BSkyB, the UK satellite broadcaster, will soon allow subscribers to set recordings on their Sky+ personal video recorder remotely anytime, anywhere, either online or using their mobile phone.
Sky+ subscribers will have to register to use the service, which is free apart from mobile network and internet charges. The Sky by mobile service is available to subscribers of Sky sports or movie packages.
The Sky by mobile application offers a version of the Sky electronic programme guide on compatible 3G or GPRS mobile phones. Users will be able to select programmes to record at the touch of a button.
For those without a compatible handset there will also be a text message alternative. This involves sending a text message with the programme name, channel, date and time in a particular format to a short code number.
Although less user-friendly — Sky might have considered a WAP option — this could offer some creative marketing and promotional opportunities. The remote record facility will also be available on the web through the My Sky portal which will be free to use.
The importance of online or even mobile programme guides should not be underestimated, as they have the potential to provide personalisation and search features beyond those typically available on set-top boxes.
The remote recording requests are sent to the set-top box over the air as part of the satellite signal. Sky says requests should be made at least 30 minutes before the start of the programme.
Sky has not yet set an official launch date for the remote record service, but it is understood to be imminent.
The ability to remotely set a recording has been promised by a number of operators as a benefit of converged communications services, and Sky is planning to provide this before others, such as the forthcoming BT Vision service, can promote it as a feature. It also offers a benefit over other digital video recorders that are sold retail rather than as part of a subscription package.
With around 1.5 million Sky+ boxes in the UK, representing nearly a fifth of Sky subscribers, and all Sky high-definition boxes will have a Sky+ recorder.