When Sky Digital was launched in 1998 the new service used the Astra 2A satellite which was located at the 28.5°E orbital position, unlike the analogue service which was broadcast from 19.2°E. This was subsequently followed by more Astra satellites as well as Eutelsat's Eurobird 1 (now Eutelsat 28A) at 28.5°E), enabled the company to launch a new all-digital service, Sky, with the potential to carry hundreds of television and radio channels. The old position was shared with broadcasters from several European countries, while the new position at 28.5°E came to be used almost exclusively for channels that broadcast to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
New Astra satellites joined the position in 2000 and 2001, and the number of channels available to customers increased accordingly. This trend continued with the launch of Eurobird 1 (now Eutelsat 28A) in 2001. Additionally, some channels occasionally received new numbering — However, in early 2006, the majority of channels received new numbering, with some receiving single digit changes, whilst others received new numbers entirely.
Sky's standard definition broadcasts are in DVB-compliant MPEG-2, with the Sky Cinema and Sky Box Office channels including optional Dolby Digital soundtracks for recent films, although these are only accessible with a Sky+ box. Sky+ HD material is broadcast using MPEG-4 and most of the HD material uses the DVB-S2 standard. Interactive services and 7-day EPG use the proprietary OpenTV system, with set-top boxes including modems for a return path. Sky News, amongst other channels, provides a pseudo-video on demand interactive service by broadcasting looping video streams.
Sky utilises the VideoGuard pay-TV scrambling system owned by NDS, a Cisco Systems company. There are tight controls over use of VideoGuard decoders; they are not available as stand-alone DVB CAMs (conditional-access modules). Sky has design authority over all digital satellite receivers capable of receiving their service. The receivers, though designed and built by different manufacturers, must conform to the same user interface look-and-feel as all the others. This extends to the Personal video recorder (PVR) offering (branded Sky+).
Sky maintains an electronic programme guide (EPG) which provides information about upcoming programmes and a list of channels. Channels available on Sky are assigned a three digit logical channel number which can be entered on a remote control to access the channel and determines in what order channels are listed.
The EPG in Ireland gives priority to Irish channels. All channels are grouped into categories depending on their content. What section of the EPG a channel gets allocated is determined by rules set up by Sky Ireland.
Sky Ireland has no veto over the presence of channels on their EPG. Any channel which can get carriage on a suitable beam of a satellite at 28° East is entitled to access to Sky's EPG for a fee. Third-party channels which opt for encryption receive discounts ranging from reduced price to free EPG entries, free carriage on a Sky leased transponder, or actual payment for being carried. However, even in this case, Sky does not carry any control over the channel's content or carriage issues such as picture quality.
In October 2007, Sky's parent company Sky plc (then BSkyB) announced that they would not accept new applications to launch channel on their EPG, citing "very significant memory constraints" on many of its older digiboxes.
In June 2012, Sky Ireland launched a new EPG for Sky+ HD boxes. The update boasts a new modernised look and improved functionality.
See also: on TV Channels List
The Sky EPG lists all channels carried on the Sky platform. Many channels are free, others are available only with a subscription.
Channels on this list are owned by Sky and broadcast advertising specifically for the Irish market.
Some other channels available on the Sky platform also carry Irish advertising, such as the channels provided by Channel 4.
Sky subscribers in Ireland have a different choice of channels compared subscribers in the UK, Germany, Austria and Italy. The standard Irish channels RTÉ One, RTÉ One +1, RTÉ2, RTÉ2 +1, RTÉjr, RTÉ News, TG4, Virgin Media One, Virgin Media Two and Virgin Media Three are available to all Irish subscribers. These channels are described in some Sky publications as "bonus channels".
These channels are free-to-air channels but encrypted to avoid being shown outside of Ireland and Northern Ireland (where applicable). There channels are included with the Sky Signature package and are also available unencrypted on Saorview and Saorsat, excluding Virgin Media channels, which are only available on Saorview.
The BBC provide a number of their channels on the Irish version of Sky's EPG. BBC One Northern Ireland, BBC Two Northern Ireland, BBC Four, CBBC and Cbeebies along with their HD variants are available on the EPG. Other BBC channels including BBC News, BBC Parliament and the BBC regions can be tuned in manually to all Sky boxes.
Channel 4 provide all of their channels except 4Seven and 4Music on Sky Ireland's EPG, though these can be manually tuned in. 4Music is encrypted but can be viewed with an Irish Sky Viewing Card via manually tuning.
Welsh-language station S4C was carried by Sky Ireland for many years where its rugby union broadcasts were popular despite the language barrier; it was removed from the EPG in August 2018 due to rights issues.
In February 2013 BSkyB launched its broadband and telephone product in Ireland, and have made significant headway into the Irish market as one of the few providers offering 'triple play' (phone, broadband and digital TV) to the public. As Sky's broadband and phone services use the existing telephone network (LLU and non-LLU) and is widely available as a result. Sky Ireland has offered fibre broadband, using the network of former incumbent, eir, with speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s since 26 December 2014.
As of September 2019, Sky has a 13% market share of broadband subscriptions.