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Sky HD Boxes Failing En Masse

Gordon Kelly


Sky HD Boxes Failing En Masse

Here's something Sky was trying to keep under wraps...

The broadcasting mega-corporate has very quietly begun contacting thousands of its customers to inform them their Sky HD digiboxes have a major design flaw which necessitates urgent replacement.

The problem affects Pace made Sky HD units (the outwardly identical Thomson, Samsung and Amstrad models are fine) and causes gradual damage to the device's hard drive which eventually results in complete failure. The scale of the problem is widespread with an insider revealing to me that staff were informed of a "high priority secret project" at the start of the week but not what it entailed until yesterday.

Since then entire teams have been moved off their usual duties to man the phones and discreetly inform customers and the whole replacement operation is expected to last more than three months. It is not clear whether Thomson, Samsung and Amstrad boxes will be installed instead or whether Pace has now fixed the problem.

As a titbit to subscribers - who will lose all their stored content when their boxes are replaced - Sky is handing out three months of free HD subscription, something that usually costs £10pm on top of a channel bundle.

Have you been on the end of a Sky 'secret' call yet? If you're a Sky HD subscriber there's a good chance you will...

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Update: Yes, this is the original story that has been picked up and run with (mostly uncredited) by the national papers and radio stations today - a mere four days later.

Sky has now posted an official notice for customers on its site (the way it should have done in the first place) - though of course we got the first (rather bitter) repost recorded in our comments section which you can see for posterity. You read it here first people!


Sky HD

Gavin Hamer

February 13, 2009, 10:57 pm

"causes gradual damage to the device's hard drive" - this bit is just not techie enough for me to be convinced. Surely it's just sending requests - write some data, read some data. Is it the model of hard drive used which is defective and failing early? Is it making the drive's head thrash more than other Sky HD boxes?

My Thomson Sky HD box has got problems over the last few days, but I think it's the noisy 750GB Seagate drive that I put in it not coping after 18 months of near-continuous use. I will be shoving it in my PC to check it out, and replacing it with a 1TB Samsung in the meantime.


February 13, 2009, 11:00 pm

Any way of telling if you've got a Pace?

Sky+HD Team

February 14, 2009, 12:11 am

This article is wrong in many ways.

To clarify, Pace told us about a manufacturing fault that can affect around 90,000 of the first Sky+HD boxes that it supplied. The fault was resolved in Pace&#8217s subsequent supplies of boxes.

To be 100% clear, it&#8217s nothing to with a faulty component; the problem relates to the way that some of the boxes were assembled. It doesn&#8217t raise a safety risk or prevent them from being used as normal until we exchange them, but in the longer term it could lead to the failure of the box.

We&#8217re not happy about customers having boxes that don&#8217t meet our quality standards. So we want to swap all of the boxes in this batch.

We started calling the affected customers earlier this week to fix an appointment for one of our engineers to come and install a free replacement box. Because of the number of boxes, it will take us about three months to contact everyone. The box can continue to be used as normal until we come to replace it.

Comments to Trusted Reviews are moderated before publication. Shame about the articles.

Andy Vandervell

February 14, 2009, 12:57 am

Thank you for your response. I'm sure our readers will appreciate the information on this, but I don't quite see how this makes the article "wrong in many ways". It's good to know that this is a manufacturing, rather than a design, defect but surely all you've proven is the that the substance of the story, that there are a large number of Sky HD boxes that are either failing, or likely to fail, is true?

As an aside, though, your response to the problem seems very swift, efficient and generous, so I'm sure customers won't be inconvenienced needlessly.


February 14, 2009, 3:46 am

Ref. Sky+HD Team comments.

TR don't be intimidated by Sky's response. Clearly it is no minor problem for them to take such a comprehensive costly action and in such a manner.

Good PR shame about the service - it is now 3 years I have refrained from subscribing to Skysports (for Cricket) via NTL and I don't miss it a bit.

I only wish the BBC stop subsidising/supporting (propping up) the commercial broadcasters (inclding the satellite Farsi TV service for President Ahmadinejad) with our Licence fee as if they don't make enough to pay huge sums to football teams et al. I want my Freeview BBC-HD service NOW, not in 2012.


February 14, 2009, 3:47 am

To quote Andy: I don't quite see how this makes the article "wrong in many ways".

Maybe because the Golioth Sky, PR dept., was unable to er, ''moderate'' the article or massage the words before you released the insider details. Either way its intersting that Sky has not publically announced an issue ( as far as I am aware) Which only stirs the roumour mill. In any case, what personal interest has TR in circulating incorrect infromation - none I suspect. What has Sky to loose - precious credibility.

Geoff Richards

February 14, 2009, 4:05 am

Incidentally "moderated before publication" means that a human looks over a comment to make sure it doesn't contain profanity, spam, inappropriate links etc. It does not equate to censorship, if that's what is being suggested here.


February 14, 2009, 5:03 am

@Sky+HD Team - the only shame here is in the nature of your response.

There is NOTHING incorrect in this article as far as I can see. There was no mention of 'a faulty component', I refer to a 'design flaw' which this is clearly is and it can lead to hard drive failure - which I mention.

Not only do I have this aspect right, I also have the remedy (box replacement) and length of time this will take to rectify spot on. Furthermore, you mention 90,000 boxes in a throwaway sense as if it is trivial but according to your own figures there are approximately 900,000 Sky HD subscribers in the UK (I'm sure a number of these have more than one digibox with your 'multi-room' option). This means a very minimum of 1 in 10 customers will be affected, a highly significant portion and we have no idea whether or not you are downplaying the problem - highly possible.

Lastly, we are doing the job you should have done yourselves: being open and honest and informing your customers. If you were to have done the same this wouldn't be a news story.

To conclude: the only 'wrong' has been committed by yourselves and the only 'shame' is what you should be feeling in trying to cover it up and attack us for your own communicative failings.

Here ends the lesson.


February 14, 2009, 5:32 am

That's telling them Gordon..... don't stop there..... 90,000 out of 900,000 Sky HD subscribers makes a very significant 10%!!!!!

I am no fan of NTL either but what choice do I have, Sky? I needed some routine info ref my montly bill and it took just over 3 months and finally a letter to the NTL CEO to sort it!!!

Presently I am getting cheesed off with their latest trick that seems to have been 'barrowed'/inspired by the utility companies. Take a look at their 'products' and see how your present package compares. For example, I found I can have 10MB BB+MedTv+Med Phone with free w'end calls for less than my cuurent package and which offeres less!!! Of course if you are able to change it is a new tie in even though you may have been a NTL customer for eons. I dumped my utility company and now I am working on NTL....Freesat here I come and my own HD Box.


February 14, 2009, 5:57 am

Not only that, but there's also no space between 'Trusted' and 'Reviews'. Get it right Sky!

Simon T

February 14, 2009, 6:09 am

Game, Set and Match - TR


February 14, 2009, 6:15 am

You know looking at this board reminds me of the corny ending of Spider-Man : "You mess with him, you mess with all of us", sort of thing.

I should add though, that the tone of the main body of Sky+HD Team's message is completely undermined by the less than formal register of the closing lines - "Comments to Trusted Reviews are moderated before publication. Shame about the articles." If they are who they say they are, then do they really talk to the public that way?

Tom Stanley

February 14, 2009, 12:56 pm

The article is incorrect. There isn't a 'major design flaw', there is a minor manufacturing flaw that in the long term could lead to the failure of the boxes. There is not an urgency as you describe to replace the boxes - and the box swap is optional.

The 'entire teams', as you describe, have not been removed from normal duties. There is a select number of employees which are contacting customers affected.

There are currently a limited number of Thomson boxes available for customers that request a component box, so the installed box will either be Amstrad, Pace or Samsung.

Thank you.


February 14, 2009, 1:24 pm

My Sky+ HD box failed a few days ago and they are due to visit tomorrow! There was no indication from Sky that this is a common problem, nor any offer of &#16330 off my subscriptions. They did make a particular effort over the phone to try to prove the HDMI cable was at fault long after it was clearly proved that the box was dead. I'd had a few flakey recordings recently, then I found the picture and sound garbled. I rebooted the box and it never came back. Just a dark blue screen. Then when it was really clear that it was very dead they asked if I wanted to go ahead with a call-out?!

I told them how dissappointed I was with Sky+ HD since upgrading in September, that the box had delivered some recordings without sound, some failed recordings and frequently needed rebooted to cure freezes. They literally just said "oh".

Mathew White

February 14, 2009, 4:25 pm

So, how can I find out myself if my box is likely to be affected?


February 14, 2009, 8:20 pm

@Tom - I have no idea how you see something that 'long term could lead to the failure of the boxes' as a 'minor manufacturing flaw'. You're arguing semantics, poorly. The article is correct.

Your attitude clearly marks you out as a Sky representative with an interest in protecting your employer. I'd suggest your time would be better spent working to improve the poor customer service experienced by Moche in the comment below.

@Matthew - I don't know if there is a way without opening up the digibox (which would invalidate your warranty) - but Sky keeps records of the manufacturer, so it is best to call and ask.


February 14, 2009, 8:33 pm

I dont know if its the same on the Sky HD boxes but on both the regular sky boxes we have had you can go into the menu system (in the services section i think) and theres a way of seeing the details of your box.


February 14, 2009, 9:19 pm

The manufacture is on the top of the box,at the back. Mines a Thomson :)

Steve 1

February 14, 2009, 10:06 pm

You can find the manufacturer of your box from the System Details screen on your Sky+HD box (Press services button then 4 then 5).

Mine says it's a Thomson so mine is hopefully OK.


February 14, 2009, 10:46 pm

"So, how can I find out myself if my box is likely to be affected?"

Lots of info on the serial numbers affected on DS

See Here ( long read but worth it )



February 14, 2009, 11:31 pm

In the end, a three word phrase is appropriate, reguardless of the issues at stake...

Widespread - Healthy - Competition!

Roll on Freesat HD or even other subscription - (many of us don't and will not have cable access.)


February 15, 2009, 3:33 am

Congrats on the scoop guys, love the spluttering coming from Sky - you'd have thought people from a media company would be smoother when talking to media wouldn't you? An apology to the affected customers might have been nice rather than an offhand 'well we're fixing it anyway' type comment.


February 15, 2009, 4:26 am

I am often amazed at the foolishness of people complaining about the Licence fee when you consider not only you get poor programming ( don't take my word for it see The Times review, "The best autumn TV" (2008) here http://entertainment.timeso..., - read the comments) but repeated over and over again with 10-15minutes of ads per hour too.

If that wasn't enough Sky buys up programmes popularised by rival channels like its latest acquisition, "A Town Called Eureka" (over the years being Sport events, Star Trek, Simpsons, Lost, Prison Break, etc). Sky and Virgin have the cheek to take a slice of the terresterial advertising by their Frieview channels - I must say Virgin's programming is better compared to Sky's!! Meanwhile they both charge the terresterial broadcastors for using their network. Isn't it time the BBC stopped broadcasting on these channels for a fee. If Sky and Virgin Media want to offer their viewers these channels they can offer them at their cost. After all we do have Freeview and Freesat now - money saved should be spent on HD-tv and that would really upset ol' uncle Rupert :-)!!!

Matthew Bunton

February 15, 2009, 10:03 am

I have enough problems with my standard Sky box constantly overheating and needing resetting. Avoided HD due to unreasonable costs imo, I pay &#16350 a month and am not willing to pay anymore.


February 15, 2009, 2:13 pm

The Sky Team seem to be missing the point. There is a quality issue which needs to be solved and communicated as effectively as possible. That should be their focus, not defensive and nitpicking criticism of a website that appears to be doing your job for them.

Cut your losses, but don't shoot the messenger (TR). Without the TR article, I would still be in the dark - thanks again TR!

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