Which streaming stick should I buy for Disney+?

Guardian Technology 12 Mar 2020 08:00
Disney+ launches in the UK on 24 March. Which smart TV device is best for streaming the new service? Photograph: Steven Senne/AP

My smart TV is old (Samsung, 2014) so I watch BBC iPlayer on my Now TV box (also old and discontinued). What is the best device for all the popular streaming services including the upcoming Disney+? To my knowledge, it is not yet confirmed if it will be available on my Roku-powered Now TV box. Adnan

You may be in luck, because Disney has just signed a deal with Sky. As a result, Disney+ will be available via Sky from its UK launch on 24 March, to be followed by Now TV in the coming months, says Sky. It’s not clear how many months that means. Perhaps Sky does not know. However, I’d assume it means some time this year, not next.

For those who have not caught up with Disney+, the service was promised in 2017 and launched in the US late last year. The company knows it is a decade late to the film-streaming market pioneered by Netflix in 2010. It can make up for that by making its service available across a wide range of geographies and technologies.

Now TV boxes are based on Roku technology but don’t provide all of Roku’s services. Instead, they are customised for Sky TV viewers, who want to watch Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, and so on. The platform’s attractions are that the boxes are generally quite cheap, and discount coupons let you buy services for a short time rather than paying for annual subscriptions. Sky Sports sells expensive passes that last for a day, a week or a month.

Roku got started when Netflix decided not to make its own streaming device but gave Roku’s founder – Anthony Wood, a former Netflix vice-president – a $6m investment to create one. Since then, Roku has positioned itself as an independent supplier in a somewhat balkanised market.

Streaming sticks are tiny computers complete with a processor, memory and an operating system. If you are willing to pay a bit more, you can get one with a faster processor and more memory, which should deliver better performance. Some can also play quite good games. The leading examples include Nvidia’s Shield TV, based on the Android TV platform, and Apple TV.

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