Sky’s streaming TV box, which relies on broadband instead of a satellite dish to deliver content to your TV, is a game-changer in many ways for Sky – in part because, unlike Sky Q, it doesn’t have any local storage space for recordings.
Therefore, instead of recording content on the device itself, Sky Stream mostly uses the ‘Playlist’ feature to stream content from 3rd parties (and from Sky) directly to you, on-demand.
But in some cases, Sky Stream can also record up to 1,000 hours “to the cloud”, and then stream them back to you – but that only happens with a handful of channels.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because Sky Stream works just like Sky Glass, Sky’s streaming TV, with its playlist and cloud recordings – with both being quite different from Sky Q and traditional Freeview recording boxes.
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, some customers are still confused.
Having used Sky Stream and Sky Glas for more than a year – I’m here to explain things.
What Is Sky Stream?
Sky’s standalone 4K streaming box officially launched in October 2022 (See our in-depth Sky Stream review).
Unlike Sky Q and Sky’s older boxes in the UK, Sky Stream doesn’t use a satellite dish – instead, it relies on broadband, and streams all the content to the box, much like other streaming devices and streaming services (Amazon’s Fire TV, Roku, and streaming services like Netflix and Sky’s own NOW).
But unlike Sky Glass, where you have to buy and pay for a new TV – Sky Stream can be connected to any TV in your house (and you can get more than one, for different rooms).
How Does Recording Work On Sky Stream?
If you have a Freeview recorder (see 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 time.
Since Sky Stream (just like Sky Glass) is solely based on streaming – it doesn’t have a hard drive for storing recordings. Instead, everything is based on its “Playlist” feature.
The Playlist holds all the content you’re interested in. If you see a programme you want to watch (now or later) on one of the other menus, or while playing content, you can press “+” on your Sky Stream remote – and that programme will be added to your Playlist.
This year, Sky also added Profiles to Sky Glass and Sky Stream, or as they’re called here – ‘Personalised Playlists’ – so different members of your household can add programmes to different playlists.
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 up to 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.
Furthermore, I’d take the “12 months” promise with a grain of salt – if Sky loses the rights to a channel, or specific content, there’s certainly a chance the programme you recorded will disappear from your cloud recordings as well.
Also, it’s worth noting that “Recorded” to the cloud is also a bit of a confusing term in this instance – most of these programmes don’t actually get actively recorded when you press a button – they’re already in the cloud, and “Playlisting” them simply gives you a handy bookmark/shortcut for the streamed versions of those programmes.
But which programmes get “recorded” to the cloud? “Some” seems to be the best answer Sky can give. 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) – though again, “recorded” is a tricky term here. That content simply remains available for you to stream.
- Sporting events from Sky Sports and BT Sport (if you’re subscribed).
- Some Freeview terrestrial channels (a few exceptions are detailed below) – from those that are available on Sky Stream at the moment, and excluding the public broadcasters’ channels.
However, even on terrestrial channels, Sky says that “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 Stream’s Playlist, you will merely see a “shortcut” that takes you to that broadcaster’s dedicated app. These include:
- BBC iPlayer
- STV Player (in Scotland)
So let’s say you mark a BBC programme with the “+” on your Sky Stream: you will still see thumbnails of all the episodes of that programme on your playlist.
However, when you want to watch that programme – Stream 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 (via ITX), Channel 4, Channel 5 and STV Player. This also means you need to have an account on each of these broadcasters’ streaming apps.
Long-term availability is then dependent on that channel and the specific programme/film – many programmes on BBC iPlayer, for example, are only available for 12 months.
And some 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, Amazon’s Prime Video 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 on connected Freeview Play recorders.
3. Some content can only be watched live
Lastly, there’s some content you can only watch live – or, at best, “restart” if the show is still airing.
- 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”, according to Sky.
Bottom Line: What CAN I Record On Sky Stream?
Even after more than 18 months with Sky Glass and Sky Stream’s Playlist feature – I can say that it’s sometimes a game of trial-and-error when it comes to recording and adding content to the Playlist.
It’s pretty clear what you CAN’T record directly: content from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, STV, Music channels and some News channels (and, as always, the major streaming-only services).
As for the rest – you can record some 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 with 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 confusing.
If you’re not someone who records a lot from Freeview, all this won’t make much of a difference to you.
Another advantage of the Playlist is that if you have several Sky Stream devices (or Sky Glass in one room and Stream in others) – the Playlist synchronises across them, so you’ll have the same list of favourites and watchlist history across all your devices (but it doesn’t sync with the Sky Go app).
Note: This article was first published in October 2022 and has since been updated to include new information.
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