Sky Italia will launch Sky Cinema 4K on January 28, with the new channel acting as a dedicated home in the TV Guide for the service’s 4K movie content. It’ll be exclusive to the 4K-ready Sky Q set-top box, and to customers who pay the premium for accessing ultra-high-definition movies.
120 films, including Ghostbusters, The Amazing Spider-Man and F9 (Fast and Furious 9), will be available to watch on the new channel, scheduled throughout the day.
This format differs from how Sky offers 4K content in the UK, where Sky Q customers instead access 4K movies through on-demand content pages in the Sky Q interface, and download them over a broadband connection.
It’s TechRadar’s understanding that Sky Cinema 4K in Italy will instead broadcast its shows over a satellite connection (in addition to offering on-demand downloads) in the same way Sky’s current 4K sports output works – we’ve contacted Sky for clarification on this point.
Analysis: Will Sky Cinema 4K come to the UK, and do we need it?
It would appear that Sky Italia has taken the decision to serve 4K content over satellite to get around the limitations posed by slower broadband speeds across the country. Looking at Italy’s median broadband speeds as recorded on the popular speedtest.net service measuring site, the download speed average for November 2021 was 34.53Mbps, making it rank 49 in the site’s global index.
By comparison, the United Kingdom scores a 47Mbps median average speed, putting it in 32nd place. Both are perfectly serviceable speeds for 4K streaming, but it’s worth noting that Sky Q doesn’t offer streaming, instead serving 4K films as downloads – and those with speeds significantly lower than the average might have quite a wait before their films download, making a satellite broadcast an instant 4K fix by comparison. (Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video do offer 4K streaming on Sky Q, but within their own distinct apps).
It’s interesting to note here that the recent launch of Sky Glass, Sky’s television set with Sky streaming content built in, is a completely dishless approach to serving up its channels. It instead relies on the viewer’s internet connection to deliver standard, high- and ultra-high-definition content to the user’s TV, and is indicative of Sky’s longer term plans in this regard.
Broadly speaking then, the UK’s broadband speeds are fast enough that, for many, a dedicated 4K satellite channel isn’t required, and an over-the-internet approach may even be more stable. But for those living in broadband slow-spots, a satellite option for 4K movies would likely be welcome. Likewise, for those moments when broadband access inevitably fails, having a satellite fallback would help to bolster the service’s reliability. It’s not a necessity therefore, but it would still be nice to have the channel as an option for UK viewers.
We’ve contacted Sky for comment on how and why Sky Italia is going down this route for its 4K cinema content, and we’ll update this article if we hear back from the company.