NOW (formerly NOW TV), Sky’s streaming service, has stopped selling the Smart Streaming Stick in the UK, as well as its older streaming boxes, and has in essence gotten out of the streaming hardware business.
Instead, NOW is planning to focus on improving its app, which is available on most of the third-party streaming devices and Smart TVs sold in the UK (see a full list below).
In addition, there are plans to finally add 4K and HDR to NOW, as well as a number of new personalisation features.
Now, which is owned by Sky, is a streaming-only service (See our full NOW review here), which you stream via broadband. It offers several flexible “Memberships” – Entertainment (with TV shows), Cinema, Sports and Kids.
The service was meant to be Sky’s answer to Netflix and the other streaming services, and unlike Sky, it doesn’t require a long-term contract. Known for years as NOW TV, the name was changed to NOW earlier this year.
Over the years, NOW sold its own streaming boxes and sticks – from the original “White” box that came out in 2013 (and stopped being supported last year), to the “NOW TV Black Box”, the NOW TV Smart Box, and the NOW TV Smart Stick.
NOW’s streaming devices were all powered by Roku (which also sells its own streaming devices), and were offered at a variety of price points.
The “Smart Stick”, which was the most recent NOW device, was quite useful as an entry-level streaming device, with support for many of the major streaming services in the UK.
However, the Smart Stick hasn’t been available for purchase on NOW’s official website for a few weeks – and today we can confirm that it has been discontinued.
With so many other streaming devices on the market, NOW has re-evaluated the needs of its customers and will no longer be selling new NOW devices.
The Smart Stick (and even some of NOW’s older devices) can still be bought on some websites, but once stocks are gone, the stick is not likely to return – at least in the foreseeable future.
Also, the Smart Stick is still being sold on NOW Ireland, which is a separate service.
NOW’s Future Plans: 4K, Profiles And More Personalisation
In a press briefing held today, Sky’s Group Chief Production Officer, Fraser Stirling spoke to us about some of NOW’s plans for the future.
With Netflix, Disney+ and even Sky (via Sky Q) already supporting 4K/HDR content, many have wondered when 4K will finally reach NOW.
At the moment, the basic NOW service doesn’t even support Full HD (1080p) – for that, you need to add the NOW Boost membership, which is an extra £3/month, on top of any content membership you’re subscribed to.
According to Stirling, 4K / HDR support is being worked on, though it would also require the NOW Boost add-on. “There’s no lack of desire to get it”, he said, “but it’s a question of priorities.”
In addition, Dolby Atmos audio support is also likely to be added to the Boost add-on at some point – as it currently only supports Dolby Digital 5.1.
Stirling also addressed the work they’ve been doing on the NOW app, which is available across a wide range of streaming devices.
Their main focus has been on adding more personalisation, with content recommendations based on what the user has watched before, and even on the time of day.
The software will learn what you prefer to watch in the mornings (cartoons, for example), and in the evenings (gritty cop shows perhaps) – and adjust its content recommendations accordingly.
Furthermore, their aim is to only show you recommendations for content you’re already subscribed to. So if you’re only subscribed to the Entertainment plan, for example, you won’t get film recommendations, because that would require you to pay extra.
When big events are happening, however (presumably a major sports match, or a major blockbuster movie release), you will still see a message about that piece of content.
One glaring omission, however, is User Profiles, which are currently absent from NOW, and are available on almost every other major streaming service.
Without separate profiles, your watchlist, watch history and recommendations get mixed up between the different members of the household.
According to Stirling, they want to make sure profiles are done right, with the proper personalisation features in place, before they implement separate profiles – “otherwise, all you’ve done at that point is create another click every time you open the app”.
Where Can I Watch NOW?
With NOW no longer selling their own streaming devices, their focus is on making the NOW app available on as many platforms as possible.
Some of the devices you can use to stream NOW, are:
- Roku Streaming Devices
- Amazon Fire TV
- Google Chromecast (The older version – NOT the new Google TV version)
- Apple TV HD or 4K (Some of the older Apple TVs are no longer supported)
- Samsung Smart TVs
- Gaming Consoles
- Mobiles phones (both iOS and Android)
- Android TV (only on Sony TVs, for now)
All in all, there are 20+ devices that support the NOW app, with more possibly coming in the future.