Do your homework and changes to Sky’s EPG will be child’s play

Sky has revamped its channels menu to incorporate launches and category moves. But don’t get too comfortable with the new system – more changes are on the way

Another day, another television channel, another position on the Sky Electronic Programme Guide⦠The long-awaited reshuffle of the Sky EPG has finally taken place, forcing many channels into new categories and to change channel numbers. The revamp is obviously needed to help viewers cope with the explosion of new channels. But it will take time for some of the changes to settle down, and in the meantime there’s still no shortage of new channels forcing their way into the digital market.

Last week it was EAT Cinema, a new entertainment channel launched by Enteraction TV, backed by British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), the UK Film Council, 20th Century Fox and Buena Vista International (BVI). It’s intended to make people go out to watch their films – instead of on DVD or film channels – by making the cinema-going experience more enjoyable. It’s found on channel 199 on the Sky EPG and it’s being backed by a &£10m-equivalent media budget, including trailers in cinemas from this week and mentions in new movies newspaper and magazine ads.

This week it’s the long-awaited, twice-abandoned, now-revived ITV children’s channel, CITV, which will launch on Freeview and Homechoice at the weekend. In May it will take its place as the 22nd children’s channel, give or take, on the Sky EPG. It too will be heavily promoted, not least through mentions on ITV’s existing channels, including ITV1 where the CITV afternoon block of programming will be a useful launch pad.

Next week there are two more significant launches. Disney is launching a sports channel, ESPN Classic, showing great moments in sporting history; and Disney Cinemagic, which will become the premium Disney film channel. It will have the first TV showings of Disney’s latest animated films such as The Incredibles. Meanwhile the Disney children’s channels, such as Disney Channel and Playhouse Channel, move out of the premium tier into Sky’s basic package.

How do I know CITV will be the 22nd kids channel on Sky? Because, for the first time in many moons, Sky has published an easy-to-find list of its channels – a cut-out-and-keep guide in the March issue of its magazine, to help subscribers find their way round the revamped EPG. After months of planning, negotiations and wrangling with channel suppliers (some of which rumble on), Sky has altered the programme categories and some channel numbers.

Where once there were seven categories, all on one page, now there are 16, spilling on to a second page. Entertainment has spawned a second section, called Lifestyle and Culture, which takes in the travel, style, food, wine and arts channels. Movies, Sport and Kids remain as they are. But News and Documentaries have been split into separate groups, as have Music and Radio, and all the radio stations have new four-digit numbers.

You can also spot the growth categories. Shopping, Religion, International, Gaming and Dating, and Adult now all have sections of their own. And, according to Sky’s cut-out-and-keep guide, there are 425 TV channels (though it doesn’t list the names of 45 adult ones) and 88 radio stations.

Did I say earlier that CITV was the 22nd kids channel? Don’t quote me on that. The Kids line-up is still changing, which means Sky’s cut-out-and-keep guide is already out of date. This week, Cartoon Network+ closed, and its channel number 602 was taken by another, Turner kids channel Toonami, which has been replaced on 621 by a new channel, Boomerang+. And the teen channels Trouble and Trouble Reload, which are listed in the cut-out-and-keep guide as channel numbers 607 and 608, have now moved out of the Kids section altogether (leaving just 19 channels there for the time being).

Confused? Your kids won’t be, of course.

But why have Trouble and Trouble Reload moved category? Trouble director of programmes Jonathan Webb told the Sky Digi Online website that being in the Kids section has limited the programming the channel could broadcast and meant older teenagers were less likely to tune into the channel. “It’s always been a difficult thing for Trouble, because we target ten- to 20-year-olds. But show me a 14-year-old who actually watches anything on the Kids EPG. It’s a ghetto.”

So Trouble would rather be on page seven of the Entertainment section on Sky’s EPG, than on the front page of the Kids section. It will be fascinating to see how its ratings fare – and those of other channels that have moved – in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, treat that cut-out-and-keep guide as disposable. As well as the changes to the Kids section, the guide doesn’t include Eat Cinema, ESPN Classic, or Disney Cinemagic. But it does contain dozens of channels that most Sky viewers don’t know they’ve got, unless they’ve ventured deep into the nether regions of the EPG.

Torin Douglas is media correspondent on BBC News


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