of regionalised channels have exercised an opt-out of an HD channel swap, both HD and SD channels will remain in the main entertainment and documentaries channel range (100-199).

Meanwhile, all television channels on Sky will have a requirement to broadcast at least 12 hours of non-repeating programming every week. A concession that currently exists for shopping channels allowing them to broadcast fewer new programmes a week is in the process of being removed; a separate consultation with affected broadcasters is taking place.

Sky will retain its minimum technical standards for HD channels, meaning that broadcasters using the newest encoding technologies will continue to be required to broadcast sports with an average bitrate of 12Mb/s and movies at 8.5Mb/s - this is designed to ensure HD channels on Sky don't suffer from artefacts.

Updated 24/11/2017: Amended to clarify that the precise channel listings will be made available to viewers closer to the time; broadcasters already have indicative data, but there is a lot of scope for changes in the meantime.

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