TV smarteners were hot already, but they've just got hotter: Sky's entered the market with its own web TV streamer box that'll set you back just £10.
No sub needed
For your tenner (which even includes P&P), you get access to BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, BBC News app, Sky News and the box's namesake service, which provides on-demand streams of Sky movies and sports - the former for £8.99 a month (rising to £15/month after 3 months), the latter for £9.99 a day.
UPDATE 27/11/13: The Now TV box also provides access to 4oD, so you'll also be able to catch up on Homeland, Misfits and, um, Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners.
But the real beauty of the suspiciously Roku-shaped box – it's actually a rebranded Roku LT, which normally retail at £50 – is that it doesn't demand you to pay any monthly sub, at all. In addition to the above freebie services, you'll also get access to Flickr, Facebook and Spotify.
A killer loss-leader
As we pointed out in our rather prescient Sky post-broadcast feature yesterday evening, Now TV's fees are a fair whack higher than the £5.99/month of Netflix or £4.99/month of LoveFilm. But for that you get much earlier access to a better roster of movies, and no other service yet provides Sky's sports coverage – so that's something of a captive market.
Clearly, the Now TV box is to be a loss-leader that Sky hopes will get punters switching on to Now TV in their droves. We'd be far from surprised if it works.
A Roku LT by any other name…
As the Sky Now box is at heart a Roku LT, it'll support 720p but not 1080p via its HDMI port, and all streaming is via 802.11n Wi-Fi as there's no built-in Ethernet. It also won't benefit from the Roku XS' RF remote, which allows you to play simple movement-sensitive games.
But as it's an LT, it's also theoretically capable of accessing a far larger variety of services, and of streaming from your computer via Plex. We're yet to find out how locked down Sky's box is, but if it is a closed system, we'd still consider it a ludicrous bargain.
How does the competition stack up? Well, Apple TV costs 10 times as much and doesn't have access to Now TV, iPlayer, Demand 5 or Spotify. But it does give you access to Netflix, Youtube, Vimeo and all of iTunes, and its AirPlay streaming capability makes it a killer accessory for iOS users, providing access to all the (non-Flash-based) video streams on the web.
Then there's Google's Chromecast, which provides Netflix, Youtube and Google Play access to anyone with the apps on their Android or iOS devices, and the rest of the web's video via a Chrome browser-running computer. But it won't do a damned thing without such a companion device.
However you cut it, the Sky Now TV box is looking pretty tempting. And for a tenner, you might as well get it even if you already have an Apple TV.