Is Sky Q being phased out and will satellite TV be a thing of the past?

Dan Howdle | November 16th, 2023

Sky Q Box

Are we seeing the final days of satellite TV?

Sky has been delivering satellite TV to homes around the UK since the late 1980s. Over more than 30 years that technology has certainly evolved to offer more channels at increasingly high visual quality, while Sky itself has come a long way as both a producer and purveyor of exclusive content. But is it all about to come to an end?

The problem with satellite TV

We're sure we don't need to be the ones to tell you that launching rockets into space is expensive. Likewise, providing reception equipment – a satellite dish, a set-top box, decoding cards and often quite intricate internal cabling – to every home that wants to receive it is far from cost-effective.

This is why, primarily, satellite TV has always been relatively expensive for customers – a fact that's now, recently, become far more visible thanks to the arrival of Sky Stream. Just take a look at how the pricing and features of Sky Q (Sky's satellite service) compare to Sky Stream:

Sky Q (satellite) Sky Stream (also Sky Glass)
Device Sky Q Sky Stream Puck
Channels 200+ 150+*
4K HDR Yes Yes
Dolby Atmos Yes Yes
Sky Box Sets Yes Yes
Record Live TV Yes No
Delivery via Satellite dish Broadband
Contract length 18 months 31 days, 18 months, 48 months (Sky Glass)
Requires Sky Broadband No No

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Sky Stream is taking over

How does a provider phase out a service it's been offering for over three decades without coming out and saying so? Without that making headline news? The answer is: Gradually. And that's what Sky is doing. Rather than abruptly withdrawing its satellite service, the move to becoming a streaming-only TV provider has begun in the deals it chooses to promote.

Sky Q is no longer being promoted

Up until mid-2022, a visit to the pages on Sky's website that promote its TV packages would yield a mix of Sky Q satellite deals and the new kid on the block: Sky Stream. That's just not the case anymore. In fact the only Sky Q deals available at all – and never put front and centre – are so-called 'Sky Q Lite' bundles. Sky Q Lite is a cut-down version of its previous Sky Q satellite service. You can still add on everything you need to make it a powerhouse TV package, but the fact Sky is no longer offering multiple varieties of Sky Q with different focuses (entertainment, movies, sport and so on) is telling of a broad winding down.

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When will Sky's satellite service come to an end?

Sky has made no formal announcement either of its intent to end its satellite TV offering or indeed what sort of timescale such a move might occupy. However, we've been writing about broadband and TV technologies for two decades now, which means we can have a better-educated guess than most.

Here's how we see the likely order of events, along with a suggested timeline. This is based on what Sky has been doing, what it is currently doing, an extrapolating its future moves based upon our own experience:

Phase Estimated Date (Year) Sky Q Satellite Service Sky Stream Replacement
1 18 October 2022 Service Operational Sky Stream launches
2 2022-2023 Continued Sky Q service The two services are run and promoted side-by-side
3 2023 Reduction of Sky Q promotions Sky Q is available, but no longer promoted
4 Late 2024 Announcement of Sky Q phase-out Accompanied by expansion of channels and features on Sky Stream
5 Early 2025 Sky Q unavailable to new customers Migration offer for Sky Q users to switch to Sky Stream
6 Late 2025/Early 2026 End of Sky Q service Full transition to Sky Stream

It will be interesting to look back at this blog in a few years' time to see how close we got to the correct timeline. And hopefully this amply demonstrates why it's no longer a good idea to get a Sky TV subscription in the form of Sky Q. It simply doesn't have a future and you'll, in essence, be signing up to some degree of aggravation down the line.

Recording live TV remains a sticking point

So why would anyone want Sky Q here at the end of 2023 when clearly it's on its way out? There's one reason: The Sky Q box offers users the ability to record live TV and store it. This is something that Sky Stream cannot do, and it seems likely won't ever be able to do. Sky Stream instead offers most (but not all) TV shows it broadcasts available to watch on catch-up for a limited time. And you can earmark shows, matches, films, whatever is shown, to watch later from your personal playlist.

But it's not stored forever. Maybe you want to record an entire season of Aston Villa football matches? You can do that on Sky Q, but with Sky Stream, at some point (usually a month) that content is going to disappear never to be seen again. And that's an issue for some customers.

As Sky transitions from Sky Q to Sky Stream, this is an issue it is going to have to solve. There are two ways Sky could do that:

  • Add storage to the next Sky Stream Puck: We see this as the least likely option. Yes, storage is getting cheaper, with 1TB SSDs available from retailers for as little as £40 and only getting cheaper. Sky could go this way, but we expect Sky would see local storage as a step back and would therefore opt for a more robust, long-term solution
  • Provide a storage device as an additional subscription option: A possibility. Either through an updated device or a separate one, Sky could offer a recording 'Add-on', give it a funky name like 'Sky Forever' and make money on the additional monthly subscription fee
  • Store every show screened permanently: It's unlikely Sky will ever be able to do this in a blanket way. Sky does not own much of the content it broadcasts, and so the cost of storing everything it screens permanently for access anytime would be astronomically expensive
  • Store what it can: We believe this to be the most likely scenario. Sky will store what it can for as long as it comfortably can, and hope it's enough for those who may miss the ability to record and store whatever they like
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Should you switch to Sky Stream if you already have Sky Q?

This is a question many are asking. Should you switch now to Sky Stream if you're already set-up and comfy with a Sky Q Sky TV subscription? Well, right now there's no need. You'd be giving up the ability to record and store live TV. However, Sky Stream is considerably cheaper than Sky Q at the time of writing, and we don't see that changing any time soon. Also, who really wants a satellite dish on the side of their house? Both are good reasons to make the switch before being forced to further down the line.

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So when should you switch?

If you're already a Sky Q customer, you should switch either when Sky begins making noises about closure of its satellite service, or when Sky Stream becomes the superior product. But switching now will save you money. Potentially a lot of money if as we predict Sky won't force you to switch across for a good few years yet.

So, is Sky Q being phased out or not?

Yes. Yes it is. But it's going to be gradual, with Sky likely not fully switching off it's satellite TV service before 2026.

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See also
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