Sacking off Sky TV

Or how the launch of the Sky Q made me reconsider my options and eventually cancel the near £1100 per year fees for a satellite service I don’t really need in exchange for the rather awesome Amazon Fire TV 4K.


Look everybody, Sky Q is here!

Doesn’t it look fantastic? I’ve been very excited about this launch for some time now and honestly thought I’d probably be one of the first people to sign up to it.

Thing is, when it all came out in the open and all the features, specs, and (crucially) pricing details were released, I realised that perhaps Sky Q wasn’t for me.

What’s more, there was a negative halo effect that made me reconsider the Sky TV package as a whole.

giphy (1)

Some background:

I’ve had a 4K TV now for just over two years now and, being one of the first off the shelf, some of the apps have never and never will be updated to deliver the 4K content that it desires (the good news is the quality / upscaling is so good you hardly need it but still). If I really wanted Netflix 4K for example, I’d have to drop another £350 on this stupid piece of kit and I didn’t really want to do that…

When I heard about Sky Q I thought: ‘Ah ha! This is just the ticket!’ – and so I waited, and waited, and waited.

In the interim a few things happened: I looked at the Nvidia Shield TV – a perfectly reasonable solution. You pay for the set top box, get all the 4K goodness  thrown in, and hey – it doubles up as a gaming rig too. All for $200USD (about £140).

I asked my friend Matt what he thought (this conversation has been going on for the best part of the time I’ve had the TV – the man has the patience of a saint) and he said ‘Sounds great but why not get an Amazon Fire TV? It’s pretty much the same but half the price’ – I checked, and Matt was right.

It was.


Well, not exactly half-price but at £79.99, it was a lot more palatable than £140. Which was nice.

‘But I really like having all the Sky Movies!’ – I said to myself.

And so I did nothing.

A few months later, Amazon had a special offer on Amazon Prime (free next day delivery + Amazon Prime video) for £59 per year. If you shop regularly at Amazon enough then saving on the delivery costs is worth that alone.

You have to do the sums yourself though.

It was around this time that Sky announced the full Sky Q feature set. Key point: 4K (aka UHD) content isn’t scheduled to appear until later in 2016 (damn) and the main focus of the whole thing is/was on multi-screen viewing (not interested).

Oh, and the price? £299 up front for the set top box and then an extra £50-odd a month.


It was at this point Amazon went and knocked the price of the Fire TV 4K down to £65.

You can guess what happened next:

And five days later, I gave Sky the 31 days notice it needs to cancel a TV subscription.


And all because of Sky Q.



  • My monthly package with Sky (movies, HD, 3D, family/variety packs – no sports) came to £90.65 a month. That’s £1087.80 per year. Ouch.
  • Amazon Prime was £59 for the first year (normal price £79), works out at £4.91 per month (normal price £6.58).
  • I’m not giving up Sky completely. I’m a Sky Fibre customer and as part of the cancellation process they sweetened the deal and I’ve now got monthly unlimited Internet for just over £20pcm.
  • Also, it turns out that if you cancel Sky TV, your box will still work as a Freeview box pulling in the standard free-to-air stuff you might find on other branded TV boxes – which is handy.
  • In total, I’ve dropped from paying £1087.80 per year to just over £300 per year (even with the initial outlay of the Fire TV box – that’s still a HUGE saving).


Thanks Sky Q!






On Chromecast

UPDATE: Chromecast is now on sale in the UK and at £30, it’s a steal.


– Original Review –

I bought a Chromecast.

Chromecast - Whatleydude

Image via The Verge

What’s a Chromecast?

It’s like a USB dongle but with an HDMI port on the end [instead of a USB bit] which plugs into your TV and you can broadcast stuff to it, from Chrome. Chromecast, geddit?

Anyway, I’ve been umming and ah-ing about getting one for a good while now. When they were first announced, back in July 2013, I thought it was ace but I couldn’t really put my finger on why I’d need one. A few months later, in November, when I visited the ‘Google House‘, I spotted it again. And again my interest was piqued. This time I came so very close to purchasing one, and a good friend of mine even offered to send me one from the States.

Shipping fees happened, life happened… stuff happened.

Long story short, fast forward to February and I ended up picking one up off ebay for the grand total of £32.49, and I still didn’t know why I needed one.


But I’ve already got a Smart TV!

If you read the feature list for Chromecast you can see that it supports a number of [mainly USA-based] media services. Out of those relevant to my market (the UK) you can see that it does Netflix. But I already have Netflix, on my PS4, my Xbox 360, and as an app built into my TV. Chromecast also does Youtube, but I have a YouTube app available to me in the same ways listed above. There is a third feature that’s available too, but this one’s the clincher: screen mirroring from Chrome.

With the installation of one simple Chrome extension, sharing your browser to the TV is again, one click away. Which means any video, not just YouTube or Netflix, any video can play on the big screen. Tonight, for example, I wanted to watch the amazing hour long interview with Bill Murray that had been doing the rounds. I really wanted to watch it on my TV, but it was on Hulu. For some reason, this normally-restricted-to-the-US piece of content was available to watch in my browser so I opened a new tab, casted to my TV, and carried on internetting.

Chromecast - Bill Murray

It really is a great interview, you should watch it.

Ever since getting my Chromecast I’ve used it pretty much every day. This isn’t about features and services, this is simply about ease of use/access. For the 2-screen generation, browsing the web and watching TV at the same time go hand in hand. When that awesome video appears in your stream limiting content to a small-to-tiny screen is rubbish.

If you want to watch it, nay, share it properly and it’s literally one click, and your content appears on the TV. Easy as.

Chromecast is awesome.


UPDATE: For those of you uncomfortable with importing a US version (in case of any future region locking), rumours are afoot that Chromcast will be formally launching in the UK early next month. The UK version is available NOW.


Letters of Note: GMTV Fan Mail

Many moons ago (just over ten years in fact), I got my first job in London working at Good Morning Television, aka – GMTV.

It was fairly awesome and, as part of my job was collecting the waiver forms from all the guests that appeared on the sofa, I got to meet some many lovely people. But those stories are for another day.

Recently, while sorting through some old boxes, I found this immensely amusing piece of ‘fan mail’ that I must’ve pocketed and filed at some point along the way. God knows why I kept it and God knows why I only found it this past weekend.

Anyway, here it is – for your amusement.

Letters of note

[click to embiggen]


The London Television Centre
Upper Way

13th November 2001

Dear Sirs

For the first time this morning I watched GMTV’s spoof comedy show with superb actress Lorrain Kelly. What a great show, you have captured perfectly the worst of television and put it all together in one entirely believable package. The dreadful sets, moronic competitions, garish coloured furniture, wobbly camera tracking, awful guests, and the ubiquitous ‘make-over‘ absolutety superb.

The sketch this morning with some dreadful woman in a supposedly expensive coat was as good as anything French & Saunders or Victoria Wood has done. The hesitation before walking out on the unstable ‘cat-walk’ had me roaring with laughter.

I am surprised we do not see more of Ms Kelly on television; she must be one of our best comedy actress’. I trust negotiations are ongoing to move this show to an evening prime time slot and I look out for it eagerly.

At a time when there has been so much bad news in the world this type of clever comedy was just what I needed, my congratulations to all involved.

Yours faithfully

JS Scott


For what it’s worth, Lorraine Kelly is a genuinely lovely person and, the few times that I appeared on the sofa with her*, she was always super nice to me. This letter is slightly mean, but fairly tongue in cheek.

So thank you, JS Scott – whomever you may be – on a day in November in 2001, you made me and my fellow colleagues laugh. A lot.


Perhaps it’ll even make it onto Letters of Note


*Yep. Really. And I’m never giving you the footage (my Mum has it recorded somewhere, I’m sure).



Current attempts at television-based social media integration are failing, hard.

How do we fix them?

To find the solution, we first need to fully understand the problem.

2screen / dual-screen / second-screen — all are different names for the kind of integration that I’m referring to and it’s something I’ve been kicking around in my head ever since I went to my first 2screen event back in October 2010.

It was a big deal then and it’s a bigger deal now.

With the increase of iPad penetration and the continuous growth of the smartphone market, the notion of 2screening is becoming more and more commonplace. In fact, a recent Neilsen survey found that 80% of tablet and 78% of smartphone owners used their device while watching TV at least once during a 30 day period.

In the app-world, services such as ZeeBox and Sky Sports for iPad are doing very good things indeed. Both integrating news, stats and social media streams into your second screen; providing a suitable data-based accompaniment to your visual consumption.

However, I want to talk about television-based social media integration (not app-based).
This kind of stuff –

That’s how Sky One’s ‘Got to Dance‘ handles it and many other broadcasters follow suit. BBC One is getting in on the act too, here using a Twitter wall backstage for the UK edition of ‘The Voice‘.


What do these examples all have in common?

Fundamentally, they are all bringing (or at least attempting to bring) the conversation from the second screen, to the first. Which, correct me if I’m wrong, kind of defeats the object of the second screen.

Whether it’s reading out tweets during the credits of Celebrity Juice on ITV2 or talking about Facebook wall posts inbetween programmes on BBC3, broadcasters seem to be obsessed with sharing (read ‘owning’) viewer social media.

Recognising that conversation takes place away from their platform(s), TV + social media work best together when television directs its audience to the conversation medium, as opposed to smashing them in the face with it via another.

Sorority Girls, an E4 TV show, flashes up their hashtag both at the start and at the end of their show as well as when going into ad breaks.

This is good! This is television saying –

‘Hey, perhaps some people are actually watching our shows when they’re on and, instead of going to the kettle during an ad break, they’re turning to Twitter!’

– and giving the audience a your hashtag at this point is a very good idea. You own it, you guide it, you track it.

Ignoring The Voice for a second, the BBC actually do this quite well, both with Question Time and Have I Got News For You, for example:

via Roo Reynolds

Little pointers like this give you, the viewer, the option of tracking (and joining) the back-channel. If you understand what it means, you join the conversation. Perfect.

I guess this is one big plea to broadcasters to just stop reading out tweets and Facebook updates on the telly. Seriously, it just doesn’t work.

Finally, and returning to the opening image of this post, the new trailer for Prometheus aired recently during the first break of Homeland. Channel 4’s own announcer was employed also, asking viewers to tweet their reactions using the hashtag #areyouseeingthis.

So far, so good. Right? Right.

Except that, 20mins later (during the next ad break), those very tweets were displayed onscreen for all to see.

via Digital Examples

Yes that’s actually a TV ad you’re seeing there, with (clearly moderated) tweets displaying instead of your usual commercial break. Mental.

Reports state that this activity reached a potential audience of 15m users. (Note: POTENTIAL audience. That’s the number of every tweet with the hashtag, multiplied by their sum of their followers – ie: not a real number). And while this kind of exercise is a great advert for Twitter, it leaves existing fans and users feeling a bit… empty.

In closing, encouraging viewers to join an online conversation is one thing, replaying that conversation to them 20mins later is just a pain in the oculars.






1. Jason Isaacs is one of the most under-rated actors of our generation

2. This trailer for new TV series ‘AWAKE‘ just dropped and it looks immense.

via the never-ending blog of awesome that is, Super Punch

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