Sky Glass Recording Explained: Can It Replace Freeview Boxes?

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One of the major differences between Sky’s new streaming TV – Glass – and other Freeview recording devices (including Sky’s own Sky Q), is that Glass doesn’t have any built-in storage space for recordings.

Instead of recording content on the device itself, Sky Glass can supposedly record up to 1,000 hours “to the cloud”, and then stream them back to you on-demand.

However, even that’s not as simple, and some early adopters have already noticed that some programmes that they seemingly recorded, do not become available to watch after the live airing has ended.

With some programmes being recorded directly (to the cloud), some being presented as “bookmarks” to 3rd party streaming services, and some not being available on-demand at all, potential customers are rightly confused.

Last week, a senior Sky manager took to the official Sky community pages to finally offer a detailed explanation of how recordings (and the Playlist) work on Sky Glass – and we’re here to take a closer look at some of his answers.

What Is Sky Glass?

Sky’s new 4K TV set was announced last month. It features a QLED HDR screen, and a built-in soundbar with five speakers. 

Sky Glass

Unlike Sky’s other services (to date), Sky Glass doesn’t use a satellite dish – instead, it relies on broadband, and streams all the content to the TV, much like other streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV and Roku – or streaming services like Sky’s own NOW (see our Sky Glass VS Now comparison).

This means that Sky’s channels and on-demand content, as well as Freeview channels, will be streamed to your TV via the internet.

Curiously, Sky Glass doesn’t include the full list of Freeview channels one would get by connecting to an indoor aerial, and several Freeview channels are missing as of this writing.

And while Sky Glass does have an aerial port, officially it will only be used for “backup purposes” – so, for example, in cases where your internet is down (and you want to at least watch Freeview channels), or if you unsubscribe from Sky.

How Does Recording Work On Sky Glass?

If you have a Freeview recording box (see some of our recommendations), you can set it up to record any live programme that airs on Freeview (or Freesat, with the appropriate box), on the built-in hard drive. Once the recording is done, you can keep it and watch it again at any point.

Since Sky Glass is solely based on streaming – it doesn’t have a hard drive for storing recordings. Instead, everything is based around the new “Playlist” feature.

Sky Glass Playlist

The Playlist is where all the content you’re interested in is supposed to reside. If you see a programme you’re interested in on one of the other menus, or while playing content, you can press “+” on your remote – and that programme will be added to your Playlist.

At that point, every single episode of that series – past, present and future – will be added to your Playlist.

But what does that mean, exactly? One of three things will happen, depending on the arrangement Sky has with that channel:

1. Some programmes will be recorded to the cloud. 

Cloud recordings can be watched whenever you want after the original broadcast, and will be kept on the cloud for 12 months. 

Remember, though, that since these recordings reside on the cloud, and not on your own device – you’ll need broadband to stream and watch them.

Sky Glass Playlist with plus button

But WHICH programmes will be recorded to the cloud? “Some” seems to be Sky’s best answer at the moment. It includes:

  • Most (but not all) of Sky’s own content (from Sky’s in-house channels like Sky Atlantic, Sky Witness and the like)
  • Sporting events from Sky Sports (but NOT BT Sport – see below).
  • Most Freeview terrestrials channels (except for a few detailed below) – at least those that are available on Sky Glass at the moment. 

However, even on terrestrial channels, users have encountered programmes that were never recorded.

And indeed, according to Sky, “there may be specific programmes that are not recordable from these channels too.”

2. Some programmes will direct you to 3rd party apps

Content from some of the major broadcasters can’t be recorded directly.

Instead, when you add a programme from one of them to the Playlist, you will merely see a “shortcut” the takes you to that broadcaster’s dedicated app. These include:

  • BBC iPlayer
  • ITV Hub
  • All 4
  • STV Player (in Scotland)

 

Sky Glass apps with remote

So let’s say you mark a BBC programme with “+” on your Sky Glass: you will still get thumbnails of all the episodes of that programme on your playlist. 

However, when you want to watch that programme – Glass is going to open the BBC iPlayer app, and you’ll have to watch it on iPlayer.

And the same goes for content from ITV, All 4 and STV Player. This also means you need to have an account on each of these broadcasters’ streaming apps.

Long-term availability is then dependant on that channel and the specific programme/film – many programmes on BBC iPlayer, for example, are available for 12 months.

But others are removed after less than 30 days – so those will be removed from your Playlist as well (unlike a “real” recording, where you could keep the programme indefinitely, at least in theory).

This “shortcut” method is also true for the big streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and the others, where you will be sent to the respective streamer’s app – but that has always been the case, even on Sky Q and Freeview recorders.

3. Some content can only be watched live

And finally, there’s some content you can only watch live – or, at best, “restart” while the show is still airing.

This includes:

  • BT Sport: You can add programmes from BT Sport to the Playlist, but live sports cannot be played back after the broadcast has finished. You will be able to restart them or watch live while they’re broadcasting. (You can, however, record from Sky Sports).
  • Music Channels: You can add programmes from music channels to your Playlist, but you can only restart them, or watch live during the broadcast.
  • News Programmes: This depends on the channel. Sky News, Sky Sports News and CNBC News can all be recorded. But “The key terrestrial news programmes are made available for up to 24 hours after the broadcast.”

Bottom Line: What CAN I Record On Sky Glass?

While these explanations from Sky do make some things clearer, a lot of it is still a game of “Try to record and find out”.

It’s pretty clear what you CAN’T record directly: content from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, STV, BT Sport, Music channels and some News channels (and, as always, the major streaming-only services).

As for the rest… you can record much of the content to the cloud, but not all. Will there be cases when you set something to record, on a “supported” channel, only to find out that a specific programme was NOT recorded? Yes.

While the aim of this is to simplify things for users in one “Playlist”, being unable to know exactly what you can and can’t record, and being sent to either a cloud recording or a 3rd party app – can get real confusing for customers.

Sky Glass pink - home

If you’re not one who records a lot from Freeview, all this won’t make much of a difference to you. Plus, it’s worth keeping in mind that Sky Glass is brand new, with features and fixes being added weekly.

However, at its current state – it’s clear Sky Glass is not a full replacement for a Freeview recorder or even Sky Q’s recording capabilities.

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