Review: Sky Player Windows Media Center Addin

Review: Sky Player Windows Media Center Addin

sky1In the UK and Ireland Sky has had a Windows Media Center addin, I am not a Sky subscriber but a couple of weeks ago I got a trial of the service so I thought I would share some of my findings

The Sky Player UI is very slick and integrates well in to Media Center, it works on the left to right gallery concept like the rest of Media Center. There are live TV channels, on demand content and a TV guide, unfortunately its not integrated with the standard Media Center guide like the MSN Player addin so Sky missed a trick with that, from the guide you can switch to a live channel and the UI looks pretty much like the regular Sky TV UI.

 

When watching live TV I hit my first issue, thanks to the brilliant efficiently of BT I can only get 2mb broadband (I don’t live in the middle of a field or anything its just the distance from the exchange).  Even at the lowest quality setting there was major buffering, almost every 30 seconds it would pause for 30 seconds so if your low on bandwidth streaming is out of the question. The picture quality at its highest setting is pretty good but its not HD

The on demand content suffers the same bandwidth issues as live TV but it works and there is a variety of non-premium content available for free and premium content available for rent. There are a range packages available, for example with a Movie Pack subscription movies are free except for movies from Sky Box Office which seem to be priced at £3.50

It would be good if there was a way to download movies to get round the buffering issues or at least have it start downloading and then watch it once enough is downloaded. The buffering problem is a show stopper for me, its just not possible to watch anything with my bandwidth.

So if you have a Sky subscription and good bandwidth the addin is a good away to watch on demand content and  I guess if you already have a Sky box you effectively have an extra tuner.

Now the prices:

If you have the Sky Sports Pack you get Sky Sports for free, if your a Multiroom or broadband unlimited customer you can watch selected channels for free but it depends on what channels you have in your package. If your not a Sky subscriber the prices go from £15 a month up to £41, you can find all the details on Sky’s website

Even if I had the bandwidth I am not sure I would pay for the service but if your already a subscriber its a nice extra to Media Center. I would be interested to hear what readers that have a Sky subscription make of the addin, let me know in the comments

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0 thoughts on “Review: Sky Player Windows Media Center Addin

  1. Ian

    I wrote to you a long time ago regarding the Skyplayer app not installing to my main home build media center machine, and you kindly read my email out on one of your shows, I never actually got it sorted out, and kept putting off the reinstall I decided to do, but when MS put out the update that stopped MCStudio from working, Sky player had also installed.I have sky and use the skyplayer to watch the on demand movies. I have about 9MB ADSL to my house , and have no buffering issues, so I am not sure how much it needs, one issue I do have, is I use the Media Center Sleep Tool and find when the sky player app is running media center is seen an idle. I have seen today that a new build of the beta windows 7 compatible Sleep tool is available (http://www.degroeneknop.nl/forum/index.php/topic,6754.0.html?&language=english) which allows you to add other programs to be detected by the idle logic. I will be testing this as having your PC sleep part the way through a film is annoying.

  2. I’ve got a SKY HD box and subscription, as well as a Win 7 HTPC connected to the same TV with the Sky Player add in installed. I’ve got 10Mbit so playback hasn’t been an issue. I’ve also got the add-in installed on my Xbox 360 upstairs. The experience is pretty much the same on both.
    I’ve got largely mixed feelings about Sky Player.
    Pro’s: Being able to watch live channels upstairs on my xbox 360 is pretty cool if the mrs has hogged the big tv. The SD is fine on a 26″ TV.
    The movie selection is fantastic, its huge and much more impressive than a lot of other offerings (e.g. Virgin Media).
    The UI is very nice and sits well within Media Centre.

    Cons: The On-Demand TV selection is very poor. I’m not sure what licensing issues they have but the content is largely all sky’s own shows or a few of the new series’. Of those, only a few episodes are available. I’ve gone into several sub categories (e.g Sky 1 -> Action) only to find them empty. Virgin Media’s TV Choice is much better in this respect.
    No HD. With 10Mbit 720p should be possible at least. I’m sure the technology is there (adaptive streaming should also be possible) but I’m sure there’s a commercial/political reason not to implement it.

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