The UK Pay TV market is dominated by Sky UK, formerly known as British Sky Broadcasting or BSkyB. In 2015 Sky had 11 million pay TV customers.
BSkyB was created in November 1990 by the equal merger of the two main UK Satellite TV operators at the time, Sky Television and British Satellite Broadcasting. It was an anlogue TV service, and transmitted from the Astra 1 group of satellites located at 19.2 east.
Sky Digital, BSkyB’s digital satellite service was launched on 1 October 1998. In October 2001, BSkyB closed its analogue service. Sky Digital offered a number of improvements over its analogue service, from improvement in picture and sound quality, an increase in the number of channels on offer and an interactive services. The increased number of channels required more satellite capacity, so the Astra 2 group of satellites located at 28.2 to 28.5 east were allocated for UK satellite TV.
Previous satellites used for Sky TV were Astra 2A, Astra 2B, Astra 2C, Astra 2D and Eurobird 28.
The majority of the Sky TV pay channels are on the European beam of the Astra 2E, Astra 2F and Astra 2G satellites. The European beam give very good reception across the majority of mainland Europe and Spain.
Sky TV offers pay TV channels, requiring a monthly subscription. Sky TV has three “bundles” of popular entertainment channels, as well as the additional Sky Sports and Sky Movies packages. Note that it is reported that Sky will be changing the structure of its bundles in early 2018
Freesat From Sky
Freesat From Sky offers all the main “free to air” UK TV channels, and also a handful of “free to view” channels.
Most of the free to air channels on Freesat From Sky are also available on Freesat. Free to air channels are channels that are available subscription and encryption free,meaning they do not require any form of viewing card to watch.
Free to View are channels that are available subscription free, but are encrypted. This means they require a “free to view” or a “Freesat From Sky” viewing card.
Equipment required for Satellite TV
To watch Sky TV pay channels, users required a Sky digibox, a Sky viewing card and a satellite dish with Low Noise Block LNB. The satellite dish collects the signals and reflects them to the LNB which collects the signals and sends then down the cable to the Sky digibox which then turns those signals into pictures and sounds.
Sky TV pay channels are broadcast with encryption, and can only be viewed by the use of a Sky subscription card. The amount of Sky TV pay channels that are “unblocked” will depend on the subscription charge you pay.
In the UK reception of UK TV channels via satellite is very easy.
The majority of the UK TV pay channels are on the European beam of the Astra 2E, Astra 2Fand Astra 2G satellites. The European beam give very good reception across the majority of mainland Spain. This means that the UK TV pay channels can be received in Europe and Spain on a satellite dish measuring a minimum of 80x85cm.
Some UK TV pay channels are on the “UK beam” or “UK Spot beam” of the Astra 2E, Astra 2F and Astra 2G satellites. This UK beam signal footprint is different to the previous UK TV satellites UK beam. This has meant that reception of channels on the new Astra 2 satellites will be different to previous reception.
In the areas between Valencia and Alicante, the UK TV pay channels on the new Astra 2 satellites UK beam can still be received on a small satellite dish – as small as a 110x120cm satellite dish, with a 125x135cm satellite dish being the recommended size satellite dish.
However, in other areas of Spain, reception of these UK TV pay channels on the new Astra 2 satellites UK beam has become harder. For example, in areas such as Barcelona, Catalonia and Zaragoza, you need at least a 1.8m satellite dish to receive these channels on the Astra 2F UK beam, whereas previously you only needed a smaller 80cm satellite dish. It is a similar story in the south of Spain, in areas like the Costa del Sol, Malaga, Almeria, Seville, Gibraltar and even Portugal, where even the larger 2.4m satellite dishes are struggling to receive these channels on the Astra 2 satellites UK beam.
The expected mission lifespan of the current UK TV satellites, Astra 2E, Astra 2F and Astra 2Gis approximately 12 to 15 years. So we can expect no further changes to reception of UK TV channels via satellite until around 2025.