Sky Glass DVR Exposed: A Freeview Box Alternative?
One of the key differences between Sky's new streaming TV, Glass, and other Freeview recording devices (including Sky's own Sky Q) is that Glass lacks built-in recording storage space.
Instead of recording content on the device, Sky Glass is said to be capable of recording up to 1,000 hours "to the cloud" and then streaming it back to you on demand.
Even that, however, is not as simple, and some early adopters have already noticed that some programs that appear to have been recorded do not become available to watch after the live broadcast has ended.
Potential customers are understandably confused, as some programs are recorded directly (to the cloud), others are presented as "bookmarks" to third-party streaming services, and still others are not available on-demand at all.
Last week, a senior Sky manager took to the official Sky community pages to provide a detailed explanation of how recordings (and the Playlist) work on Sky Glass - and we're here to dig deeper into some of his responses.
Sky Glass Is
Sky's new 4K TV set, which includes a QLED HDR screen and a built-in soundbar with five speakers, was announced last month.
- Our comprehensive Sky Glass review.
Unlike Sky’s other services (to date), Sky Glass doesn’t use a satellite dish – instead, it relies on broadband, and streams all the content to the TV, much like other streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV and Roku – or streaming services like Sky’s own NOW (see our Sky Glass VS Now comparison)
Sky's channels and on-demand content, as well as Freeview channels, will be streamed to your television via the internet.
Surprisingly, Sky Glass does not include the full list of Freeview channels that would be available by connecting to an indoor aerial, and several Freeview channels are currently unavailable as of this writing.
And, while Sky Glass has an aerial port, it will only be used for "backup purposes" - for example, if your internet goes down (and you want to watch Freeview channels), or if you unsubscribe from Sky.
How Does Sky Glass Recording Work?
If you have a Freeview recording box (see some of our recommendations), you can set it up to record any live Freeview (or Freesat, if you have the appropriate box) programme on the built-in hard drive. Once the recording is complete, you can keep it and watch it at any time.
Sky Glass does not have a hard drive for storing recordings because it is solely based on streaming. Everything revolves around the new "Playlist" feature.
The Playlist is supposed to house all of the content you're interested in. If you see a program you like in one of the other menus or while watching content, you can add it to your Playlist by pressing " " on your remote.
At that point, every episode of that series, both past and present, will be added to your Playlist.
But what exactly does that imply? Depending on the arrangement Sky has with that channel, one of three things will occur:
1. Some programs will be cloud-recorded.
Cloud recordings can be viewed at any time after the original broadcast and are kept on the cloud for 12 months.
However, keep in mind that because these recordings are stored in the cloud rather than on your own device, you'll need broadband to stream and watch them.
But which shows will be saved to the cloud? "Some" appears to be Sky's best response at the moment. It includes the following:
- The majority (but not all) of Sky's original content (from Sky's in-house channels such as Sky Atlantic, Sky Witness, and others)
- Sky Sports (and, more recently, BT Sport) sporting events
- Most Freeview terrestrial channels (with the exception of a few listed below) - at least those that are currently available on Sky Glass
However, even on terrestrial channels, users have reported seeing programs that had never been recorded.
According to Sky, "there may be specific programs that are not recordable from these channels as well." ”
2. Some programs will direct you to third-party applications.
Some major broadcasters' content cannot be recorded directly.
When you add a program from one of them to the Playlist, you will instead see a "shortcut" that will take you to that broadcaster's dedicated app. These are a few examples:
- The BBC iPlayer
- ITV Hub
- All 4
- STV Player (available in Scotland)
So, if you mark a BBC show with " " on your Sky Glass, you will still see thumbnails for all episodes of that show on your playlist.
When you want to watch that program, Glass will launch the BBC iPlayer app, and you'll have to watch it on iPlayer.
The same is true for ITV, All 4, and STV Player content. This also implies that you must have an account with each of these broadcasters' streaming apps.
Long-term availability is then determined by the channel and the specific program/film - many programs on BBC iPlayer, for example, are available for 12 months.
Others, however, are deleted after less than 30 days, so they will be removed from your Playlist as well (unlike a "real" recording, which you can keep indefinitely, at least in theory).
This "shortcut" method is also applicable to major streaming services such as Netflix, Disney, and others, where you will be directed to the respective streamer's app - but this has always been the case, even on Sky Q and Freeview recorders.
3. Some content is only available in real time.
Finally, some content is only available live - or, at best, "restart" while the show is still airing.
This includes the following:
- Music Channels: You can add music channel programs to your Playlist, but you can only restart them or watch them live during the broadcast.
- This varies according to the channel. All of Sky News, Sky Sports News, and CNBC News can be recorded. However, "the major terrestrial news programs are made available for up to 24 hours after broadcast." ”
BT Sport was previously in this category, but a recent update changed that, and now (if you're a subscriber), you CAN add live BT Sport programs/matches to your Playlist and watch them later.
Finally, what CAN I RECORD ON SKY GLASS?
While Sky's explanations help to clarify some points, much of it remains a game of "try to record and find out."
What you CAN'T record directly is pretty obvious: content from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, STV, Music channels, and some News channels (as well as, of course, the major streaming-only services).
As for the rest... you can save some content to the cloud, but not all. Will there be instances where you set something to record on a "supported" channel only to discover that a specific program was NOT recorded? Yes
While the goal is to simplify things for users in a single "Playlist," not knowing what you can and cannot record, and being sent to either a cloud recording or a 3rd party app - can be extremely confusing for customers.
If you don't record much from Freeview, none of this will make much of a difference to you. Furthermore, keep in mind that Sky Glass is still in its early stages, with new features and fixes being added on a weekly basis.
However, it is clear that Sky Glass is not a full replacement for a Freeview recorder or even Sky Q's recording capabilities in its current state.
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