Sky TV eyes set-top boxes with built-in hard drives

Sky TV boss John Fellet says New Zealand viewers should soon be able to buy a set-top box with built-in hard drives.

Sky TV boss John Fellet says New Zealand viewers should soon be able to buy a set-top box with built-in hard drives.

"The only real question is whether we wait for DVD player capability before we introduce them," says Fellet.

Having a hard drive built in would enable viewers to record programmes with a lot more flexibility than recording to videotape. Viewers could start watching a programme before it had finished recording the end of the show, use the record button as a "pause" control and even record more than one channel at a time.

No decision on technology provider has been made yet, but Fellet is keeping a close eye on both Replay TV and TiVo in the US. Any set-top box with such capabilities would be a high-end product and Fellet says a new way of selling the boxes would be in order.

"We would look to the likes of hi-fi shops or electronic consumer goods stores to sell the boxes in a manner similar to video recorders or TVs today."

Currently Sky boxes are only available through Sky, but Fellet says the next generation of decoder boxes won't be sold like that.

"Now that we're on the digital platform it makes sense to give subscribers the basic box and allow them to go out and buy something more advanced if that's what they want."

Fellet says customers would be able to simply swap the devices over, insert their smart card and carry on watching TV.

"Eventually we expect the decoder side of the equipment to be built in to the TV sets themselves."

Before that happens, however, Sky TV plans to introduce its own form of email, in conjunction with Telecom.

"I like to think of it more as text messaging than email because it doesn't have the full functionality of email with things like attachments."

Fellet says Sky will offer up to 15 email addresses per household on the service.

The email service is in the final stages of implementation and although he won't say when it will be available it, viewers should be able to use the service in weeks rather than months.

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