Sky has detailed its new Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and Pocket-lint was treated to a behind closed doors sneak peak at some of the features ahead of a bigger rollout expected in April.
Already being tested by hundreds of Sky employees, the new system will change the emphasis of how you access movies and TV shows on your television from a "linear" experience, whereby you watch what is on now, to one where you are presented the full capabilities of not only what is on, but your recorded content and on demand offering Sky has made available.
For the most part the design has stayed the same. There is still a strong emphasis on blue and yellow, as there is currently, and those that have become accustomed to the HD user interface that was released in 2012 will still feel very much at home. Although the options and offering has changed, it is not as radical a change as it was before, which is a good thing.
The biggest change in how you will use your television is the home page of the EPG when you press the TV Guide button on your remote is very different.
Users are presented with eight large boxes giving you eight viewing options instead of the TV Guide to scroll through. Some will no doubt complain that it is an extra button press, but it helps to highlight all the features now available to you rather than have them burried in the system somewhere. The Sky service has changed drastically over the last couple of years and this move reflects that.
Of the eight boxes, the first is access to the TV Guide which then takes you to the screen that you will be used to. The second it to your Planner, the third to Sky's growing collection of CatchUp TV services, including the BBC iPlayer, and the fourth is TV Box Sets. Then there is a new box that highlights New Series, a Best of on Demand, which we presume will work in a similar way to Showcase. Sky Movies On Demand also gets a mention, and finally Sky Store.
Already available to Sky customers in the current EPG, the new EPG will deliver a stronger focus on searching through the vast array of content available. Users will not only now be able to search via the title of the show or movie they want to watch, but also via actor, event, and other parameters.
So pleased is Sky of the power of the new search tool, it will take pride and place on the new Home screen allowing you to find content even quicker. The search tool searches across on demand, your planner, and live television.
Although already available on the current EPG, Sky is making Box Sets a big part of the new EPG focus. Going into the Box Sets page you'll be able to quickly see the hit series like Game Of Thrones or 24 and start watching straight away.
Like Netflix, the company is also planning on not just offering the last season that aired, but all seasons of the show to allow you to really catch up from the beginning.
Sky has said, however, that the box sets on offer will frequently change, but that you will get three months to watch them, rather than be expected to catch up over a long weekend.
The new series tab will highlight new shows that have just appeared on Sky, but from the end of the summer also also have a Suggestions feature.
The new feature will work off an algorithm and will recommend and suggest content to watch based on what you have saved to your planner in on your box. If you've got a lot of kids shows and movies expect the results to be tainted towards that. Thankfully it won't go off what you've watched, so that late night binge watching won't affect it.
In a demo of the new feature, Sky showed us that those who had watched Pitch Perfect would be recommended things like Definitely Maybe, while Mad Men fans would be recommended other big hitting US dramas like Game of Thrones and True Detective.
The suggestions feature will recommend shows or movies from all areas within Sky, including the Sky Store.
Sky has also said that it is not stopping when the new EPG comes out in April, and that it is already working on a number of other new features ahead of an even bigger planned update in a couple of years time.
In the short term however, Sky plans to add a new Series Link option that would go one step further than its current Series Link option. The idea is that you could tell Sky that you want to record all the show, not only in the current series. Any future episodes that air would then automatically be recorded regardless of when they are. It means that you would never have to worry about missing an episode of Sherlock ever again for example even though there is about a year break in-between.