Sky television outlined plans for the future of its high definition digital offering next year today in Soho, London, the place where John Logie Baird broadcast the first television images 80 years ago.

In the company's first live demo via satellite Sky's Director of Customer Products and Services, Brian Sullivan outlined a number of features that consumers could expect from the new service when it eventually launches next year.

Althought the company failed to confirm a launch date or price, the company has confirmed that a national service will launch in the middle of next year and that on launch, six HD channels will be available from Sky with third-party offerings still to be confirmed.

In the initial package from Sky the company will offer one sports channel, two movie channels, a box office channel, Artsworld and an entertainment channel comparative to Sky One.

The sports channel will consist of HD content from Sky Sports 1-4 plus additional Standard Definition programmes where necessary to fill programming requirements. The movie channels however will be 100% HD quality footage.

To receive the new channels users will have to buy a new box and subscribe to the new service as well as owning a television with the HD ready logo. Sky has yet to set a price for the additional channels or box, however Sullivan said that the offering would be “affordable” compared to the current pricing structure.

With the new box, subscribers will automatically get the Sky+ features that allow you to live pause and record programmes directly to a hard drive.

Sky would not confirm the size of the hard drive to be included in the new box, although estimates from the industry suggest it will be larger than the current 160Gb offering.

In keeping with the increase in picture quality, Sky has also confirmed that the new box will feature Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound support. Customers will also get an ethernet port on the machine, which Sky says, will allow the device to be “Future Proof”.

Sullivan mooted that such an inclusion would allow them to consider future applications such as on-demand content via a broadband connection.

Similar to the current Sky+ system the new HD box will include four TV tuners - two Standard Definition and two High Definition ones so users will be able to record one channel and watch another. Unfortunately, it is not clear at present whether this will mean that you will be able to record four channels at once.

Sullivan also said that he expects a second wave of channels to be added after the first 12 to 18 months.