Sky Glass, the new streaming-based TV from Sky, represents a unique new product category. But with all the fuss around this new telly, some have forgotten that Sky already has a streaming service: NOW (formerly known as NOW TV).
While there are many differences between Sky Glass and Sky’s NOW, there are also many similarities. They both require broadband (instead of a satellite dish) and they offer pretty much the same content (with a few caveats).
So is Sky Glass closer to Sky Q or to NOW? And what about the pricing differences? And are we comparing apples to oranges here, or simply a Gala apple to a Granny Smith apple?
Before we dive in, a quick refresher: Sky Glass is the recently announced 4K streaming TV from Sky. It comes with a QLED HDR display, and a built-in soundbar with five speakers. It includes channels from Sky, as well as many of the major streaming apps, and Freeview.
NOW (they changed their name from NOW TV) is Sky’s no-contract streaming service – a cheaper TV platform that gives you flexible packages (“memberships” of content that can be watched on a variety of streaming devices).
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Devices: Where Can You Watch Sky Glass / NOW?
Sky Glass represents both a service and a TV. As in, the actual device that sits in your living room (and there’s also a soundbar built-in)
Sky is offering Glass in three sizes: 43″, 55″ and 65″.
Sky’s service – as in, the channels and content, are baked into the TV’s unique operating system: you get things like Playlists (sort of a watchlist combined with recordings), voice control, and more – in a user interface that’s supposed to be both innovative and easy to use.
If you want to watch Sky in another room, you can get the optional Sky Puck – which is basically a streaming set-top box that connects to your TV. But here’s the important bit: you can’t get it without Glass. The Puck is ONLY available to those who buy Sky’s TV first.
So if you want to get streaming TV directly from Sky, with the new Glass interface – you MUST buy the new TV.
Presumably, Sky Glass customers will also be able to watch their channels on smartphones via Sky Go – and interestingly, it was also announced that Sky Go is coming to Apple TV devices.
NOW, on the other hand, is a stand-alone streaming service that’s not dependant on any specific device. In fact, NOW used to sell their own streaming sticks and boxes – but those were discontinued.
So if you want to watch Sky’s channels via NOW – you just need a streaming device (that’s connected to your broadband).
Most devices sold in the UK support NOW – The Amazon Fire TV sticks, Roku, many Smart TVs, as well as smartphones (both iOS and Android).
The Winner: NOW.
This one’s easy: it’s not a question of how good Sky Glass is – the fact that there’s just ONE device that offers Sky’s new service, says it all.
If you want a new TV, AND you want to subscribe to Sky, then you can consider Sky Glass – but if you just want to watch Sky’s channels (via streaming), you don’t HAVE to get a new TV, thanks to NOW.
Content and Channels on Sky Glass and NOW
With Sky Glass being a Smart TV (of sorts), its content library is not just about Sky: it supports 3rd party streaming services and apps (though a few major ones are still missing), and even its Freeview channels are streamed via broadband instead of an aerial (though again, several Freeview channels are still missing).
NOW is not a device – it’s a service. Whatever else you get around it, depends on the streaming device you’re using to watch NOW.
But if we look at Sky’s own channels – Sky and NOW are identical in what they offer. From channels like Sky Atlantic to Sky Witness, from Sky Sports channels to Sky Cinema – everything’s available both on Glass and NOW (with a few minor differences).
The pricing is different, of course (see below for more on that), and the content is divided into different types of packages – but it’s all there on both of them.
And since both NOW and Glass are based on streaming, most of the content is available both on-demand and live (except for sports content, where not everything is available on-demand).
The Winner: TIE!
If we only compare Sky’s channels – then both NOW and Glass have the same content. If you’re looking to get Freeview channels via broadband (because you don’t have good aerial reception or you can’t put a dish) – then Glass does have the upper hand.
Video and Sound Quality
The Sky Glass TV comes with a QLED 4K (UHD) screen with HDR support, as well as a built-in soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos.
Obviously, you could get similar specs by buying a different TV (and/or soundbar) – so for comparison’s sake, we need to look at Sky’s content – and the video/audio levels you can get it at via Glass and NOW.
Sky Glass is similar to Sky Q in that regard: you can get some of Sky’s content in 4K Ultra HD – some live sporting events and selected programmes and films.
The same goes for Dolby Atmos content (an advanced surround sound technology that adds height channels to the “traditional” surround sound platform) on Sky:
“Dolby Atmos is currently available on live Ultra HD broadcasts of English Premier League matches, selected Ultra HD Sky Cinema downloads and at times, selected Box Sets from Sky One and Sky Atlantic”
Keep in mind, though, that you have to pay extra if want to get 4K and Dolby Atmos content on Sky Glass. Otherwise, the baseline picture quality on Sky Glass is Full HD (1080p).
On NOW, it’s a different story: there’s no 4K / HDR support at all, and the maximum video quality is Full HD (1080p).
But even for that, you need to pay extra for Full HD on NOW, and subscribe to NOW Boost – otherwise, the default video quality on NOW is 720p.
There’s also no Dolby Atmos support on NOW. You can only get Dolby Digital 5.1, but again – you need to pay for NOW Boost to get that.
The Winner: Sky Glass.
If you’re after 4K (and Dolby Atmos) content from Sky – you can only get it on Glass.
Cost: Sky Glass VS NOW Pricing
Sky Glass comes with two distinct payments: you pay for the TV itself (the device), and for Sky’s service.
If you pay the whole amount for the telly upfront, The 43″ TV costs £649, the 55″ is £849, and the £65″ is £1,049.
If you prefer to buy Sky Glass in monthly instalments, those payments are a loan, either for 24 or 48 months. It’s interest-free, but it still requires a status and credit check, so if you miss a payment, it could certainly affect your credit score.
The 43″ starts at £13/m, the 55″ is £17/month, and the £65″ is £21/month – if you choose the 48 months option.
There’s also a £10 upfront fee for all of them (and yes – surprisingly, it’s a bit cheaper to pay with instalments than to pay upfront in this case).
Then, you pay for Sky’s services and channels on top of what you pay for the TV.
The basic package you must have is Sky Ultimate, at £26/month. It includes Sky Entertainment (a pack of channels like Sky Atlantic, Sky Max and others), Freeview, and the basic Netflix plan which only has SD content. And it costs £26/month.
On top of that, you can add:
- Sky Cinema at £11/month.
- Sky Sports at £25/month
- Sky Kids at £5/month
If you want to add 4K and Dolby Atmos, that’s another £5/month. And if you want to be able to fast forward adverts – that’s also £5/month (but free on your first year).
And finally, if you want to be able to watch in other rooms – you need the “Whole Home” addon, which is £10/month, and £50 one-off cost for each Sky Puck.
Unlike Sky Q, Sky Glass doesn’t have a long-term 18-months contract. Instead, it’s a 31-days rolling contract that you can cancel at any point (just remember that the TV instalments WILL continue for the full 24/48 months, as you’re repaying a loan with those).
NOW’s costs are different: there are three main packages (“memberships”) that you can join:
- NOW Entertainment, at £9.99/m. It’s equivalent to the Sky Entertainment/Ultimate pack, with two major differences – it includes Kids channels (which cost more on Sky), and it DOESN’T include the three Sky Sports channels that are part of Sky Entertainment (Racing, Mix and News).
- NOW Cinema, at £9.99/month. Identical to the Sky Cinema plan on Glass.
- NOW Sky Sports, at £33.99/month. Almost identical to Sky Sports on Glass (with Racing, Mix and News being part of this membership instead of Entertainment).
Then there’s NOW Boost, at £5/month – which adds Full HD (1080p) video quality, Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, no adverts (for on-demand content. You’ll still see adverts on Sky’s live channels), and the ability to stream on up to 3 devices at the same time (instead of just one).
Let’s compare two similar packages:
Sky Glass with:
- Sky Ultimate (which also includes Netflix’ basic tier)
- Sky Cinema
- Sky Kids
- Sky Sports
Then the total would be £67/month.
And that’s WITHOUT adding things like advert skipping or Whole House.
Also, keep in mind that Sky Q has special bundles that reduce the total price when you take more than one content pack (Cinema with Sports, for example) – but it comes with an 18-months contract. Glass, with its rolling 31-days contract, doesn’t come with these discounts at the moment (as far as we know).
So let’s compare that to a NOW package that includes:
- NOW Entertainment (it includes Kids)
- NOW Cinema
- NOW Sports
- NOW Boost (for HD)
- Netflix Basic Plan (Standalone it’s £5.99/month)
The total is then £64.96.
As you can see – the two are surprisingly similar. Though, keep in mind the big difference with the cost of Sky Sports – it’s £25/month on Sky Glass, and £33.99/month on NOW.
So if you’re not a sports fan, NOW totals £30.97, while Sky Glass is £42/m without sports.
And of course, with NOW you can decide you don’t need Netflix. With Glass, you don’t have that flexibility, as it’s built into Sky Ultimate.
The Winner: NOW.
Somewhat surprisingly, the difference between NOW’s pricing and Sky Glass isn’t very big. Whether that says something about how pricey NOW is, or how cheap Glass is – is up to you.
And yet – NOW is still cheaper. And more importantly, it gives you even more flexibility. Want to just get Sky Cinema? you can. Want Sky Sports without anything else? you can.
And while Sky Glass does offer more flexibility than other Sky offers (in particular with the rolling 31-days contract, instead of the 18-months one) – it’s still not as flexible as NOW.
And – let’s not forget the big elephant in the room (with its built-in soundbar) – with Sky Glass, YOU HAVE to buy Sky’s TV.
With NOW, you can use your own Smart TV, or any TV for that matter, by connecting it to a cheap streaming device.
The Bottom Line: Sky Glass or NOW?
It all boils down to one question: Do you need a new TV? And do you think Sky’s TV is a good option for you?
If the answer is Yes, AND you want to be a Sky subscriber – then you’re getting exactly what you want with Sky Glass. The TV looks pretty good (at least on paper and from a quick hands-on glance – I haven’t had a chance to fully review it), it sounds good, and – its Sky content pack is not too expensive when compared to NOW.
However, pretty much the only major things from Sky you can get on Glass and not get on NOW, are 4K/HDR and Dolby Atmos (which, in my opinion, is exactly the reason you can’t get them on NOW – it’s almost the only differentiator at this point).
So if you don’t need a new TV – or you don’t fancy this particular one from Sky – then there’s really no reason to choose Glass over NOW.