Over the past week or so, we’ve been noticing that the drive in our Sky+ box has been running rather a lot whilst in standby mode. In general we do ensure that we keep the box switched to standby whenever we’re not actively watching as whenever it is on, the hard drive is running recording whatever is on the currently active channel in order to support the live pause feature. As such it is a total waste of energy, and to be honest I don’t think it does the hard drive much good having it running at full tilt all the time anyway – at least whilst it’s off the whole box can cool down.
Whilst it is normal for the drive in the box to occasionally spin up for a few minutes, for long periods over the past few days it has been running continually, despite there being nothing to set up and record. Yesterday we discovered why, with the appearance of a new option on the menu, Anytime TV.
Sky Anytime is the response of BSkyB to the rise of Video on Demand services such as the Virgin Media service, and BT Vision. The service has three elements a PC only internet service, a 3G mobile phone service, and the final element which rolled out onto SkyHD boxes and some Sky+ boxes.
Whilst the PC and 3G service are Video on Demand, the Sky+ version is push Video on Demand, which is really just smoke and mirrors. All it is doing is recording a Sky defined list of programmes during the periods when the Sky+ box is not recording your choice of programmes. You have absolutely no control over what programmes are recorded, as they are defined by an editor at Sky. Looking at the selection of programmes that it presented us with initially, there was a movie off one of the movie channels for which we would have to pay a subscription upgrade to see, and the episode of Lost that we recorded last week anyway. The rest of the 35 or so hours that it had downloaded were programmes we weren’t interested in, so essentially it had wasted about thirty-five hours of time and money downloading stuff we weren’t interested in watching.
There are some advantages though, they will apparently pre-download some popular programmes such as Lost in advance, which would be useful for situations such as Sunday nights when even with the ability of the box to record two channels at once we have been running into problems on occasions with clashes, however since there is no way to select only those shows we’re interested in from the other stuff it is a total waste of time. It would be much better if the service gave us a list in advance of what was available, allowing us to choose only to download what we wanted that would be great. Even if it didn’t bother to download things from channels we weren’t subscribed to that would be an improvement, but neither of those options are available.
Anyway, flipping through the menus I found the setting I was looking for, under Anytime TV settings, the option to turn it off. Not surprisingly the menu option remains, and comes up with a message about how the service is off when you select it, but at least BSkyB isn’t running up my electricity bill downloading stuff we’re not going to watch any more…
There is one final irony though. At the same time, in response to comments in the media about the power consumption of Sky+ boxes left on overnight introduced an automatic standby mode – check out the positive comments from Greenpeace and the Energy Saving Trust in the press release. The point to bear in mind is that at the same time they are rolling out Sky Anytime that is intended to download at least part of the content overnight – running the boxes that they are claiming will be put into automatic standby…