ITV viewers in several regions of the UK will finally be able to watch their regional news and programmes in HD soon – but that also means some will have to upgrade their Freesat and Sky boxes.
ITV is rounding off its extensive shift to an all-HD broadcast model on satellite for ITV1, aiming to unify the viewing experience across all regions of the UK.
Following the steps of the BBC, which is in the midst of transitioning to HD-only on Freesat and Sky platforms, ITV is now extending this upgrade to the last few regions, specifically Channel, Border Scotland, UTV, and Wales.
While the UK-wide ITV1 channel was already available in HD, the regional programming in some areas (local news in particular) was not yet available in HD – therefore SD feeds were kept alive.
But that is set to change in the coming months, and until January 2024.
This transition is a satellite-only affair, leaving Freeview untouched but bringing a noteworthy change for Freesat and Sky users.
Particularly, those with older, SD-only set-top boxes (typically from 10 years ago or more) will need to upgrade their equipment to continue enjoying ITV1’s regional programming in the affected regions.
According to ITV, 98% of digital satellite homes across Sky and Freesat are already receiving HD channels, and won’t have to change their equipment.
Wales, for instance, has been enjoying ITV Cymru programmes in HD for the past eight years.
However, the full spectrum of ITV’s content including news and other programmes will only be available in HD from next January.
This means that households in Wales, the Channel Islands, and the other affected areas with SD-only satellite set-top boxes will need to upgrade to High Definition (HD) boxes to continue accessing the regional content tailored for those viewers.
For the time being, affected users will be able to continue watching the rest of ITV1’s programming in SD – but will lose access to the regional programming (which will be in HD-only).
It’s safe to assume that in the future – the satellite SD channels will be shut down completely, in a similar fashion to what the BBC is currently doing.
The transition to HD, which aligns with the broader industry’s move towards superior picture quality, necessitates action from a small subset of viewers still operating on outdated, SD-only equipment.
Another option is of course to watch ITV via broadband, on ITVX, either on-demand or live.
However, some devices (particularly Freeview Play TVs) don’t support live channels on ITVX.
Furthermore, ITVX doesn’t currently stream regional news (other than the London version). Another option is therefore to go to www.itv.com/news, where you can watch your region’s full 30-minute programme.
They’re generally available for 24 hours after the first transmission.
Are You Affected By The ITV SD Shutdown?
The transition to HD broadcasting on satellite platforms specifically impacts a small subset of viewers with SD-only set-top boxes.
As ITV completes its HD upgrade, those in Channel, Border Scotland, UTV, and Wales regions are the focus. The steps to determine if you’re affected are straightforward:
Freesat Users: Navigate to Channel 799 on your Freesat box. This is an HD test channel provided by the BBC – but it’s also relevant for affected ITV users.
This channel provides a tool that indicates whether your box is HD-compatible or not. If your box is incompatible, a message will be displayed, guiding you on the necessary steps to transition to HD.
Sky Users: Sky suggests two methods to check your box’s compatibility:
Select Channel 105 on your remote. If Channel 5 HD is displayed, your box is HD-compatible. If Channel 5 is displayed in SD, you’ll need to upgrade your box (Channel 5 is not related to the upcoming changes – but it’s simply an easy channel to use for testing).
Alternatively, press Services on your Sky remote, then press 4, followed by 5 to check your box’s version number. Cross-reference this number with the list of affected boxes provided by Sky.
The affected Sky boxes are:
- 4F01 to 4F06 (Amstrad)
- 4E01 to 4E05 (Grundig)
- 9F01 to 9F08 and 9F0A (Pace)
- 0F01 to 0F05 (Panasonic)
- 4E06 to 4E08 (Thomson)
- 4F2001 to 4F2006 (Amstrad)
- 4F2101 to 4F2118 and 9F2101 to 9F2137 (Amstrad or Pace)
- 9F2001 to 9F2024, PVR2, 9F2201 to 9F2235, 9F2301 to 9F2339 (Pace)
- 4E2101 to 4E2141 (Thomson)
Upgrading Your Freesat / Sky Box
If you find that your set-top box is SD-only, you’ll need to upgrade to continue enjoying ITV1’s regional content.
Contact Your Provider: Both Sky and Freesat have helplines to assist you with the upgrade process.
For Sky, you can visit Sky’s Help Page or call 0333-7591018. Freesat users can dial 0345-3130051 for guidance.
Upgrade Your Box:
Sky Users: Sky is offering a hassle-free upgrade to Sky Q at no extra cost, ensuring a seamless transition to HD.
This upgrade doesn’t change your Sky TV package or pricing, which is a relief for viewers wary of additional costs.
Once you sign up, a Sky engineer will install the new Sky Q box at your convenience, enabling you to access all ITV (and BBC) channels in HD.
Freesat Users: Consider upgrading to one of the newer 4K Freesat boxes which also come with streaming apps like BBC iPlayer and ITVX.
Alternatively, the Manhattan SX box is a more budget-friendly option, although it lacks recording capabilities and streaming apps. It’s priced at around £69.
Freesat Financial Support: With the BBC’s HD transition happening at roughly the same time, there’s support available for vulnerable viewers.
Those aged over 75 and/or those in receipt of certain benefits can access a support scheme offering a £40 voucher towards a new Freesat box.
Some viewers, subject to a financial hardship test, may be eligible for a voucher covering the full cost of a replacement box, specifically the Manhattan SX device.
There’s also the provision of a Home Visit for vulnerable viewers who need assistance with the box installation inside their homes.
Check your eligibility through the HD Satellite Upgrade website.
These steps aim to ensure that viewers in the aforementioned regions can make a smooth transition to HD, aligning with the rest of the country in enjoying superior picture quality on ITV1.