Standard definition BBC channels on satellite will close next year as part of an HD switchover across all BBC channels and regions.
Viewers with a Freesat HD or Sky HD, Sky+HD or Sky Q receiver will receive an automatic upgrade in 2023 when BBC One HD is fully regionalised and BBC Alba and Parliament go HD. But viewers with older Freesat SD and Sky digiboxes will begin to lose services.
The switch-off will be conducted in two stages:
- Early 2023: BBC One in standard definition on Sky and Freesat will no longer carry regional news. A reversal of the current situation in England. This will be done in conjunction with the launch of a fully regionalised BBC One HD in all areas. BBC Two SD in Northern Ireland and Wales will be replaced with the main network version already serving England and Scotland.
- By 31 March 2024: All BBC standard definition TV channels on Sky satellite and Freesat will close. Viewers using older SD only receivers will need to upgrade or lose access.
Public information campaign
The BBC is expected to launch a public information campaign in the coming days to make viewers aware of the imminent changes and how it will affect them.
A website containing further information for viewers will also go live.
RXTV reader Steve Cowie shared information slates that will begin appearing on Freesat boxes ahead of the HD switchover. Freesat users will soon be able to check channel 799 to see if they have a compatible receiver.
Freesat SD users will see a slate advising them to take action and upgrade.
But viewers with an HD receiver will see confirmation they need to take no action.
However, HD viewers will lose the SD duplicates of BBC channels in the coming months. On Sky, these are found past channel 800 on Sky+HD and Sky Q.
The BBC Annual Plan, published in March confirmed the BBC’s timescale for launching BBC One HD regions had slipped from end of 2022 to the first three months of 2023.
Wider closure of SD services coming
In addition to BBC SD services closing later in 2023, RXTV understands a number of other commercial broadcasters on satellite are preparing to call time on SD simulcasts via satellite. Sky is also due to discontinue remaining support for SD boxes, after testing the waters earlier this year by removing three SD Sky Cinema channels. SD-only Freesat boxes were discontinued in 2013, but some might still be in use. Some households received Freesat SD boxes as part of the digital switchover helpscheme.
ITV already started to reduce SD channels in 2021, when the number of ITV regions broadcast in standard definition on satellite were cut to four in England: Central West, Granada, London and Meridian SE. However, with most satellite viewers now using HD receivers with ITV1 HD on channel 103 instead of the SD version, the move was largely unnoticed by the public. ITV recently made HD versions of ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 available free-to-air in preparation for a further SD switch-off.
HD switchover on other platforms
HD switchover is already complete on Virgin Media O2. BBC SD channels were removed earlier this year after Virgin Media discontinued support for SD-only receivers, in favour of V6 and 360 boxes. Meanwhile, on Sky Glass/Sky Stream, Virgin Media Stream and BT TV Pro boxes (internet mode), viewers also only receive BBC HD channels by default. This includes a fully regionalised BBC One HD.
On Freeview, BBC One HD regions will be coming shortly, but SD channels will continue to be available.
BBC HD switchover status across UK television platforms
🟥 Not started 🟡 Partial 🔶️ Complete
Switchover is deemed to have started wherever the SD version of at least one channel has been replaced by the HD version, e.g. BBC Two SD with BBC Two HD on the second slot of your channel list. It may be only “partial” if the SD version continues elsewhere on the channel list. We’ve used a mix of shapes in addition to colour coding to assist those who are colourblind.
🟥 BT TV Aerial mode
🔶️ BT TV Pro internet mode
🟡 Sky Satellite
🔶️ Sky Glass/Stream
🟥 TalkTalk TV
🔶️Virgin Media cable
🔶️Virgin Media Stream
*A small number of Freeview Play devices that support CLM now support BBC SD substitution/HD-SD swaps on some channels in some parts of the UK. This functionality is on Freeview Play devices from 2020. As a result, it only affects a relatively small minority of Freeview users.
Status as of 20th November 2022.
Elements that make up the BBC HD switchover
The HD switchover consists of the following elements. But rollout varies according to platform and device:
- Availability of all BBC One regions in HD.
- HD channels moving to the primary channel slot, replacing SD. For example, BBC One HD replacing BBC One SD on the first slot on your channel list.
- The rollout of BBC Two Northern Ireland HD on Sky satellite and Freesat.
- The launch of BBC Alba and BBC Parliament in HD.
- HD quality streams of all BBC TV services and regional versions on the iPlayer.
by Iain Hatton.
Additional credits: Steve Cowie for the Freesat slates.
Updated 13:50 23/11/2023 following confirmation SD closure will conclude by March 2024