Or Goren | Apr 6, 2019 | 0
NOW TV, Sky’s streaming TV service, fills a gap in the life of a cord cutter: Ditching the traditional pay-TV contracts (Sky TV, BT, etc’) often means having to wait if you want to watch the latest programmes or movies, until those arrive on Netflix or Amazon. But with NOW TV, you get the best of both worlds (at least in theory) – the latest shows and movies from Sky as soon as they air, plus a selection of “box-sets” that you can binge-watch.
NOW TV was launched by Sky back in 2012 as a way to fight Netflix, which also launched in the UK that same year. Having realised that more and more people are willing to ditch year-long contracts for the flexibility – and pricing – of services like Netflix, Sky had to find an answer – and it did, sort of, with NOW TV – but while it has some clear advantages over Netflix (mainly the newer TV shows and films), it also has some downsides.
In this NOW TV review, I’ll take a look at the streaming service itself and its pricing, how it compares to the other streaming TV services out there, and I’ll also look at NOW TV’s own streaming devices – the “Smart Box” and the “Smart Stick”, as these are the most common way to get NOW TV – though certainly not the only one (more on that later.)
NOW TV Quick Look
Who Is It For: Cord Cutters looking for a cheaper way to watch the latest films, shows and sports.
Less of a “Netflix Killer” and more of a complementary streaming service, NOW TV offers most of the latest talked-about TV programmes, recent films, and all of Sky’s Sports channels. But their selection of full box-sets is limited, their picture quality is disappointing at 720p, and if you combine all the content passes together – things get pricey.
Table of Contents
NOW TV Prices
Unlike Netflix and Amazon Prime Video’s “One Price Fits All” strategy, NOW TV has divided their content into separate “Passes” – Entertainment (TV), Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, and Kids.
Each pass has a different monthly price, which is both a good thing and a bad thing: It means you have more flexibility, paying only for the content you need, which is what we Cord Cutters want. On the other hand, it also means that if you want it ALL, you’re going to pay a lot more than you would on Netflix (even without the Sports Pass, which is the most expensive.)
The prices of all the “passes”, as of this writing, are:
CinemaOver 1,000 Movies
- 11 Live Sky Movies Channels
- New Premiere Every Day
- Most Recent Blockbusters
- Rich Back-Catalogue
EntertainmentLatest TV Shows
- 11 Live Sky TV Channels
- Over 300 TV Box-Sets
- Latest TV Shows As They Air
- TV Catch-Up Service (+Freeview)
- 6 Live Children’s Channels
- 1000s of On-Demand Episodes
- Popular Titles, no ads
- Easy to set Parental Controls
Sky SportsLive Sporting Events
- 10 Live Sports Channels
- Premier League football
- Daily / Weekly Passes Available
- Setup Viewing Alerts
Sky Sports MobileMajor Sporting Events
- Only Works Via Mobile App
- 5 Live Sports Channels
- Works on both iOS and Anroid
- Very Cheap
Note:t the NOW TV Sports Pass has a different pricing model – you can either get a Day Pass (£8.99), a Week Pass (£14.99) or a Month Pass (£33.99) – again, this gives you more flexibility, but can add up when you put it all together.
Taking a look at the comparable Sky TV prices, starting with “Sky Entertainment”, which is similar to the Entertainment Pass (with the addition of the Sky Q set-top box, the Freeview channels) and adding Sky Cinema, Kids and HD – it’ll cost you around £43/m – with an 18 months contract (as of this writing).
Add sports – and you’re up to £66/month. And in most cases – you also need to add setup fees.
Getting ALL the Now TV passes would cost £61.96/m – so again, NOW TV comes out cheaper, AND you get the flexibility of changing passes (or cancelling altogether) every month – just remember that the passes renew automatically every month, so you need to remember to cancel when you want some time off.
NOW TV Combo packages: Adding to the flexibility (and complexity) of choosing a NOW TV package, Sky have added the NOW TV Combo bundles, that include broadband and a phone line. This way, for one monthly price, you can mix and match TV Passes, a variety of broadband speeds, and several phone line packages.
But unlike the standalone TV passes, the Combo bundles come with a 12-months contract.
These Combo bundles are not necessarily the cheapest when compared to other providers – but they offer some more flexibility, so it’s a good idea to at least check the prices. You can see the current NOW TV Combo offers by Clicking Here.
Want cheaper NOW TV Passes?
See our guide on getting NOW TV Deals, Vouchers And Free Passes
How To Watch: Devices That Support NOW TV
To watch NOW TV, you need a supporting device with the NOW TV app. As of this writing, supported devices include:
- Smart TVs: Selected models by LG and Samsung [Check Relevant TV Offers on Amazon]
- Streaming Boxes: Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, YouView, EETV, NOW TV Box, NOW TV Stick
- Gaming Consoles: PS4, XBOX ONE
- Phones/Tablets: iOS and Android apps
- PC: Mac/Windows via app or browser.
Note that the Amazon Fire TV range does NOT have a NOW TV app.
It’s also important to note that the interface and features are not identical on the different devices and apps.
As far as picture quality, NOW TV is a disappointment, as they cap everything at 720p. At this day and age, with Netflix and Amazon rolling out Ultra HD 4K content (and even Sky TV themselves with their Sky Q box), it’s a real shame you can’t even get Full HD with the NOW TV content. NOW TV has said in the past they’ll add 1080p “By the end of 2018” – well, we’re deep into 2019, and there’s no 1080p in sight.
The interface on all the NOW TV passes is pretty straight-forward, dividing the content between categories such as “Hot Now”, “New Releases” etc’. Unlike Netflix, NOW TV doesn’t offer User Profiles, so you can’t have different members of the family create separate watchlists.
This year, NOW TV has also added the ability to download content to your smartphone for offline viewing – though with some restrictions.
Device and Streaming Limit: A NOW TV subscription lets you register up to SIX DEVICES to the service, and you can only make THREE changes each month. It’s a decent amount, but can still be a problem for big families with lots of devices.
Additionally, you can only watch up to TWO simultaneous streams. While that’s identical to Netflix’ Standard subscription, Netflix’ premium subscription allows 4 simultaneous streams.
The Content – What Can I Watch On NOW TV?
As mentioned, content on NOW TV is divided into four “Passes” – Entertainment, Cinema, Kids and Sports. It’s a bit hard to compare NOW TV’s selection to that of Netflix and Amazon, as they’re not meant to be an all-encompassing library – instead, they focus more on the latest shows and movies, in addition to a limited, changing back-catalogue.
Another unique feature of NOW TV is the Live Channels – instead of just watching on-demand content, you can actually watch most of Sky’s channels as they’re being broadcast. While that’s kind of old-school for cord cutters, it’s a nice addition when you just want to flip channels and see what’s on NOW, without thinking too much.
The NOW TV Sky Cinema Pass – £11.99/m
With this pass, you get a constantly updating list of recently released movies, as well as a back-catalogue consisting of both blockbusters and some obscure films you’ve never heard of.
As of April 2019, the NOW TV Sky Cinema Pass has 1,300+ movies in its library. The selection is comprehensive, from Disney/Pixar favourites such as Incredibles 2, The Lion King and Zootopia, to more recent blockbusters such as A Quiet Place, Avengers: Infinity Wars, The Greatest Showman and Darkest Hour.
As far as the quality of the films – while that’s often a matter of taste, I checked using JustWatch how many of the films in the Cinema Pass have a higher-than-80 rating on Rotten Tomatoes: As of this writing, that number is 411 titles. So that either tells you something about the selection, or about the quality of recent Hollywood films in general…
In addition to movies-on-demand, you can also watch these movie channels LIVE:
- Sky Cinema Select
- Sky Cinema Greats
- Sky Cinema Sci-Fi & Horror
- Sky Cinema Family
- Sky Cinema Premiere
- Sky Cinema Drama & Romance
- Sky Cinema Hits
- Sky Cinema Crime & Thriller
- Sky Cinema Action & Adventure
- Sky Cinema Comedy
- Sky Cinema Disney
The picture quality is stuck at 720p which, again, is a real shame and a major downside for NOW TV.
As for subtitles – that has been a problematic topic with NOW TV, but things are looking up for movie buffs who need subtitles, as most of their cinema titles finally have them.
Bottom Line: The cinema pass is best if you’re after the latest movie releases (mostly big-name blockbusters). If you’re just looking for a casual movie to watch, you’ll get better value out of Netflix and Amazon – but NOW TV can’t be beaten for the freshness.
As always, the fact that the movies pass can be cancelled every month, means you can watch a bunch of films, cancel for a few months, and then re-subscribe when the selection gets filled with things you haven’t seen yet.
The NOW TV Entertainment Pass – £7.99/m
This pass, which can also be described as the “TV Pass”, is made up of three parts: A changing back-catalogue of TV Box-Sets, Catch-Up TV with shows from the past 7-30 days, and Live channels.
As of this writing, the Entertainment Pass has several hundred TV shows in its catalogue, including both Box-Sets and Catch-Ups. They put a greater emphasis on newer shows, so if you’re in the market for a larger back-catalogue of older favourites, Netflix would be a better bet.
However, if you’re looking to watch the latest water-cooler shows from American studios (as well as Sky Originals and a limited selection from other British broadcasters), this is the place to be. From Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Grey’s Anatomy, to Westworld, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Tin Star – if the programme is new and talked about, there’s a good chance you’ll find it on NOW TV.
There’s a catch, though – most of the shows, especially the “bigger” ones, are on for a limited time. Usually, past seasons of a show will be added to the service a few weeks before the new season starts, then the new season will air (often mere hours after its US broadcast, but sometimes at an annoying delay of up to a month or two), and then the whole show, with all its seasons, will disappear from the service – until next year, when a new season is set to begin.
If you’re looking to jump on the wagon of a long-running show such as Game Of Thrones, this is going to be a problem, since you’ll have to hurry up and watch multiple seasons during a very limited window.
In comparison, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video also change their selection and remove shows from time to time – but they usually stay on for years before they’re removed, so you can watch at a much more leisurely pace.
NOW TV’s Catch-Up is a different story altogether – you don’t get a full box-set of the series, but instead, you get the latest episode that was broadcast (on UK television) for a limited time – usually 30 days. It’s a nice feature to have when you’re following the hottest shows in real time, but doesn’t let you jump into a series that started a while ago, because the earlier episodes will be gone.
And as with the Cinema Pass, you also get a selection of channels that you can watch LIVE:
- Sky 1
- Sky Arts
- Sky Atlantic
- Sky Witness
- Comedy Central
- Discovery Channel
- Nat Geo Wild
The picture quality is, again, stuck at 720p, which is especially annoying with beautiful shows such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, or the nature channels.
Subtitles used to be a sad topic here, but after years of neglect, many shows on the Entertainment Pass finally have subtitles – though not all.
Bottom Line: While the selection of TV shows is not as big as the one on Netflix, if you want to watch the shows everyone’s talking about (other than Netflix/Amazon originals) – this is the place to find them.
The value-for-money is obviously not as good as the other guys, since you don’t get any movies for the price – but it’s still a unique offering. And, as a cord cutter, you can always cancel and re-subscribe when your favourite shows are back on.
The NOW TV Sky Sports Pass – £33.99/m
All over the world, sports fans are somewhat of an Achilles hill among cord cutters, as it remains one of the strongholds of traditional cable/satellite TV. Thankfully, if you’re a sports fans in the UK – NOW TV comes to the rescue.
While certainly not cheap if you’re going to watch on a regular basis, the Sports Pass offers even more flexibility than the other passes, with Daily and Weekly passes in addition to the monthly ones.
The prices are £8.99 for a Day Pass, £14.99 for a week pass, or £33.99 for the monthly pass.
This means that if you’re only interested in specific sporting events, you can turn the pass on and off for a day or a week, without having to pay for the whole month (let alone for 12-18 months with regular Sky contracts.)
In addition, there’s the Sky Sports Mobile Pass, which gives you 5 sports channels (instead of 10), and can ONLY be watched on a mobile phone. The price, however, is considerably lower at £5.99 per month.
Unlike the other passes, though, the Sports Pass doesn’t offer any catch-up shows or on-demand sporting matches, which is a bit of shame – sometimes you want to see an event you missed from a couple of days ago, or re-watch a particularly exciting match.
Instead, you get 10 LIVE Sports channels:
- Sky Sports Main Event: Live Premier League football plus international qualifiers and the biggest live events from other channels
- Sky Sports Premier League
- Sky Sports Football
- Sky Sports Cricket
- Sky Sports Golf
- Sky Sports F1
- Sky Sports Action
- Sky Sports Arena
- Sky Sports News
- Sky Sports Mix
- Sky Sports Racing
The NOW TV interface does help you see the games and events that are on now, and interesting events coming up later in the week.
Do note that special Sky Sports Box Office Events (such as boxing matches) are not included in the Sports Pass, and you will have to pay for them separately.
The 720p picture quality is even more annoying with the Sports Pass, as sporting events are exactly the place you would want the highest picture quality possible – but alas, NOW TV are still stuck behind the times with this.
Bottom Line: If you’re a sports-fan, the NOW TV Sports Pass is a godsend, offering you most of the sporting events you might want to watch throughout the year (in addition to those you can already watch for free on Freeview and the BBC), with the flexibility of subscribing and cancelling whenever you want.
Too bad about the 720p, though – and a library of interesting past-events, or at least a minimal catch-up service, would have been nice.
The NOW TV Kids Pass – £3.99/m
Up until 2016, several Kids channels were part of the Entertainment Pass, but then NOW TV decided to move them to a new, separate Kids Pass at an additional cost. This obviously angered some users (because the Entertainment Pass’ price remained the same, and has since gone up).
The good news is that the Kids Pass has more content, and it gives you some flexibility, in case you’re only interested in the Kids stuff and can do without the Entertainment Pass on some months.
The Kids Pass offers a unique picture-based interface for children (though let’s face it, children today know more about digital interfaces than their parents), and holds a lot of popular children’s shows on-demand, such as Dora the Explorer, Peppa Pig and SpongeBob SquarePants.
In addition to the box-sets you also get six LIVE channels:
- Cartoon Network
- Nick Jr.
NOW TV also offers parental controls, allowing you to set age restrictions with a pin, so your kids won’t accidentally go and watch Game of Thrones.
Bottom Line: While the BBC and the other Freeview channels offer an impressive amount of kids content, if you want a set environment where your kids can always find something fun to watch, the Kids Pass has a good collection.
Note, however, that it doesn’t include any Disney content – there are some animated Disney films, but those are in the Cinema Pass. The Disney TV shows were removed from NOW TV in 2016, and can now be found over at the Disney Life service.
NOW TV Vs. Netflix Vs. Amazon Prime Video
Even though NOW TV was meant to be a response to Netflix, comparing the two is a bit like apples and oranges. Or rather, oranges and easy peelers – they’re similar, but different in taste and size.
Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are all about size, variety and exclusive “Originals.” With more than 2,000 movies on the UK edition of Netflix, and close to that on Amazon Prime Video, NOW TV’s selection looks paltry. And the same can be said about the selection of TV programmes – the number on NOW TV is considerably smaller than on Netflix and Amazon.
However, the type of content is different – while Netflix and Amazon focus on full seasons of older shows, along with the newer exclusive originals (such as Stranger Things on Netflix and Jack Ryan on Amazon), NOW TV focus on bringing the latest programmes from a variety of premium channels. And while they don’t have their own “originals” (unless you count the original Sky productions) you can say the premium content from other networks is “exclusive”, as you won’t find it on Amazon Prime Video or Netflix.
As for pricing, if we take sports out of the equation (as Netflix doesn’t offer any live sports as part of their regular subscription, and Amazon offers it minimally), adding the Entertainment Pass, Cinema Pass and Kids Pass together comes down to £23.97/m – that’s considerably higher than Netflix’ standard £7.99/m and Amazon’s £5.99 monthly Prime Video subscription.
Netflix and Amazon also offer superior picture quality with full HD and some 4K content, while NOW TV is stuck on 720p.
NOW TV’s advantage over the competition lies with having the most recent and highly-talked about shows – whether that’s worth the extra price you’re asked to pay, is up to you.
NOW TV Devices - The Smart Stick And Smart Box
If you don’t already have a device with a NOW TV app (Chromecast, LG/Samsung telly, etc’), the NOW TV’s own devices are good choice, and often come bundled with “free” Passes. But which one should you get?
You might also still see older NOW TV boxers on eBay or other stores – the original, black “Smart Box”, and and the even older “White Box” – but these are no longer officially sold by NOW TV themselves.
The new 4K Box and the Smart Stick both connect to your TV via an HDMI port, and to the internet via WiFi. They both also come with a Voice-Controlled remote, that can be used to search for shows and movies with your voice.
The Smart Stick is great if you want a cheap device that you can also carry around with you, while the Smart Box offers 4K support (though, for the time being, you won’t have any NOW TV 4K content, so it’s only good for YouTube and the included Netflix app, if you have a 4K Netflix tier.)
Can NOW TV Replace A Sky Subscription?
Comparing NOW TV to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video is a bit of a problem. Yes, they’re both streaming video services, but NOW TV’s unique selling point is the inclusion of the most recent shows from premium American networks such as HBO, AMC and Showtime, as well as the most recent blockbusters, which usually reach Netflix and Amazon years later (if at all).
So NOW TV is less in competition with Netflix and Amazon, and more of a complementary service – you go to Netflix for the rich back-catalogue and the exclusive originals, and then go to NOW TV if you don’t want to wait for the shows everyone on Facebook’s talking about TODAY.
The better comparison, in this case, is with Sky’s “traditional” TV offering (or Virgin, or BT, or all the others) – is NOW TV a decent replacement for those services?
In my opinion – YES, but there’s a but. While NOW TV is cheaper and much more flexible than traditional cable/satellite subscriptions, it sometimes feels as if Sky are crippling their streaming service on purpose, maybe in order to keep it a few levels underneath their traditional TV service.
The fact that NOW TV only has 720p content (while the Sky Q box offers 4K content!) is the main example. It’s as if Sky want to eat the cake and keep it whole – have a streaming service option for those pesky cord cutters, without hurting their core business. Not to mention the pricing, which is very different from Netflix’.
Whether this strategy works remains to be seen – perhaps it’ll just drive more people towards the superior (at least technologically, and cost-wise) Netflix. On the other hand, if you’re a cord cutting sports fan – NOW TV is almost your only option.
All in all, NOW TV offers a decent, flexible service, with an impressive content library (and a not-so-impressive back-catalogue), that still has some catching up to do if it wants to lead the pack.
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