New Now TV Smart Box Hints at Sky Future – UPDATED

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Update: The Now TV Smart Box is now available to all new and existing Now TV customers at a cost of £30. However, if you choose to take an internet and TV bundle from Now TV, you receive the Smart Box at no extra charge. To upgrade, simply call the Sky customer service number and ask them about the Now TV Smart Box.

Whilst Sky might be busy promoting their upcoming Sky Q TV service ahead of its February 9th launch date, they’re also taken the time to announce a new member of their Now TV family –  the Now TV Smart Box. It’s nowhere near as attention grabbing as the new Sky Q service is, and the decision to launch it just five months after it launched its second-generation Now TV unit isn’t their best, but it might just change the game for Sky. Why? Let us explain.

Since their launch, Sky have always positioned themselves as a high end TV broadcaster. Early access to the company’s services was expensive and since the launch of Sky+, customers have been paying significant amounts of money to get access to things like recording and live-pause. At the same time, terrestrial TV has undergone a dramatic change.

From just five channels on analogue airwaves, the service has exploded since the move to digital only, with Freeview gaining huge portions of market share. Indeed, over that period, Freeview has gained the same sort of capabilities that Sky+ has, adding HD programming, easy recording and much, much more. Needless to say, it became a simple choice for the thrifty TV fan, and quickly pushed Sky even further towards the high end.

Things improved for Sky with the launch of Now TV, which gave consumers the opportunity to watch exclusive Sky programming like Sky Atlantic without getting tied down to long term contracts. With it, they launched software on almost every major platform and even created low cost box with Roku which gave customers an easy way to watch that streamed content on their main TVs. The issue, always, was that moving from Freeview TV to Now TV was a clumsy experience that required switching inputs, making it far from a compelling experience to those who aren’t tech savvy.

That’s all due to change with the introduction of the Now TV Smart Box, because Sky claim it’ll blend Freeview and Now TV together seamlessly, bringing together a “wide range of pay TV content and over 60 live free-to-air channels.” That’s a big thing for Sky, effectively turning this box into a low cost, Internet based version of their Sky+ service. For the first time, they’ll have a compelling cheap offer for people who don’t have an interest or the capability to sign up for a long, expensive contract with Sky.

It’s also a huge shot across the bow of YouView, which offered some premium content, catch up TV and DVR functionality in one box. By offering their own premium content and Freeview side by side, Sky are setting themselves up to crush the young upstarts in the area, including the increased competition from BT TV.

It’s also conceivable that such a low-cost TV service could be bundled in with Sky’s broadband for free, driving huge numbers of customers to Sky’s broadband services.

Perhaps most of all though, it signals Sky’s desire not just to attract wealthy customers, but to have a presence in every area of the market. With Now TV operating at the low end and introducing customers to Sky programming, it moves Sky+ into the middle tier whilst the new Sky Q moves into the high end. It’s a compelling strategy for the company, and one which will doubtlessly prove fruitful for the company and drive customers to the Sky customer service number.

Eager customers will have to wait until “later this year” to get their hands on the Now TV Smart Box, but Sky are intending to placate users with a new UI for their existing streaming box in the coming month. The update, Sky say, will offer better recommendations on what to watch across Sky’s content as well as third party catch-up applications.

Gidon Katz, Director of NOW TV said: “The launch of our new homepage on the NOW TV Box will make it easier than ever for our customers to quickly find and watch their favourite shows. And when the new NOW TV Smart Box arrives later this year, it will be the perfect one-stop box to get a contract-free, flexible way of watching the best of pay TV and free-to-air content all in one place.”

All in all, Sky’s 2016 is shaping up to be a very interesting one indeed. They’re gunning for a broader market than ever, and with James Murdoch returning to the board as Sky’s chairman, you can guarantee they’ll be taking an aggressive line against their competitors.

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