Now TV, the online video streaming service from Rupert Murdoch-backed BSkyB, has launched its own set-top box, positioning it as both a hardware and service provider in the competitive UK video-on-demand (VoD) market. Coming just hours after Google announced its budget Chromecast streaming dongle, the Now TV Box is essentially a rebranded Roku streamer that outputs HD content at 720p, but is available for a one-off payment of £9.99 (around $15). In comparison, Roku's streaming boxes start at £49.99 (around $77).
Sky has already invested £11.9 million in Roku
Sky's decision to launch a Roku box isn't surprising; the company has invested a total of £11.9 million in the streaming company, contributing £1.9 million earlier this year. Utilizing Roku's existing platform, which already includes a Now TV app, Sky will offer device owners access to BBC iPlayer, BBC News, and Sky News, as well as official apps from Facebook, Spotify, and other services via the Roku Channel store. Sky will not allow Now TV Box owners to stream video from rival streaming service Netflix (which doesn't currently offer its own set-top box). Sky's new streamer will compete with Apple TV in terms of hardware and the services it provides, but includes more features and additional media support compared to Google's new Chromecast device.
With its low price, Sky hopes to get the Now TV box into UK households so it can upsell its Sky Movies and Sky Sports services. While Sky Movies will cost £8.99 per month for three months (£15 thereafter), a Sky Sports Day Pass is considerably more expensive at £9.99 per day. Traditional digital packages deliver the same services for £22 and £16 per month, respectively, while an online-only pass including all Sky TV costs £40. Sky will continue to push its satellite services but it has shown it is ready to take on hardware providers and its video streaming rivals by leveraging its partnership with Roku to ensure its customers enjoy a branded experience. The Now TV Box is available from the Now TV website for £9.99.