Sky Glass is making TV rental fashionable again

It’s more than 30 years since satellite dishes became part of the urban landscape. As more of us signed up to premium sports and movies, they became as ubiquitous as the UHF aerials of a generation earlier. But Sky’s latest initiative is going to make many of them redundant.

The all-in-one Sky Glass TV comes in small, medium and large sizes

It’s also taking us back to an age when we rented our TVs instead of buying them. It sounds like an anomaly, but Sky hopes it constitutes nothing less than a complete rewiring of the way we watch TV.

Its new service, Sky Glass, requires neither a dish nor a set-top box – just a new TV, which Sky will supply for a monthly fee. Your pictures come over the internet in ultra high-definition and your package can include Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ as well as the regular gamut of satellite channels.

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This is a considerable step-up from Sky’s existing online offering, Now TV, which offers a subset of programmes in medium-high definition at a rock bottom price.

Sky Glass, on the other hand, is expensive – from £13 a month for the smallest TV available, plus £26 for the Sky Ultimate TV package. And if you want to watch on more than one set, it’s an extra £50 per box plus another £10 on your monthly bill. On top of all that, the Sky Cinema bolt-on is an extra £11 and Sky Sports an extra £25 – which means you could be paying £90 a month for channels you already receive for a fraction of the price. On the other hand, you’re getting a new TV into the bargain.

At the heart of the system is a streaming device known as Puck, which is capable of turning any TV into a Sky Glass receiver. But Puck is not available separately in the UK, so what’s on offer here is all or nothing.

Your first choice will be the screen size. The Sky Glass TV is an anodized aluminium unit which comes in 43-inch, 55-inch and 65-inch options – Sky calls them small, medium and large, and each is progressively slightly more expensive – and can be mounted on a wall or placed on a table. The bezels come in blue, white, green, pink or black, and all the sets have Dolby Atmos 360 surround sound built in, which makes them a little chunkier than the average flat screen TV. You can control everything by remote control or by saying “Hello, Sky” to turn on the TV and call up specific channels or programmes from an extremely slick interface which collates content from all the available channels and catch-up services into a single stream. Over time it will learn your preferences and recommend content it thinks you will like.

And because this is an all-in-one unit, with neither an external set-top box, soundbar nor even satellite dish necessary, there’s just a single mains cable at the back. You will need extremely fast broadband to take advantage of the highest definition, though.

You can still plug in other accessories if you want to, and your Sky Glass should recognise automatically any games console you connect. Sky is also promising a smart camera accessory that will offer Zoom calls and compatibility with some fitness tracking and gaming apps, though the details are vague at present.

Does Sky Glass make more sense than a regular Sky contract? Obviously not if you already have a newish TV. But if you were planning to upgrade your main set, the new arrangement could save you the upfront cost. To put that in perspective, the cost of a Sky Glass TV when they become available to buy outright will be between £649 and £1,049, depending on the size. Paying by the month instead could make TV rental suddenly fashionable again.

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