NOW TV Review: A Cheaper Alternative To Sky? [Updated For 2021]

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NOW, Sky’s streaming TV service (formerly known as NOW TV), fills a gap in the life of a cord cutter: Ditching the traditional pay-TV contracts (Sky TV, Virgin Media, 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, 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 2021, the service saw two major changes – first, its name was changed to NOW, and in the summer, some of the prices and features have changed – with adverts being added before films and programmes.

In this updated NOW review, I’ll take a look at the streaming service and its pricing, how it compares to the other streaming TV services out there, as well as the devices you need if you want to watch it on your telly.

NOW Quick Look

Who Is It For: Cord Cutters looking for a cheaper (than Sky) way to watch the latest films, shows and sports.

Content
4/5
User Interface
4/5
Value For Money
3/5
Overall Rating
3.5/5

Pros

Cons

Summary

Less of a “Netflix Killer” and more of a complementary streaming service, NOW offers some of the most talked-about TV programmes, recent films, and all of Sky’s Sports channels. But their selection of full 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 together – things get pricey. 

NOW Prices

Unlike Netflix 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 this year).

NOW Streaming new ui on tv

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.)

The prices of all the “memberships”, as of this writing, are:

Entertainment

Latest TV Shows
£ 9
99
Monthly
  • 13 Live Sky TV Channels
  • Hundreds of TV Box-Sets On Demand
  • Latest TV Shows As They Air
  • TV Catch-Up Service

Cinema

Over 1,000 Movies
£ 9
99
Monthly
  • Live Sky Movies Channels
  • New Premieres Every Week
  • Many Recent Blockbusters
  • Rich Back-Catalogue

Kids

Cancelled in 2021
-- Kids Content moved to Entertainment Membership
  • 1000s of On-Demand Episodes
  • Kids Content Now Part of Entertainment

Sky Sports

Live Sporting Events
£ 33
99
Monthly
  • 11 Live Sports Channels
  • Premier League football
  • Daily Pass Available
  • Setup Viewing Alerts

NOW Boost

Add Features To Every Other NOW Membership
£ 5 Monthly
  • Full HD (1080p) Streaming
  • No Adverts
  • Stream on up to 3 devices
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 Support

Note: the NOW TV Sports Pass has a different pricing model – you can either get a Day Pass (£9.99) or a Month Pass (£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).

Taking a look at the comparable 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 £42/m – with an 18 months contract (as of this writing).

Add sports – and you’re up to £65/month. And in most cases – you also need to add setup fees. (But make sure you haggle with Sky on the price, if you stay with them!)

Getting ALL the NOW passes (including full Sports) would cost £53.97/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 Combo packages: Adding to the flexibility (and complexity) of choosing a NOW  package, Sky have 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 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 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 £5/month (up from £3 when it first launched), and 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.

Want cheaper NOW Passes?

See our guide on getting NOW Deals, Vouchers And Free Memberships
Pricing tip

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, EETV, NOW TV Stick (no longer sold) 
  • Gaming Consoles
  • Phones/Tablets: iOS and Android apps
  • PC: Mac/Windows via app or 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.

At this day and age, with Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ all offering 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 on NOW  without paying extra. 

The interface on all the NOW memberships and apps is pretty straight-forward, 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 members of the family 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 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’ Standard subscription lets you watch on two devices at the same time, while Netflix’ premium subscription allows 4 simultaneous streams. So getting just 1 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 and Amazon, as it’s not meant to be an all-encompassing library – instead, NOW focuses more on the latest shows and movies, 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 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 at this moment, without thinking too much.

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 is comprehensive, from blockbusters to kids movies as well as some golden classics. Most Disney/Marvel movies aren’t available anymore – since they moved to Disney+.

However, with the pandemic affecting movie releases in 2020 and 2021, NOW’s recent blockbusters list is kind of scarce – as there were very few new releases this year. While that will probably get better next year – it’s something to consider (and might be one of the reasons the Cinema Membership’s price was reduced from £11.99 to £9.99).

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 the NOW Boost at £5/month.

As for subtitles – that has been a problematic topic with NOW TV, but things are mostly OK now, and virtually all the films have subtitles.

Bottom Line: The cinema membership is best if you’re after the latest movie releases (mostly big-name blockbusters) – at least once those return. If you’re just looking for a casual movie to watch, you’ll get better value out of Netflix and Amazon – or if you’re a Disney/Marvel fan, one can’t beat Disney+.

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.

And if you want some recommendations – see our list of The Best Movies on NOW TV.

The NOW Entertainment Membership – £9.99/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 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.

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 Mare of EastownSuccession and The Good Doctor, to A Discovery of Witches, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Chernobyl – the list isn’t as comprehensive as it used to be (with some titles – such as The Walking Dead – moving over to Disney+), but it’s still an impressive list of TV hits from premium American cable companies.

Kate Winslet Mare of Eastown
Mare of Eastown

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 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 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.

As of 2021, the Kids content is also 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:

  • Sky One
  • Sky Atlantic
  • Sky Witness
  • Gold
  • Sky Comedy
  • Comedy Central
  • SYFY
  • Sky Crime
  • Sky Documentaries
  • Sky Nature
  • Sky History
  • Sky Arts
  • Sky News
  • Discovery
  • MTV
  • National Geographic

Note that the Fox Channel, with had a long list of popular shows (like The Walking Dead) was shut down this year, with some of its content transferring to Disney+.

The picture quality is, again, stuck at 720p, unless you add the NOW Boost pass – and even then, not all shows have 1080p streams as of this writing. 

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 big as the one on Netflix, if you want to watch some of the 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 TV 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 obviously 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 ExplorerPeppa Pig and SpongeBob SquarePants.

In addition to the box-sets you also get six LIVE channels:

  • Cartoon Network
  • Nickelodeon
  • Nick Jr.
  • Nicktoons
  • Boomerang
  • Cartoonito

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, if you want a set environment where your kids can always find something fun to watch, the Kids category has a good collection.

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 – £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 comes to the rescue (but at a price).

NOW TV Sports interface

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 passes in addition to the monthly ones.

The prices are £9.99 for a Day Pass or £33.99 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 5 sports channels but ONLY on a mobile phone, at £5.99/month. While still active for existing customers, new customers can’t get it at this time. 

NOW TV Sky Sports Mobile

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 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 default 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 want you to pay the extra £5/month for Boost.

Bottom Line: If you’re a sports-fan, the NOW 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, and – remember some are only on BT Sport, which also has a streaming version), with the flexibility of subscribing and cancelling whenever you want.

It’s expensive, though – especially if you add 1080p and Boost. 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 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’s selection looks paltry. And the same can be said about the selection of TV programmes – the number on NOW is considerably smaller than on Netflix and Amazon.

With Disney+, the library isn’t as big at the other two – but you get all the Disney-owned blockbusters from the worlds of Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and more – plus the Star category, which holds a lot of content for more mature audiences. 

However, 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 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 often “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 and Disney+ don’t offer any live sports as part of their regular subscriptions, and Amazon offers it minimally), adding the Entertainment Pass and Cinema Pass together comes down to £19.98/m – that’s considerably higher than Netflix’ standard £9.99/m, Amazon’s £5.99 monthly Prime Video subscription, or Disney Plus’ £7.99/month.

Netflix, Amazon 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). And don’t get me started on those adverts you get on NOW…

NOW’s advantage over the competition lies with having the most recent and highly-talked about shows from some American channels – whether that’s 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 TV app (Chromecast, LG/Samsung telly, A Roku streamer, etc’), NOW TV’s own stick used to be good choice, and often came bundled with “free” Passes. 

NOW TV Smart Stick

However, the NOW Smart Stick was discontinued in 2021, and is no longer being manufactured. You can still find stock in some stores – but once that stock is gone, the stick will no longer be available.

You might also still see older NOW TV boxes on eBay or other stores – the original, black “Smart Box”, and the even older “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 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 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 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 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 wants you to pay extra for 1080p picture quality (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, 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. On the other hand, if you’re a cord cutting sports fan – NOW is almost your only option (though BT Sports is also available without a contract).

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 this year (because of the pandemic), and many TV hits are now Netflix/Prime/Disney+ exclusive, so will never get to NOW.

All in all, NOW 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.

man watchin streaming tv on tablet

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