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Sky urges BBC, ITV and C4 to offer HD as standard

Sky has said it is in the viewer's interest that the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 provide all regional variants of their channels in HD as standard.

The pay TV giant has also said it wants to promote HD channels up the channel list, even if the broadcaster doesn't offer the correct regional variant in HD on Sky.

Currently, viewers encounter a patch-work of HD and non-HD channels between 101 and 104, depending on whether the local versions of the main channels are already available in HD. In England, viewers do not have access to BBC One's regional programming in HD. Sky says the BBC has "no immediate plans" to change this. Additional versions of BBC Two in HD for Wales and Northern Ireland are due to launch on 29th November 2018, but the Northern Irish version will not be available on satellite.

Sky noted that if the BBC was to offer additional regional services in HD, it would free-up channel 115.

ITV and STV also do not offer all sub-regions in HD and Channel 4 - which offers regionalised advertising in standard definition - only rebroadcasts the London version in HD.

At the moment, depending on which regional services are available in HD, Sky viewers see a mixture of SD and HD versions between channels 101 and 104, with viewers in some regions needing to scroll down the channel list to find various HD versions of the main channels.

In its response to an Ofcom consultation on the prominence given to public service broadcasters (PSBs), it said it should not have to seek the broadcaster's consent to substitute an SD channel with its HD equivalent - in recent years, some broadcasters have opted to keep the regional standard definition channel in the prime spot, forcing viewers down the channel list to find the equivalent regional HD version of the channel.

Going further, Sky also says the substitution should also occur if a broadcaster opts to make a regional HD service available on other platforms, but not Sky. This would mean that potentially, Sky viewers would find an HD service with different regional programming on channels 101-104, and would have to scroll down the channel list to find the correct regional programme.

Examples of where this could happen, if Sky was allowed to do this, are:

  • BBC Two Northern Ireland HD, which is currently not scheduled to launch on satellite, but is going live later this month on Freeview and iPlayer. Northern Irish viewers might find the main network BBC Two HD on channel 102, and BBC Two NI SD down the channel list.
  • STV regions: STV has signed a deal to make HD versions of its main channel available in Scotland on Virgin Media, but on satellite only one regional version - Glasgow - is available. Potentially, viewers across Central and Northern Scotland would see STV's Glasgow sub-region in HD on 103, and have to find STV's services for other areas down the list.

Ofcom is yet to comment on the consultation responses.