Sky launch £9.99 Now TV and catch-up box

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Based on the Roku device, Sky have launched a new £9.99 Now TV and catch-up TV box:
http://www.engadget.com/2013/07/26/sk...

It can't record like YouView, but at that price point, I can imagine it would be attractive.

Josh

Josh

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Posted 9 months ago

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DM

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Initially this had me thinking "Ooooh" ...but on closer inspection it seems it's a cut-down take on the Roku LT rather than the current Roku 2 XS (or even the Roku 3 over in the US), notably with fewer channels - as the articles states, no Netflix, Lovefilm, 4OD or ITV as with the full Roku selection.

LTs can be picked up below £35 so although that tenner price tag is tempting, it's not as knockout amazeballs as it may appear.

Still, given the branding & marketing power of Sky I can see this picking up speed ...Sky are a bit like Apple in this respect, in that they'll take something that's already available and market it to the masses as if they've just invented the wheel (Cue Jonathon Ross & his catch-up TV ads, as if this is a whole new thing invented by Sky).

Shame they've not gone to market with a full-on branded Roku 3 unit, with full app store line-up on board - that really would be something different as the first big name TV ecosystem to add in the likes of Netflix & Lovefilm will really have the chance to steer along with the inevitable shift towards IP-delivered content.

- This is why I'm really hoping that first platform to do so is YouView!

sam

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I'm guessing the idea with this Sky-Roku thingy is to offer Now TV instead of Netflix. ICBW.

DM

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Indeed ...but people like the access to nearly new TV series that Netflix offers, as well as its access to not-so-shiny but less costly movies.

If Sky want NowTV to be a viable "instead of" they need to be offering the same kind of content or people will continue to seek it elsewhere.

sam

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I don't like Now TV myself. Just suspeculating on Sky's intentions.

DM

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Something along the lines of conquering the world in spite of their shortcomings, I'd imagine ...quite how so many millions continue to buy into their fair-weather-only TV with adverts-we-charge-you-a-fortune-to-sit-through is beyond me(!)

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Me too. This is a bit "Emperor's New Clothes" to me and doesn't look at all appealing. Disagree with you likening Apple to Sky, though. Apple produces good, innovative products which are worthwhile having. Unlike Sky. :)

However, I digress...

Alan Smith

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Now TV and Sky Sports on a £9.99 box looks a better deal than YouView and BT without Sky Sports and we don't have to change to BT infinity

MisterMints

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But it's £9.99 PER DAY for Sky Sports on NowTV. Not a good deal at all!!

Alan Smith

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It is if you don't like football or cricket

sam

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Tech Radar has a very brief hands-on at http://www.techradar.com/reviews/audi...

It does have the Roku channel store, says TR. Might be worth checking it out. If Sky bites the bullet and adds channels such as Sky Atlantic / Sky Arts, it would earn its perch behind the TV. But I'm not so sure its worth another power brick.

DM

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Though TR also go on to say:

"It should be pointed out that Sky is restricting some competing services from the library - and that means you can't use this as a sneaky Netflix of Lovefilm box. Curses."

Another limitation of Roku's LT box is its HD capability, 720p only (as opposed full 1080p from the Roku 2 X onwards), so if this is a straight clone that's something to be wary of.

Likewise with the LT as oppsed later Roku models, this NowTV box is wireless *only* ...no option for wired ethernet for those who'd prefer a more stable connection.

I see why Sky would engineer out what they'll see as competing providers (though they cannot offer the same content themselves), but I don't understand it

- They need to move on and realise the future is about access to content, not whose box people have. Either license & provide that content themselves, or play with the people who do ...consumers will source it regardless so there's nothing to gain by Sky excluding the likes of Netflix from a box that already had those apps in place.

MisterMints

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Is there a thriving Roku hacking community out there? If there is, I can see this being a worthwhile purchase if it can be hacked to open it up. Saves you a few quid over the Roku branded box.

Steve Archer

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anyone tried a program on the pc called playon it is supposed to be a bridge to stream to the roku

sam

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...consumers will source it regardless so there's nothing to gain by Sky excluding the likes of Netflix from a box that already had those apps in place.
There's certainly nothing to gain by giving competitors a £9.99 entry into households which don't yet have any kind of streamer.

Sky Sports is available on this gadget - but a day's pass costs as much as the gadget itself. So once the gadget's installed, Sky will bombard the viewer with "free" offers to tempt them into signing with Sky. It'll probably work, too. You may not like Sky - neither do I - but some of their offers are certainly value for money, given that the customer gets to keep the installation and the box and access to FfS when the contract's done.

Peter Wells

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I made sure I unticked the box allowing you to send promotional material (thought it was illegal to have that pre-ticked). My recycle bin already gets quite enough junk mail from them.

sam

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I doubt if that covers on-screen promotional material.

Peter Wells

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I've ordered one, just to exploit the NowTV free period with absolutely no intention of retaining the subscription. Somewhat annoyed the link claims it is an XS.

DM

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Even though you've access to NowTV on your YouView box?

Peter Wells

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The reason was not for Now TV which I have no intention of paying for after the initial free signup period. There are a number of other apps in the Roku store that I will find useful including the internet radio app. I have one on the HD Fox T2 but that has a very restricted list.

Plus at £9.99 including the cost of registered post, an HDMI lead and the unit, Sky are not going to be making anything out of the deal unless they persuade people to take out subscriptions or day passes - again something I have no intention of doing.

They are clearly selling these as loss leaders and I am only too pleased to add to their losses.

Visionman

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Due to the expense and low uptake of Now TV, Sky have been throwing money at people to sign up to the new service. And there are many offers flying around at the moment (like £15 for 6 months) . So with Peter (Wells) buying this new zapper box, Peter may even get a free day pass to watch Sky Sports live. Because they've been dishing those out left right and centre, too. Which the YouView service doesn't currently offer.

But before I continue sounding like I'm a fan of the new box above, I'm not. Because its basically Sky's attempt to get into the VoD market with no middleman involved.

But it is cheap at only a tenner. And so long as they continue throwing discounts at people, all power to the user, is what I say. Smiley

So long as users realise that these discounts won't continue. Indeed, its a classic Sky marketing strategy, to get their foot in the door offer heavy discounts, and then slowly, but inevitably, then just push the prices up, and up, and up. So it will be interesting to see its take-up rate.

MisterMints

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Whilst that is all true, Sky have to realise that with the likes of Netflix and Love film shaking up the market people aren't going to pay £8 or £15 for a Sky service that doesn't offer anything more for your money.

In fact you could argue the service is worse due to the lack of HD on most devices and the small selection offered.

Let us hope that the £5/6 price point is here to stay!

DM

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Ah, of course - being a Roku box, Sky can stream live content to it so it's Sky Sports ready ...great for those free day passes visionman mentions.

I wonder if they'll be doing anything with HD (even at 720p if this box has the same spec as the Roku LT), considering XBox 360 has thus far been the only platform to carry NowTV in HD.

Visionman

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MisterMints>
Whilst that is all true, Sky have to realise that with the likes of Netflix and Love film shaking up the market people aren't going to pay £8 or £15 for a Sky service that doesn't offer anything more for your money.


Agreed, MisterMints. Plus as DM points out, it only has limited HD availability on certain platforms, too. My own personal opinion is that Sky just don't get this IPTV thingamajig. Because people use it for the following reasons -

1) Because its good (as in reliable).

2) Because its a decent to excellent picture quality.

3) Because its cheap.

And its point 3 that Sky just don't get. And when Now TV was first introduced, where the price was concerned, they went in heavy and they went in hard. At a whopping £15 a month. No wonder it fell flat on its face. And don't get me started on the £10 a day pass! Smiley

They just want a slice of the pie, which is fair enough. But to get a decent slice, not only will they have to offer it cheap, they'll have to keep it cheap too. Which would then cause them a predicament where their satellite pay-model is concerned. But thats another story.

MisterMints

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Completely agree! Trouble is they've buggered themselves by setting their prices so high for so long. They don't want to upset their existing TV customers buy charging less for the online version so they are then pricing themselves out of the streaming market by charging their expensive TV rates!

DM

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My own personal opinion is that Sky just don't get this IPTV thingamajig


Right with you there, Visionman!

Trouble is, they need to get it. And quickly ...or they're in for a shock when they realise they've been overtaken & left behind not only by technology (after all, who really wants to put up with a platform that throws a hissy fit & drops its channels if so much as a butterfly flutters past a dish, when there are alternatives?!), but by their own customer base, as more and more people wake up to the reality of there now being decent alternatives to spending £50 a month for the privilege of watching adverts across a gazillion channels of mediocre content and repeats.

They've just about got away with being five years behind in adding BBC iPlayer, but times are changing and Sky's former differentiators are falling. Fast.

Steve Archer

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anyone tried a program on the pc called playon it is supposed to be a bridge to stream to the roku

Roy

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So £9.99, but after a month you need to start shelling out about that much again, every month, if you want it to keep working at all?

I think I'll wait till someone hacks it back to being a cheap Roku whatever.

But the goods new is it isn't a jiggered Roku 3; I had feared this was why we don't get the 3 over here.

Perhaps now Roku, fortified by Sky's shilling, will be able to afford to bring in a uk version?

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I think this smacks a bit of desperation on Sky's part. Maybe the glory days for them are coming to an end.

sam

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Desperation? It will get Sky into many, many households where there's at present no streaming at all. Doesn't seem desperate to me.

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Do you honestly think so? Time will tell.

sam

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So £9.99, but after a month you need to start shelling out about that much again, every month, if you want it to keep working at all?
It seems you have to register with Nowtv to coax it into setting up, but you don't have to subscribe or buy any content. But though it works, there's nothing there except iplayer, Sky News, C5 catchup, BBC News, and (part of) the Roku Channel Store.

I think it's a good buy for a household that hasn't already got iplayer on TV, or wants iplayer on a kitchen or bedroom tv. Or for TED devotees. Not for anyone else.

Roy

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https://shop.nowtv.com/

Have I misunderstood Step 3 of How It Works?

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I can't see anything there about ongoing costs. You have to take out the 30 day free trial but then if you cancel, is it free? If so, I don't see how that benefits Sky very much.

sam

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Tech Radar says "Even just registering for the service, but not subscribing, brings a strong glut of streaming options, which makes this box something of a no-brainer." (http://www.techradar.com/reviews/audi...). I assumed that meant you don't have to buy. But in the light of Step 3, I'm not sure. Maybe after the free month you have to pay up.

Roy

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30 days free on the Sky Movies trial, and then £8.99 a month - and £15 a month after 3 months.

If you cancel the trial, you are no longer subscribed - so does the box stop working?

Mind you, though, you could buy a Sky Sports Day Pass and never redeem it, which would give you a whole year for a second £9.99....

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http://community.nowtv.com/t5/NOW-TV-...

Apparently you CAN still access the free stuff. That puts a slightly different complexion on things. At that price (i.e. a one off cost of a tenner) it seems like a good buy. Still not sure what Sky is getting from this, though. I can't imagine they are providing these cheap boxes out of the goodness of their hearts! :)

sam

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Just have to wait until Aug 27 and see if ebay sprouts a sudden glut of now tv Roku thingies.

Peter Wells

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I have not received it yet so I suspect the idea behind the free or reduced period is that you then have to actively cancel your subscription in order for the monthly debit from your card or account to be stopped. Mobile phone companies work the same way with their expensive insurance/technical help packages they give free for the first month.

Lovefilm does a similar trick with their "free" periods. They all rely on you forgetting or not bothering to cancel.

sam

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The Nowtv site says it requires an "active" Nowtv account. "Active" is not defined. Possibly, after you cancel, your Nowtv account is no longer "active" and your little gadget stops working.

Or possibly not. Either is possible, either is plausible.

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The link I posted seems to be screenshots of online conversations with Sky staff and they seem to suggest that the box will still offer free content without any subscription payments.

sam

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Maybe. The quick Start Guide and the TechRadar Hands-On both say you have to log in in order to complete setup and download the latest update.

No doubt Peter will keep us posted on what exactly happens.

Peter Wells

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Ok - got it, installed it. You have to sign up for the 30 day free trial for the box to initiate fully. As predicted they take your card details so they can charge you after the free period. Once that's done it updates its firmware and gives you access.

Like the reviewer on thenextweb.com I had to disable network pings from the hidden menu (press home button 5 times followed by fast-forward, play, rewind, play and then fast-forward again). Without knowing about that you are well and truly ****ed since the access code is not given in either the handbook or on their web pages.

NowTV works on both the Roku and my YouView box - you can register up to 4 devices. I have not yet cancelled the subscription which is a matter of clicking a couple of "Yes I do want to cancel" boxes.

sam

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Thanks Peter. Very useful to know about the hidden menu.

Anything worth having in the Roku Channels? Is Plex there?

sam

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According to a plex forum thread at http://forums.plexapp.com/index.php/t... plex is not there but can be installed using the hidden menu.

We'll see how long that lasts. :-)

gwatuk

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This is interesting!
The hidden menu works on my Roku box.
What is "disable network pings" all about?
And what does "iperf" do?

gwatuk

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Whey Hey...
I've just installed plex on my PC and Roku.
This should keep me amused for a while.
Thanks for the info folks!

gwatuk

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5 hours later...
I am really pleased with plex.
I had thought that my little Roku box was pretty much redundant, but now it has a new job picking up videos and music from my WD MyBook and playing them in the bedroom.
"Simples"
Smiley

Visionman

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stuart621>
I think this smacks a bit of desperation on Sky's part. Maybe the glory days for them are coming to an end.

sam>
Desperation? It will get Sky into many, many households where there's at present no streaming at all. Doesn't seem desperate to me.

stuart621>
Do you honestly think so? Time will tell.


I think Peter has nicely summed up this new venture -

Peter Wells>
The reason was not for Now TV which I have no intention of paying for after the initial free signup period. There are a number of other apps in the Roku store that I will find useful including the internet radio app. I have one on the HD Fox T2 but that has a very restricted list.

Plus at £9.99 including the cost of registered post, an HDMI lead and the unit, Sky are not going to be making anything out of the deal unless they persuade people to take out subscriptions or day passes - again something I have no intention of doing.

They are clearly selling these as loss leaders and I am only too pleased to add to their losses.

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Yes, I think he has. :)

Visionman

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Oh, and stuart, one does not need to subscribe to get the streamed services. One just needs a registered account.

Queue email inbox spam alert!!!

Smiley

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That's easily dealt with. :)

Visionman

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stuart621>
That's easily dealt with. :)


Too true. I also see Sky have excluded their competitors, Lovefilm and Netflix, from being on the platform.

Still, at only a tenner, it will suit some as a second or even third box.

But I completely disagree with this Mail Online article which compares the above with a fullblown YouView Freeview HD PVR -

It is set to rival the likes of the £249 YouView set-top box, Roku and Apple's respective boxes, that cost £49.99 and £99 respectively, and the new Chromecast dongle from Google, priced in the U.S at $35 (£22).

Plus, the £9.99 Now TV price includes shipping.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetec...

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That article has obviously been written by someone with no knowledge of what they are talking about! :)

DM

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Situation normal for the Daily Fail, then :)

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:)

Visionman

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I've just found this article in the Guardian. With Jeremy Darroch talking about the boxes target market -

Jeremy Darroch said on Friday that the new low cost set-top box was aiming at Freeview consumers who might be thinking of upgrading to rival internet-connected TV services offered by TalkTalk and BT – stopping just short of admitting it is a "YouView killer".

"It will enable us to target Now TV to new segments of the market we don't currently penetrate very highly," Darroch said. "We know there is a pool of customers who really like Sky's content, Freeview customers who like Sky's content but for a variety of reasons don't want an install, or pay through a regular monthly contract, want to pay more on the go. I wouldn't describe it as a YouView killer but it allows us to target that part of the market."


http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/...

A YouView killer? Well if thats the purpose of this box its got fail written all over it.

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I think the people who get this are the ones who don't have connected services at the moment but want access to BBC iPlayer and the like. I suspect (although I could be very wrong here) that a tiny minority of people will be buying this box so they can shell out every month for a very limited range of content from Sky.

Roy

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I just paid £11 for an HDMI cable from Tesco. If I hadn't wanted the cable in a hurry, I could have got this package from Sky, thrown the box away unused and kept the cable, and still have better than broken even.

MisterMints

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Why on earth have you spent £11 on an HDMI cable?! That's about £6 more than the going rate

gwatuk

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The going rate is £4.55 from Amazon (free postage) which is what I paid recently.
Smiley

Roy

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I have some £5 Amazon cables. But even Amazon's Express Delivery takes more than the two hours I had as a deadline for this new one, and Tesco is just down the road

Peter Wells

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£1 or 99p from either of the eponymous shops do just fine!.

Roy

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Are those high speed, though? Though come to that, is the Sky one - for less than 1080p, it doesn't need to be....

Roy

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But it is. Good-oh.

sam

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Thanks for posting the link, Visionman. Interesting article.
[Darroch] said BSkyB intended to market the product throughout the year identifying times such as "back to school", for cost-conscious university students, as well as a gift idea at Christmas where it could be bundled with a Now TV sports or movies pass.
I hadn't thought of students, but of course many probably have broadband and with this boxette they can watch iplayer for free without needing a tv license, am I right?

Visionman

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Yes sam, thats right. *If* they don't watch live TV on it too.

sam

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Excellent. A couple of soon-to-be students of my acquaintenance will be marching off to uni with Skyrok in their backpack.

Peter Wells

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I'll check when I get it but I believe the Sky News feed and several of those in the Roku Channel Store are live so would require a TV licence even if they were overseas channels like the GOD ones transmitting via satellite to the USA at the same time.

Most students these days have laptop computers so one way for them to watch TV without the need for a licence is to use a laptop (on battery only technically) with a DVB-T dongle. That way they are "using equipment temporarily removed from the home address" and can watch using their parents' licence.

sam

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That's not much fun though compared to watching on a larger screen. I don't know any students who have any interest in watching the Sky News feed, and most of the Roku channels available in the UK are rubbish. But for £10 it's worth it for the iplayer.

Peter Wells

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It's the old matter of viewing distance. A 15.6 inch laptop screen at 20ins produces a larger image on the retina than a 40inch screen at 9ft (the distance in my small living room). A USB DVB-T dongle can be had for under a tenner including a stick type aerial. This would offer the same range of channels as an SD Freeview box at the location.

The loophole in the licencing regulations allowing portable televisions with internal batteries to be used away from home means the setup is completely legal without having to buy a licence at the student accommodation (providing of course it is disconnected from the mains adapter for the evening).

BBC iPlayer is of course available on the laptop anyway and if they go to the Freeview site's guide they will almost get the full YouView experience:

http://www.freeview.co.uk/whats-on/tv...

MisterMints

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I was always certain I'd read that no licence was required for a device powered by its own batteries but that information seems to have disappeared from the TVL website. I'm pleased to hear I'm not going crazy! But curious to know why they've removed it/hidden it very well unless the law has changed and you do now need one for self powered devices...

sam

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BBC iPlayer is of course available on the laptop anyway and if they go to the Freeview site's guide they will almost get the full YouView experience:
Each to their own. The Sky-thingie will let them watch on TV.

Peter Wells

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Here ya go:

Your parents' TV Licence will not cover you while you are away at university unless you only use a device that's powered solely by its own internal batteries. You must not plug it into the mains when using it to receive TV.

http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if...

and more broadly:

As long as the address where you live is licensed, you’re also covered to watch TV outside your home using any device powered solely by its own internal batteries. This includes your mobile phone, laptop and tablet.

http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if...

MisterMints

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I'd love to see the licence people come round and proove that you were watching BBC 1 live on the web and you had your plug in!

That text does seem to have changed from what I read many years ago as that implies you still need a licence of some sort. The text I read said that as long as it ran off its own batteries no licence was required at all. Think of those clunky hand held TV's from the nineties with the 2 inch colour screen and telescopic aerial coming out. That seems to say as long as you or your parents have one you can watch away from home with batteries. What about caravans etc.?

Peter Wells

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Those portables have always required you have a TV licence for your home. It's the property that is licenced, not the individual - which is why you need to notify them if you change address.

Caravans are another field where they differentiate between a mobile caravan and one on a permanent site. Towed caravans and vehicles are, in effect, an extension of your household. Static caravans and mobile homes used as a second home do not require a licence provided TV is not being watched at the licenced home and the second home at the same time - again impossible to check I would imagine.

See http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if...

gwatuk

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"YouView killer"
It may turn into a YouView marketing aid.

The "Freeview consumers who might be thinking of upgrading to rival internet-connected TV " might cough up their £9.99 and then realise how interesting and appealing this whole "connected TV" thing is.
Then they might do a bit of research and be lured by the "free" YouView boxes from BT and TalkTalk.
At present I doubt that they'd find Sky a more attractive proposition.

Visionman

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Indeed, gwatuk.

The figures the Sky satellite platform has amassed are impressive! With over 10m users, of which 6.5m(ish) users sub to Sky Sports, too. But they have now saturated the market. ie all users who want premium TV services now have premium TV services. So they will gain no more. Indeed, with Sky's inability to expand user numbers further, the next battle they will have on their hands is churn. To new services like YouView. And this box is their answer to try to combat that.

So whilst Sky may keep user numbers roughly the same, their profits *could* take a massive hit, whilst all the new platforms just gain numbers by possibly millions.

Ahh... love competition.

gwatuk

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Here's an independent commentator's point of view, with this in it's conclusion:

"...The curveball here? Google’s $35 Chromecast HDMI TV-stick which was also announced this week, which many are saying is the most important ‘thing’ to happen in the Smart TV space..."

See:
Why Sky’s £10 Now TV box is so damn smart

Visionman

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Sky's a good platform, with some excellent, if not the best, premium content. But flippin eck gwatuk, that blog mad me laugh -

Hats off to Sky, it has balls. Big commercial balls. And money. Lots and lots of money. Yesterday it launched the Now TV box - a heavily subsidised £9.99 set-top box for viewing video from Sky (Now TV) and others (iPlayer et al).

Why is this move by Sky so damn smart?

Pricing. It’s at a killer price point where no one cares – it’s a tenner, two pints of beer. An impulse purchase. As soon as it was announced I ordered a box without even blinking an eyelid. As did you. Hell, take one for every TV in the house. If you don’t use it, who cares? It’s all about the price.


Basically bigging it up. Then the killer blow is delivered -

Once Sky has Now TV boxes plugged into your screens it can do what it does best: flog you premium sport and movies until you’re poor.

Got to admit I had a giggle at that one. But these paragraphs are a fascinating observation -

One thing is for sure, the market is changing fast, with fragmentation, innovation and regulation offering opportunity to new entrants and competitors.

Sky took a strategic stake in Roku recently(ish) – which observers assumed to be an interesting side-play / hedge, so it could sit on the sidelines and gain an insight into consumer demand and commercial performance. But I wasn’t expecting it to launch one under the Sky brand, parking its tanks firmly on its own front lawn.


It seems to me that Sky, the dominant TV provider for the last 20 years, has now lost it's commercial direction, and is unsure of which way to turn. Should they stick or twist? It would seem even they don't know.

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Dominant TV provider? Yet, 95% of true most watched TV in the country is on FTA channels.

Sky may well have 10m subscribers but it appears that the vast majority of them spend the vast majority of the time watching content available on channels which are not part of their subscription.

Look at the ratings - Sky One does well to get anything like a million viewers for its top programmes. These figures are tiny compared to even modest successes on BBC One and ITV (or even Channel 4 or Five).

Sky runs minority channels and that is unlikely to change.