- Services offered
- TV channels
- On-demand content
- Contract length
- Devices and set-top boxes
- Multiroom viewing
- Streaming on mobile devices
- Picture quality
- Comparison table
You can get contract-free access to premium TV shows, films and Sky Sports through NOW TV. But is it the same as Sky without a contract?
With cheap prices and flexible contract lengths, NOW TV is a very tempting offer, especially compared to Sky’s standard 18-month contracts. There are some important differences between the two, however, that might make one provider more suited to your needs.
We’re taking a look at the differences between NOW TV and Sky in terms of their services, channels, on-demand content, contracts, prices, hardware, multiscreen and picture quality to help you make the right choice between the two.
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Although primarily known as a streaming service, NOW Broadband is also a triple-play provider, meaning you can take your broadband, landline and TV services with them in one monthly bill.
Both Sky and NOW Broadband offer similar average ADSL and fibre broadband speeds ranging from 11Mbps to 63Mbps, with Sky offering up to 145Mbps for its ultrafast broadband service.
Both also offer a number of different call plans Sky Pay As You Talk, Sky Talk Evenings & Weekends Extra, Sky Talk Anytime Extra and Sky Talk International Extra. Going one step beyond triple-play, Sky is a well-established quad-play provider, so you can also bundle your mobile with them, too.
The biggest differentiator between the two providers is their respective TV services, so that's what this guide will focus on.
With every TV provider, the package you sign up for determines which channels you get. The big different between Sky TV and NOW TV is that you're able to be much more selective of which channels you have with NOW TV.
There are five different NOW TV passes for you to choose from, each with a different selection of NOW TV channels included. You can choose to subscribe to all five, just one, or any combination in between on a month-by-month basis
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The NOW TV Kids pass gives you access to six live kids' TV channels, including Cartoon Network and Nick Jr., plus thousands of ad-free on-demand content from these channels.
In terms of channel numbers, Sky TV dwarfs NOW TV. While NOW TV gives you access to around 45 channels if you sign up for every pass, Sky TV packages come withover 300 channels — and that’s not including add-ons like Sky Cinema, Sky Sports and access to box sets.
Every Sky TV bundle comes with premium TV channels, including Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, E!, FOX and MTV. You can also include the 31-day Kids add-on and you’ll get more kids’ channels like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
There are three main types of on-demand content from Sky TV and NOW TV: catch-up TV, box sets and on-demand purchases. Catch-up TV refers to series, episodes or other programmes from the past 30 days, while box sets are older series or programmes that aired outside of the 30-day window of catch-up TV. On-demand purchases are rentals or purchases of the latest films or live events.
With NOW TV you can watch both catch-up TV and box sets of shows and events that are included in you NOW TV pass. For example, if you sign up for an Entertainment pass, you can watch every episode of Game of Thrones as it aired on Sky Atlantic. However, you won’t be able to watch films on demand, either for free or buying them individually.
Sky has an extensive catch-up TV service, but access to box sets is a bit more limited. Unless you sign up for the Box Sets upgrade, you won’t be able to watch any older box sets for free, but you can buy them on the Sky Store individually. In contrast, if you had NOW TV, you would only have to buy an entire Entertainment pass to do so.
When it comes to contract length, these two providers differ greatly.
NOW TV has very flexible contracts no matter which service you take. Every NOW TV pass is available on a rolling monthly basis, and Sky Sports is even more flexible, allowing you to take out a day or month Sky Sports pass on NOW TV.
This flexibility means you can dip in and out whenever you want to without paying any cancellation fees. Only have time to watch Succession? Sign up for a NOW TV pass, binge the latest series and cancel it once it's finished. Need to keep your kids entertained during the holidays? Buy a Kids pass or Sky Cinema pass for a few months.
Even if you get your broadband and phone services from NOW Broadband, you can still either sign up for an annual or monthly contract, depending upon your needs.
Sky, on the other hand, is much less flexible. Sky only offers 18-month contracts, although Sky Cinema and Sky Sports can be added and removed on a monthly basis, as can the Box Sets and Kids add-ons.
Since you only pay for the channels you want, NOW TV has flexible pricing, as you might expect.
NOW TV often runs promotions, but standard pricing for TV passes is still less than a Sky package. A NOW TV Entertainment pass is usually £9.99 a month, a Kids pass is £3.99 and Sky Cinema is £11.99 per month. Sky Sports is £9.99 for a day pass and £33.99 for a month pass.
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Sky Signature — standalone TV, not including broadband and calls — starts around £20-£25 per month and can go up to £35 per month, depending upon which add-ons you choose. Adding Sky Sports or Sky Cinema to your package can set you back another £18 to £27.50 per month, depending on which packages you choose.
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Devices and set-top boxes
You can watch NOW TV on up to four compatible devices, including the NOW TV app and the NOW TV Smart Stick –– as well as the older generation NOW TV Box and NOW TV Smart Box.
All of NOW TV's devices let you stream NOW TV and other apps, including catch-up services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and All 4 –– but not Freeview channels unfortunately.
Although you don’t need a NOW TV set-top box or streaming stick to watch NOW TV, it’s worth keeping in mind that not every device compatible with NOW TV will let you watch on your actual TV, and some devices have restrictions about watching live channels through your TV. Read more about how to watch NOW TV on TV in our guide.
For now, Sky requires a satellite dish, and you have to watch Sky TV through their Sky Q set-top box.
The Sky Q is a top-of-the-line set-top box. You can use it to stream on-demand content or watch, pause, rewind and record live TV. You can either get a box with a 1TB hard drive or a 2TB hard drive to hold even more recordings. The 1TB version lets you record three shows while watching a fourth live, and the 2TB box can record four shows while watching a fifth live.
Both NOW TV and Sky TV support multiroom viewing on up to two devices simultaneously — but there are ways to add more screens on both services.
With NOW TV, although you can register up to four devices on your account, only two can watch TV at the same time. That being said, there’s nothing to stop you from signing up for another account, buying the same TV pass or passes, and getting a further two devices to watch up to four screens at the same time.
For an extra monthly fee (and potentially a setup fee, depending upon when you sign up for multiroom viewing), Sky will loan you a Sky Q Mini box to let you watch programmes on two TVs at the same time — or three, if you have the 2TB Sky Q box. You can connect up to four boxes in total, but the viewing restrictions will still be the same.
Streaming on mobile devices
Each NOW TV account lets you register up to four streaming devices, and you can watch two simultaneously. This is done at the account level, not the TV pass level.
So if you use your mobile to check Sky Sports while you’re running errands with your kids — who are watching Peppa Pig through NOW TV on their tablet — no one else will be able to watch Sky Atlantic back at home through that same account since two devices are already streaming, even though you’re all watching things through different TV passes.
Similar to expanding multiroom capabilities, there’s nothing to stop you from signing up for a second (or third) account to keep passes separate, but if more than two people want to watch shows from the same pass at the same time, you’ll need to get another account or pass, which adds up.
Sky Go — free for all Sky customers — lets you register up to two devices, and you can watch them simultaneously. It supports both live and on-demand TV, including any extra content you pay for, like Sky Cinema or Sky Sports.
Watching through Sky Go does not count toward your multiroom limits, so between Sky Go and Sky Q Mini, you can watch TV on four devices at the same time for free.
Sign up for Sky Go Extra — which is free for multiroom customers — and you can watch on up to four devices (so six simultaneous screens, including the two Sky Q Mini boxes if you’re on multiroom) at the same time. You’ll also be able to download programmes to watch when you’re not connected to the internet.
Find out more information on Sky Go, including what channels are available and which devices are compatible, in our Sky Go guide.
Nowadays, HD is practically standard for content makers, and UHD/4K programming is on the rise, too.
Picture quality on NOW TV depends on your internet connection and what device you use. The NOW TV Smart Stick supports a resolution of up to 1080p — but this depends on your broadband speed.
Sky is one of the leaders when it comes to picture quality: Both Sky Q boxes support HD quality, and the 2TB Sky Q supports UHD/4K quality video. Sky actively produces UHD content, particularly for sports and films.
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