British pay-TV provider Sky TV has recently launched their own, Apple TV competing set-top box. Under their Now TV brand, it offers a more a la carte subscription model to their premium sports and movie channels than a regular TV subscription. It's a fantastic idea, and the fact that Sky is subsidizing the box means it costs an astonishingly low £9.99. But, it isn't without compromise. So, instead of being a product that can take on and beat Apple's own box, it is in fact a perfect companion product. Here's why.
The box itself is essentially a stripped back Roku LT media streamer, so it's actually even more diminutive than the Apple TV. On the hardware front it's a lesser product with no ethernet port on the back and only 720p video streaming, but honestly that doesn't really put a downer on it to me. Because it's based on a Roku box, the Roku Channel Store survives intact, and that means more content. More regional content.
This harks back to something I wrote back before WWDC. One of the biggest desires I have is for regional channels on the Apple TV. Since then, we've received an update that brought Sky News along with it, among other channels, but it's still not quite what I had in mind.
By stark contrast, the Now TV box has exactly what I've been longing for the Apple TV to recieve; BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, BBC News. Local channels. Not just that, but Spotify and NHL Gamecenter, and a bunch of other more Internet focused content such as Revision 3 and TWiT. And it costs a tenth of the price of the Apple TV.
It also presents an intriguing business model. A pay-TV company is subsidizing the cost of a set-top box in order to encourage adoption, and pull in the revenue from subscriptions to their premium content. I agree wholeheartedly with the method. I just don't agree with the ridiculous price they want you to pay for said content.
Truth is, I actually picked this up purely based on its price. I'm still waiting for Apple TV to become the product that I, and no doubt countless others, long it to become. But for now, this £10 little white box can sit on top of the £100 little black box and the two can work hand-in-hand to give me just about all the content I desire. Neither is better than the other, because both offer something different.
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