NOW (formerly known as NOW TV), the streaming service from Sky, emerged as a bridge for those who wanted to cut the traditional pay-TV cords yet craved the latest content.
Launched in 2012, it was Sky’s counter to Netflix’s rising popularity in the UK.
The service offers a unique blend: immediate access to some of the freshest shows and movies from Sky (and HBO), combined with a library of binge-worthy “box sets”.
Over the years, NOW has undergone significant changes, including a rebranding in 2021 and the introduction of adverts.
Interestingly, in 2022, NOW found itself competing with another product from its parent company – Sky Stream – a streaming-based box.
But with so many streaming services now available, with content being spread around them – NOW’s offer isn’t what it used to be.
This updated review delves into the nuances of NOW, its pricing structure, and how it stacks up against other streaming giants, ensuring you have a comprehensive understanding of where NOW fits in the ever-evolving streaming landscape.
NOW Quick Look
Who Is It For: Cord Cutters looking for a cheaper (than Sky) way to watch some of the latest films, shows and sports.
Less of a “Netflix Killer” and more of a complementary streaming service, NOW offers some of the most talked-about TV programmes (mostly from HBO), recent films, and all of Sky’s Sports channels. But their selection of complete box sets is limited, the default picture quality is appalling at 720p (unless you pay extra), there are adverts (unless – right – you pay more), and if you combine all the content memberships – things get pricey.
Table of Contents
Unlike Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video’s “One Price Fits All” strategy, NOW has divided its content into separate “Memberships” – Entertainment (TV), Sky Cinema and Sky Sports (there used to be a Kids membership, which was cancelled and is now part of Entertainment).
Each membership 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) – at least with the “regular prices”.
NOW does often offer special discounts and lower-cost bundles – but these days, those come with a big caveat – you have to sign up for a minimum term (of 6 months, as of this writing), if you want to take advantage of those prices.
Oh, and they used to offer a free trial for both the Entertainment and Cinema memberships – but that was axed (although you can sometimes get it if you subscribe to one of the bundles).
The regular prices of all the “memberships”, as of this writing, are:
EntertainmentLatest TV Shows
- Live Sky TV Channels
- Hundreds of TV Box-Sets On Demand
- Includes content for children
- TV Catch-Up Service
CinemaOver 1,000 Movies
- Live Sky Movies Channels
- New Premieres Every Week
- Some Recent Blockbusters
- Rich Back-Catalogue
Sky SportsLive Sporting Events
- 11 Live Sports Channels
- Premier League football
- Daily Pass Also Available
- Setup Viewing Alerts
NOW BoostAdd Features To Every Other NOW Membership
- Full HD (1080p) Streaming
- No Adverts
- Stream on up to 3 devices
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Support
Note: the NOW Sports Pass has a different pricing model – you can either get a Day Membership (£11.98) or a Month Membership (£33.99) – again, this gives you more flexibility, but can add up when you put it all together (They used to have a Sports Week Pass – which has been removed).
With the Day pass, you can also usually get “bonus” months of the Mobile Sports pass at no extra cost – which lets you watch some of the Sky Sports channels, but only on a mobile phone.
Taking a look at the comparable “old-school” Sky TV prices, starting with “Sky Entertainment”, which is similar to the Entertainment Membership (with the addition of the Sky Q set-top box, and the Freeview channels) and adding Sky Cinema, Kids and HD – it’ll cost you around £63/m – with an 18 months contract (as of this writing).
Getting ALL the NOW passes (including full Sports) would cost £54.97/m, and that’s before any special discounts – so again, NOW 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 Combo packages: Adding to the flexibility (and complexity) of choosing a NOW package, Sky has added the NOW Combo bundles, which 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 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 Combo offers by Clicking Here.
The annoying bit is NOW Boost: it’s an add-on membership that adds some features to all the other memberships you’re subscribed to – namely Full HD (1080p), the ability to stream on up to 3 devices at the same time (as opposed to just 1), and – it also removes the adverts that otherwise show before Entertainment and Cinema content.
NOW Boost costs £6/month (up from £3 when it first launched), and it is almost mandatory these days – who wants a streaming service with 720p quality? Who wants a streaming service with adverts? So when you consider NOW’s pricing, Boost is almost always part of the package.
It’s important to note, however, that some of Boost’s features don’t even work on all devices – you can’t get Full HD on mobile phones and PCs, for example.
NOW vs. Sky Stream
Sky Stream and NOW are both streaming services offered by Sky, but they cater to different audiences and have distinct features.
Sky Stream is a standalone streaming box that offers content via broadband and comes with either a 31-day contract, or an 18-month contract.
Stream provides Freeview channels through broadband, supports 4K content (for an additional fee), and requires a specific device for viewing (unlike NOW which works on almost every streaming device – see below).
In terms of content, both services offer similar Sky channels, but Sky Stream has an edge with its ability to provide Freeview channels via broadband, which is beneficial for those with poor aerial reception.
When it comes to video and sound quality, Sky Stream clearly outshines NOW. While Sky Stream supports 4K/HDR and Dolby Atmos audio (with an additional fee), NOW’s maximum video quality is Full HD, and that too requires an extra payment.
Cost-wise, Sky Stream offers a variety of packages with its basic Sky Ultimate package priced at £29/month on a rolling contract and £26/month with an 18-month commitment.
Adding popular channels like Sky Cinema and Sky Sports can increase the monthly cost to between £68 and £75.
In essence, while both services have competitive pricing, NOW tends to edge out slightly cheaper, especially when considering its no-contract flexibility – but Sky Stream gives a more “complete” Sky experience, with a greatly improved interface.
Want cheaper NOW Passes?
How To Watch: Devices That Support NOW
To watch NOW, you need a supporting device with the NOW app. As of this writing, supported devices include:
- Smart TVs: Selected models by LG, Samsung and others.
- Streaming Boxes: Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouView, NOW TV Stick (no longer manufactured)
- Gaming Consoles
- Phones/Tablets: iOS and Android apps
- PC: Mac/Windows via the browser.
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 is a disappointment, as by default they cap everything at 720p – unless you buy the Boost membership.
In this day and age, with Netflix, Prime Video and Sky’s own Stream all offering Ultra HD 4K content, it’s a real shame you can’t even get Full HD on NOW without paying extra.
The interface on all the NOW memberships and apps is pretty straightforward, dividing the content between categories such as “Hot Now”, “New Releases”, etc. Unlike Netflix, NOW doesn’t offer User Profiles, so you can’t have different family members create separate watchlists.
NOW also lets you download content to your smartphone for offline viewing – though with some restrictions.
Device and Streaming Limit: A regular NOW subscription lets you register up to SIX DEVICES to the service at a time. It’s a decent amount, but it can still be a problem for big families with lots of devices.
However, you can only watch on ONE device at a time – unless you add NOW Boost, which bumps this up to THREE devices at a time.
Netflix’s Standard subscription lets you watch on two devices simultaneously, while Netflix’s premium subscription allows four simultaneous streams.
So getting just one without Boost (it used to be two) is, again, a big push from NOW towards a Boost subscription.
The Content – What Can I Watch On NOW?
As mentioned, content on NOW is divided into three “Memberships” – Entertainment, Cinema and Sports. A fourth Membership, Kids, was removed in 2021, with the Kids content becoming part of the Entertainment membership.
It’s a bit hard to compare NOW’s selection to that of Netflix or Disney+, as it’s not meant to be an all-encompassing library.
Instead, NOW focuses more on the latest shows and movies (from studios that work with Sky), in addition to a limited, changing back catalogue.
Another unique feature of NOW is the Live Channels – instead of just watching on-demand content, you can 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 at this moment, without overthinking.
The NOW Sky Cinema Membership – £9.99/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.
The selection isn’t as comprehensive as it used to be. But you still get a variety of titles, from blockbusters to kids’ movies and some golden classics.
Most Disney/Marvel movies aren’t available anymore – since they moved to Disney+.
The trouble is that with so many separate streaming services available in the UK (Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Paramount+, Lionsgate+ and the list goes on) – Sky Cinema is just one subscription among many, so the selection of films is limited.
In addition to movies-on-demand, you can also watch Sky’s movie channels LIVE. The channel selection changes occasionally, but can include:
- Sky Cinema Premiere
- Sky Cinema Feel Good
- Sky Cinema Hits
- Sky Cinema Action
- Sky Cinema Animation
- Sky Cinema Family
- Sky Cinema Comedy
- Sky Cinema Sci-Fi & Horror
- Sky Cinema Thriller
- Sky Cinema Greats
- Sky Cinema Drama
The picture quality is stuck at 720p unless you add NOW Boost at £6/month.
As for subtitles – that has been a problematic topic with NOW, but things are mostly OK now, and virtually all the films have subtitles.
Bottom Line: The cinema membership is best if you’re after some of the latest movie releases (mostly big-name blockbusters). Just keep in mind that many blockbusters don’t reach NOW/Sky anymore.
As always, the fact that the Cinema 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 Entertainment Membership – £9.99/m
This pass, which can also be described as the “TV Pass”, includes 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 Membership 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.
Sky – and NOW with it – used to be THE destination for the latest water-cooler shows from big American studios (along with Sky Originals).
However, as with films, that’s no longer the case – and many of the big talked-about shows are now on Netflix, or Disney+, or any of the other major streaming services – which leaves NOW’s Entertainment Membership emptier than before.
NOW’s main attraction, in terms of TV shows, remains HBO / Max, with shows like Game of Thrones and its prequel, The Last of Us, Succession and others.
In addition, NOW has shows from NBCUniversal and its Peacock streaming service – which are owned by Comcast, the same company that owns Sky.
There’s a catch, though – many of the shows, especially the “bigger” ones, are on for a limited time.
Often, 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 (sometimes mere hours after its US broadcast, but sometimes at an annoying delay of a few months), 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.
In comparison, Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video also change their selection and remove shows from time to time – but they usually stay on for years before they’re removed so that you can watch at a much more leisurely pace.
NOW’s Catch-Up is a different story altogether – you don’t get a full box set of the series. 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 it doesn’t let you jump into a series that started a while ago, because the earlier episodes will be gone.
The Kids’ content is also now a part of the Entertainment membership – see more about that ahead.
And as with the Cinema Membership, you also get a selection of channels that you can watch LIVE, such as:
- Sky Max
- Sky Atlantic
- Sky Witness
- Sky Comedy
- Comedy Central
- Sky Sci-Fi
- Sky Crime
- Sky Documentaries
- Sky Nature
- Sky History
- Sky Arts
- Sky News
Note that the Fox Channel, with had a long list of popular shows (like The Walking Dead) was shut down in 2021, with some of its content transferring to Disney+. Then in 2022, National Geographic was removed from NOW.
As with the Cinema membership, the picture quality for everything is stuck at 720p, unless you add the NOW Boost pass – and even then, not all shows have 1080p streams.
Furthermore, you now get adverts before on-demand programmes, which is highly annoying for a paid streaming service. You can remove those adverts with the Boost add-on.
Bottom Line: While the selection of TV shows is not as extensive as the one on Netflix, if you want to watch some of the HBO shows everyone’s talking about (other than Netflix/Amazon/Disney+ originals) – you’ll find many of them on NOW.
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 Kids Pass (Now part of Entertainment)
Up until 2016, several Kids channels were part of the Entertainment Pass, but then NOW decided to move them to a new, separate Kids Pass at an additional cost. This angered some users (because the Entertainment Pass’ price remained the same and has since gone up).
In 2021, however, NOW completed a full circle – and incorporated the Kids content BACK into the Entertainment Membership (without having to pay extra). While that’s good news for those who had both passes – it’s of course a possible downside for those who ONLY wanted the Kids content.
The Kids category is still separate, but you get it as part of the same membership. It offers 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 several LIVE channels, including the new Sky Kids channel.
NOW 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, the Kids category has a good collection if you want a set environment where your kids can always find something fun to watch.
Note, however, that it doesn’t include any Disney content – there are occasionally some animated Disney films, but those are in the Cinema Pass. The Disney TV shows were removed from NOW in 2016, and can now be found over at Disney+.
The NOW Sky Sports Pass – £34.99/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 fan in the UK – NOW comes to the rescue (but at a cost).
While certainly not cheap if you’re going to watch regularly, the Sports Pass offers even more flexibility than the other passes, with Daily passes in addition to the monthly ones.
The prices are £11.98 for a Day Pass or £34.99 for the monthly pass (there used to be a Weekly pass which is no longer available).
This means that if you’re only interested in specific sporting events, you can turn the pass on and off for a day, without having to pay for the whole month (let alone for 12-18 months with regular Sky contracts.)
They also used to have the Sky Sports Mobile Pass, which gave you five sports channels but ONLY on a mobile phone, at £5.99/month. While no longer available as a standalone subscription – you can usually get it as a “bonus”, for several months, when you subscribe to the Day Membership.
With the Sports membership, you get 11 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
In addition to the live channels, you can also get some of the sporting events and highlights (more than 1,000 hours) on demand.
The NOW interface does help you see the games and events that are on now, and exciting 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 default 720p picture quality is even more annoying with the Sports Pass, as sporting events are precisely where you would want the highest picture quality possible – but alas, NOW wants you to pay the extra £6/month for Boost.
For Sports fans, Boost also adds a smoother sporting experience: All the Sky Sports channels stream at 50 frames per second if you have Boost.
Bottom Line: If you’re a sports fan, the NOW Sports Pass is a godsend, offering you many 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, and – remember some are only on TNT Sports), with the flexibility of subscribing and cancelling whenever you want.
It’s expensive, though – especially if you add 1080p and Boost. Curiously, Sky Sports is often cheaper on competing services – such as with Virgin Media’s TV offers, for example.
And, disappointingly, there’s no Ultra HD (4K).
NOW Vs. Netflix / Amazon Prime Video / Disney+
Even though NOW 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’s Prime Video are all about size, variety and exclusive “Originals.” With more than 2,000 movies on the UK edition of Netflix, and even more on Prime Video, NOW’s selection looks paltry.
And the same can be said about the choice of TV programmes – the number on NOW is considerably smaller than on Netflix, Prime Video or even Disney+ with it selection of Disney/Marvel/Pixar originals, as well as general entertainment on the Star category.
However, while Netflix and Prime Video focus on full seasons of older shows, along with the newer exclusive originals (such as Stranger Things on Netflix and Wheel of Time on Prime Video), NOW focuses on bringing the latest programmes from various premium channels (at least the one they’re still in contract with).
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 often “exclusive”, as you won’t find it on Amazon’s Prime Video or Netflix.
As for pricing, if we take sports out of the equation (as Netflix and Disney+ don’t offer any live sports as part of their regular subscriptions, and Prime Video offers it minimally), adding the Entertainment Pass and Cinema Pass together comes down to £19.98/m – that’s considerably higher than Netflix’s standard £10.99/m, Amazon’s £5.99 monthly Prime Video subscription, or Disney Plus’ £7.99/month.
And, if you look at Netflix’s ‘Standard With Adverts’ tier – which is the most comparable to NOW (as NOW also has adverts) – it’s just £4.99, compared to NOW’s £19.98.
Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ also offer superior picture quality with full HD and some 4K content, while NOW wants you to pay extra for 1080p (and even then – some content is still limited to 720p).
NOW’s advantage over the competition used to lie with having some of the most recent and highly-talked-about shows from some American channels – whether that’s still worth the extra price you’re asked to pay, is up to you.
The NOW Smart Stick (Discontinued)
If you don’t already have a device with a NOW app (Chromecast, LG/Samsung telly, A Roku streamer, etc.), NOW TV’s own stick used to be a good choice, and often came bundled with “free” Passes.
However, the NOW Smart Stick was discontinued in 2021, and is no longer being manufactured. You can still find stock in some stores, but the stick will no longer be available once that supply is gone.
You might also still see older NOW TV boxes on eBay or other stores – the original, black “Smart Box” and even the old “White Box” – but these are no longer officially sold by NOW (Careful – the White Box doesn’t even work anymore).
Can NOW Replace A Sky Subscription?
Comparing NOW to Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video is a bit of a problem. Yes, they’re both streaming video services, but NOW’s unique selling point is the inclusion of SOME of the most recent shows from premium American networks – mainly HBO and Max.
So NOW 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 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 a decent replacement for those services?
In my opinion – YES, but there’s a but. While NOW is cheaper and much more flexible than traditional cable/satellite subscriptions, it sometimes feels as if Sky is crippling their streaming service on purpose, maybe to keep it a few levels underneath their traditional TV service.
The fact that NOW wants you to pay extra for 1080p picture quality (while the Sky Q box offers 4K content!) is the primary example. It’s as if Sky wants 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, and the recent addition of adverts ahead of shows and films, which you can only remove with Now Boost.
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.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that NOW’s selection isn’t as comprehensive as it used to be – there were very few blockbuster films last year, and many TV hits are now Netflix/Prime/Disney+ exclusives, so will never get to NOW.
And again, let’s not forget Sky Stream – which seems to be Sky’s favourite streaming child these days.
All in all, NOW offers a useful, flexible service, with a decent content library (and a not-so-impressive back-catalogue), that still has some catching up to do if it wants to lead the pack.