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Sky's ten-quid NOW TV box

You can add a bunch of on-demand stuff to your telly for just a tenner - and we think you should

By James Cridland
Posted 2 August 2013, 6.06pm edt
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It's an interesting time for people who want a little more from their television.

The Google Chromecast has just come out in the US for $35. It's a little HDMI dongle that your phone or tablet can tell to play YouTube clips and other things. But even $35 rather pales into insignificance with Sky's NOW TV box: a nifty little box delivered to your door for just £10, without anything more to pay. (And no, no need to be a Sky subscriber either).

Inside the box is a remote control, some batteries, a decent-quality HDMI cable, a power supply, some friendly instructions, and the little NOW TV box itself. It's smaller than a few CD cases stacked on top of one another, and bright white. Build quality is excellent - of this and the remote.

After a few tedious minutes connecting it to my wifi using an on-screen keyboard, it had downloaded its software, rebooted, and then insisted I sign in with a NOW TV account. A Sky ID isn't enough; because NOW TV want your credit card details, of course, if you want to buy anything. You can either spend £10 on a day's worth of live Sky Sports; or you can get a free month's trial for Sky Movies on-demand (but remember to cancel it).

You're then given the box itself. Pre-installed are:

  • NOW TV, offering you films and live sport
  • The BBC iPlayer, which looks identical to the version you'll find on most connected TVs
  • The ITV Player and Channel 5's on-demand player, which like any respectable person I've not used
  • "BBC iPlayer News", something I suspect ought to be branded "BBC News", and is an on-demand service with news clips
  • Sky News, an app that's rather more impressive than the BBC News app, including on-demand information and a live stream. What the point of a live stream is I'm unsure, given you've got this on a television, and Sky News is available on all platforms.

The BBC iPlayer app is as you'd expect - tons of good quality content, and looking as good as you'd want it to. Frankly, if you've not got iPlayer on your television yet, this is £10 well spent.

But, also installable are a set of other 'channels', or apps: and here's where this box's price tag looks even more like a gift - because there's a LOT of additional stuff to get.

Radio fans will enjoy TuneIn, which has an app on this box. It's not beautiful, but we got Australia's TripleJ up and running without much fuss. Spotify also appears in the app list (I'm not a paid-for subscriber); no Rdio, sadly, but who knows what the future might bring.

News junkies will like a few different news apps, including one from Fox News, which offers a large choice of on-demand content. There's also stuff from CNBC and the Wall Street Journal.

TED talks are there, too; watching one of the talks was smooth, in HD, and worked well. We had no rebuffering issues, and the app was snappy.

There's no Netflix or YouTube on here. As you'd probably expect, if Sky is footing the bill.

Watching Sky Sports on a day pass, the picture quality was near-HD, and it didn't buffer once. I quickly forgot I was watching over an internet connection.

So - a decent little box, with a ton of extra apps, at a price that's little more than that of the included HDMI cable? Why haven't you bought one?

  • You can buy a NOW TV box from Amazon.co.uk.
  • This article was edited in July 2014, for enhanced readability, to add the availability of the ITV Player, and to remove outdated information
James Cridland — James is the Managing Director of media.info, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. His website is at james.cridland.net, where you can subscribe to his weekly newsletter.
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