Sky Glass is a custom-designed QLED TV that includes everything you need to enjoy the complete Sky TV experience – without a satellite dish. For the first time, Sky has untethered its premium television service from that receiver on the walls, so viewers can tune-in to live channels, watch hundreds of on-demand boxsets, stream movies and shows from Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and a number of other popular apps with just a Wi-Fi connection.
Sky has taken the opportunity to roll-out a number of other changes too. As such, Sky Glass has a very different user interface to Sky Q. Some of these changes are due to the new form-factor. For example, Sky has had to include ways to switch to other gadgets connected via HDMI, like a Blu-ray player, games console, or Apple TV or other streaming set-top box. Other changes, like the decision to drop a separate tab for TV Guide in the menu tab and instead list the channels in a carousel close to the top of the main page, could apply to Sky Q.
Perhaps one of the biggest shake-ups for Sky fans is the decision to drop the ability to record shows, films, and sport fixtures.
This is a monumental change from Sky, which pioneered the ability to record shows, pause and rewind live television with its ground-breaking Sky+ box back in 2001. But unlike Sky+ and its successors, Sky Glass doesn’t come preloaded with gigabytes of storage, so you won’t be able to record your favourite episodes and movies in the same way.
Instead, the Record button on the redesigned remote has been ditched in favour of a new + symbol. Tapping this button will add a show to your Playlist.
This is a supercharged version of Series Link on Sky Q, which automatically schedules a recording for every upcoming episode. With Playlist, the software will also scour Sky boxsets as well as the libraries from any synced streaming services – like Disney+ and Prime Video – to bring together previous series and episodes too. Jumping into your Playlist, you’ll be able to catch-up on old episodes from across a range of streaming services and tune-in each week as new episodes air on Sky channels.
Sky hopes its new Playlist system will prevent you having to jump between its menu and another streaming app on its service to find the right episode. Sky started pushing towards this ambition with Sky Q – which lets you search across the Sky and Disney+ libraries from the main menu, so you won’t rent something from Sky Cinema that’s already included as part of your monthly streaming subscription – but Sky Glass takes things a step forward.
The other advantage of not storing recordings of each episode on a whirring hard-drive inside the box is that you’ll never have to worry about running out of space. Since everything is being stored by Sky, you won’t need to delete a three-year-old episode of Graham Norton to make way for a new series. You also don’t need to worry about power cuts or signal problems interrupting the recording because, you know, you’re not actually recording anything to your box.
However, there is a downside to this approach.
Since none of the episodes, films, concerts or sport fixtures that you’ve added to Playlist are physically stored on a hard-drive inside your telly, you will be streaming the footage direct from Sky. First of all, that means you won’t be able to revisit any old episodes if there’s an issue with your internet – unlike Sky Q. But perhaps the biggest change is that Sky will begin charging customers who want to fast-forward through the ad breaks.
Yes, since everything in your Playlist is streamed to your Sky Glass, recordings work in the same way as streaming an episode on All4 or ITV Hub. And exactly like the latter, which offers customers an optional monthly fee to eliminate the ad breaks, Sky Glass will charge viewers to remove all advertisements from the episodes that are streamed from its servers.
Dubbed the Ad Skipping Add On, this feature will be included at no extra cost to all Sky Glass customers for the first year. After 12 months, those who want to continue to be able to skip through the adverts in old recordings of the Great British Bake Off, I’m A Celebrity …Get Me Out Of Here, GoggleBox, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Succession, and more, will have to pay an extra £5 a month.
For those who love to binge through boxsets of must-watch telly, or prefer shows from ad-support broadcasters like ITV, Sky and Channel 4 over the Beeb, that fee could be well worth it. If you’re already paying for ITV Hub+ to remove adverts from its catch-up app and website – at a cost of £3.99 a month – the alternative from Sky, which removes adverts from all channels, will seem like a bargain.
However, for those who are accustomed to Sky+ or Sky Q, this marks a pretty significant change. It will be interesting to see how customers react after the first year of Sky Glass, when they’ve got invested in the new system… only to be hit with an additional charge. If you are thinking of signing up – and there are still many, many advantages of this all-in-one 4K TV approach than the standard Sky Q box – it’s best to know all of the facts upfront.