Sky Stream VS NOW TV: Sky’s Streaming Services Compared

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Sky Stream, Sky’s standalone streaming box, represents a major shift for Sky. But let’s not forget that Sky has another long-running streaming service: NOW (formerly NOW TV).

When Sky’s streaming TV (Sky Glass) launched in 2021, it was already a competitor to NOW, with it being based around streaming instead of a satellite dish, and the no-long-contracts pricing. But with Glass, you also had to buy a whole new TV set.

Sky Stream, which launched in late 2022 (see our full Sky Stream review), requires only a small box and an ongoing subscription to Sky. It’s also based on streaming via broadband, and you can get it on a 31-day contract. Sounds familiar? 

Therefore, Sky Stream and NOW are competing, each with its own pros and cons. NOW is cheaper than Stream, but it doesn’t have 4K content. Stream offers Freeview channels via broadband, but you can’t “take it with you” when you travel.

Sky’s Global Chief Product Officer, Fraser Stirling, told me when Stream launched that there’s room for both Sky Stream and Sky’s NOW, and they’re aimed at different audiences with different needs. 

But is that indeed the case? In this in-depth comparison, we’ll examine Sky’s competing streaming services and determine which one is better – and for whom.

Before we dive in, here is a quick refresher: Sky Stream, the streaming puck from Sky, lets customers get Sky’s full roster of channels without a dish and without a long-term contract (though if you take one, you pay less).

Also, importantly, Sky Stream works with any broadband provider (unlike competing devices from Virgin Media and EE TV).

Stream includes channels from Sky, as well as many of the major streaming apps, and Freeview via broadband.

Sky Stream on table

NOW (they changed their name from NOW TV) is Sky’s no-contract streaming service. It is a cheaper TV platform that offers flexible packages (“memberships” of content) that can be watched on a wide variety of streaming devices.

Devices: Where Can You Watch Sky Stream / NOW?

Sky Stream functions both as a service and a device – you can’t get Stream without the physical set-top puck.

Sky’s services – as in, the channels and content, are baked into the box’s unique operating system (which it shared with Sky Glass) – you get things like the Playlist (sort of a watchlist combined with recordings), voice control (via the remote) and more – in a user interface that’s supposed to be both innovative and easy to use.

If you want to watch Sky in more rooms, you can get additional Stream pucks, at an extra cost.

Sky Stream in bedroom side view
Sky Stream

You can’t take the Sky Stream puck with you when you travel (or visit your mate) – it’s geo-fenced around your home, and will only work at the address of the account holder.

Therefore, if you want to watch Sky’s channels on the go, as a Sky Stream subscriber, you’ll have to use Sky Go – which is yet another separate streaming service from Sky, meant to be used on smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Unfortunately, Sky Go doesn’t share an interface with Stream, so your watchlist and recommendations won’t sync between Sky Stream and Sky Go.

NOW, on the other hand, is a stand-alone streaming service that’s not dependent on any specific device. In fact, NOW used to sell their own streaming sticks and boxes – but those were discontinued.

NOW TV devices dragon

So if you want to watch Sky’s channels via NOW – you just need a streaming device (that’s connected to broadband, either at home or on the go).

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.

Although you no longer have to buy a brand new TV to get Sky Stream – you’re still limited to watching Sky on that very specific device. NOW, however, lets you watch anywhere and everywhere, as long as you have a compatible device.

Content and Channels on Sky Stream and NOW

With Sky Stream being a streaming device (albeit limited), its content library is not just about Sky: it supports 3rd party streaming services and apps such as Prime Video, Disney+ and Netflix (though a few major ones are still missing), and even its Freeview channels are streamed via broadband instead of an aerial.

NOW is not a physical device but rather a service or app. The additional services you can use depend on the streaming device you use to access NOW.

But if we look at Sky’s own channels – Stream and NOW are almost 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 Stream and NOW (with a few minor differences).

Sky Stream Wonder Woman
Sky Stream (Photo: Sky)

Of course, the pricing is different (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.

Since both NOW and Stream are based on streaming, most of the content is available both on-demand and live (except for sports content, which is not always available on-demand).

But Stream does have the upper hand in one category: Freeview. While you can get Freeview for free, with an aerial, on almost every TV sold in the UK – some homes are in an area with bad reception.

Therefore, getting most (not all) of the Freeview channels via broadband is a Stream benefit that doesn’t exist for NOW subscribers.

The Winner: Sky Stream

If we only compare Sky’s channels – then both NOW and Stream 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 install a Freesat dish) – then Stream does have the upper hand.

Video and Sound Quality

Sky Stream (the box itself) supports 4K/HDR (provided your TV supports it as well) and Dolby Atmos audio (via passthrough). 

If you want 4K content from Sky, however, you’ll need to pay an extra £6/month for the UHD/Dolby Atmos add-on pack. Otherwise, the baseline picture quality on Stream and its Sky channels is Full HD (1080p).

You can also use the puck to stream 4K content from 3rd party streaming services that include 4K content, such as Disney+ and Amazon’s Prime Video, if you’re subscribed to them.

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 (£6/month) for Full HD on NOW, and subscribe to NOW Boost – otherwise, the default video quality on NOW is a paltry 720p.

NOW Boost on desktop computer


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 Stream.

This is one of the primary areas where NOW feels intentionally handicapped, with an embarrassing video quality of 720p, unless you pay extra. And if you’re after 4K (and Dolby Atmos) content from Sky, then Stream is the clear winner here.

Sky Stream’s Interface VS NOW’s Interface

Sky Stream’s user interface, which is identical to the one on Sky Glass, is all about personalisation and recommendations. 

Unlike Sky Q, with Stream, you can’t record content locally on the device itself. Instead, most of the content is streamed on-demand, either from Sky or one of the third-party apps, so you’re taken to BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Netflix, etc. 

Some content can also be recorded to the cloud – mainly sports – but for most of the content, you’re dependent on the show/film still being available online, instead of having it reside on your local hard drive.

Everything on Stream revolves around the Playlist – a watchlist to which you can add programmes and films from Sky’s channels as well as from 3rd party streaming services.

The playlist on Sky Stream and Glass

There’s also a global search, that lets you search (by voice, via the remote) among all the streaming services supported on the device – so if you say “Tom Holland“, you’ll see his films on Sky, Prime Video, Netflix, etc. – and you can then jump straight to them, if you have the right subscription.

NOW’s interface is quite basic, and is similar to many other streaming services – rows of content thumbnails (either films or TV shows), divided into different categories. 

NOW Streaming new ui on tv

There’s also a watchlist you can add content to, and a ‘Continue Watching’ row for things you’ve already started to watch.

Another differentiation is the Personal Playlists. On Sky Strem (and Glass), you can set separate playlists for each member of the family – while it’s not as robust as having fully separate profiles (as you do on Netflix or Amazon’s Fire TV, for example) – it still gives you more flexibility for separate watching.

NOW doesn’t have anything similar – neither profiles nor personalised playlists.

The Winner: Sky Stream

NOW doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel – it’s a simple (some would say too simple) interface that lets you browse content (or search for it directly).

Sky Stream is the opposite – its interface is, some would say, the main attraction – and while it’s useful (especially the global search), it might get a bit confusing for new users, at least until they get used to it. Still, I like how it tries to take things in a different direction.

Cost: Sky Stream VS NOW Pricing

Unlike Sky’s dish-based solutions (such as Sky Q), and similarly to Sky Glass, Sky Stream doesn’t require a long-term contract, which is a major shift for Sky.

The basic contract is a 31-day rolling contract which you can cancel at any time without any penalty charges.

But you CAN also go for the 18-month contract – and that will lower your monthly subscription costs (although you’re then “stuck” with it for 18 months).

When you order Sky Stream, you no longer need to pay for the device itself (there used to be a “setup fee” of £39.95) – at least as of this writing. Once you get the puck, you install it yourself, and there are no engineers involved.

Note that following a change in Sky’s terms, you no longer “own” the device – the Stream puck is now a loan, and you have to send it back if you cancel your Sky subscription.

Sky Stream near TV

The basic Sky package that you must have with Stream is Sky Ultimate, which includes Sky Entertainment (a pack of channels like Sky Atlantic, Sky Max and others), Freeview, and Netflix’s Standard with Ads plan.

The rolling-contract version of this package on Sky Stream costs £31/month, and the same plan, with the 18-month contract, is £29/month, following a price increase in April 2024.

On top of that, you can add more packs and channels from Sky and 3rd parties. As of this writing, the costs (before special discounts) are:

  • Sky Cinema (which includes Paramount+) for £16/month on the rolling contract, and £13/month on the 18-month contract.
  • Sky Sports for £30/month on the rolling contract, and £28/month on the 18-month contract.
  • Sky Kids for £7/month on either contract.

If you want to add 4K and Dolby Atmos, that’s another £6/month. And if you want to be able to fast forward adverts – that’s £5/month (it used to be free on the first year – but that’s no longer the case).

And lastly, if you want to be able to watch in other rooms – you need the “Whole Home” add-on, which is £13/month. The first Whole Home puck (so the second for you in total) is free for now – but you will have to pay £39.95 for additional ones.

NOW’s costs are different, and much more simple: 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 Stream.
  • NOW Sky Sports, at £34.99/month. Almost identical to Sky Sports on Stream (with Racing, Mix and News being part of this membership instead of Entertainment).

Then there’s NOW Boost, at £6/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).

There are no mandatory long-term contracts on NOW, and you can cancel at any point.

However, last year, Sky started offering optional “6 Month Saver Plans” on NOW, that DO include a minimum term (of 6 months, as of this writing) – for a lower monthly cost. 

So let’s compare two similar packages:

Sky Stream with:

  • Sky Ultimate (which also includes Netflix’s Standard with Ads)
  • Sky Cinema
  • Sky Kids
  • Sky Sports

The total would be £84/month on the rolling contract and £77/month on the 18-month contract.

And that’s WITHOUT adding things like advert skipping or Whole Home.

So let’s compare that to a NOW package that includes:

  • NOW Entertainment (which also includes Kids)
  • NOW Cinema
  • NOW Sports
  • NOW Boost (for HD and no adverts)
  • Netflix Standard with Ads (Standalone it’s £4.99/month)

The total is then £67.96 per month.

If you take advantage of the 6-month Minimum Term deals that often pop up for Entertainment and Cinema, the price will be £59.97 per month (or even lower when there’s a NOW Sports deal).

As you can see, the two are somewhat similar, especially if you take the 18-month contract with Stream. However, keep in mind the big difference in the cost of Sky Sports – it’s £28-£30/month on Sky Stream and £34.99/month on NOW (but it’s often discounted).

So if you’re not a sports fan, NOW (and Netflix) totals £24£33/m, while Sky Stream is £49-£54/m without sports.

And, of course, with NOW, you can decide you don’t need Netflix. With Stream, you don’t have that flexibility, as it’s built into Sky Ultimate.

The Winner: NOW.

While the difference between NOW’s pricing and Sky Stream’s isn’t huge, NOW is still cheaper in most cases.

That’s especially true if you compare it to Stream’s no-contract tier. The whole point of cord-cutting and the streaming TV world is to avoid the type of long-term contract we’ve long suffered with Sky – and Stream is bringing those back, somewhat, if you want the lower-cost option.

Also, don’t forget the portability issue – with NOW, you can watch on any supported device, including portable ones like Firesticks. With Stream, you’re stuck with the one box they give you.

NOW on devices formerly NOW TV

And one last thing to keep in mind – if you unsubscribe from Sky at any point, your Sky Stream box will stop working altogether. You can’t even use it for third-party streaming apps like Prime Video – it simply won’t work at all, and you would have to send it back.

The Bottom Line: Sky Stream or NOW?

Unlike the comparison between NOW and Sky Glass, with Stream, you don’t have to buy a TV set, so we’re finally comparing apples to apples.

Sky Stream is a tempting offer, in many ways. For me, as a longtime cord-cutter, it’s certainly more tempting than any other traditional Sky TV offer we’ve seen to date (in terms of pricing, flexibility and contract length).

But streaming services are here to serve one main purpose – to supply us with content to watch on our tellies (or other gadgets). 

In that regard, once you decide you want to watch Sky’s channels – is there any other consideration other than price? If not, then NOW is the clear winner, as it’s cheaper – though I am troubled by its recent push into 6-month minimum terms. 

If you want one device/service that combines most of the major services and TV channels (from Sky and others) into one innovative interface, then Stream is an interesting answer. 

It’s not as encompassing as the streaming sticks from Amazon and Roku, but it does have the big names – including Freeview channels via broadband, which is a big plus for some.

Still, if you just want to watch Sky’s channels at the lowest price and with maximum flexibility – then NOW is still the one to beat among Sky’s offers.

8 thoughts on “Sky Stream VS NOW TV: Sky’s Streaming Services Compared”

  1. Interesting to see Virgin Media offers but after 30 years with them or predecessors it’s good to have finally cut the cord. 3 hour wait this week to reach a person to solve a termination problem of their making. Coincided with the notice of price increase letter.

    Plus I won’t have to listen to that “welcome to Virgin Media…” voice promising the best service that never materialises.

  2. Now wins!

    Flexible, cost effective and it works. Tried Stream and Glass 9 months in ditched it just so bug laden and very restrictive in app availability. Reading Sky forums still today the same issues as day one are being discussed.

    Now viewed on Apple 4K is superb picture quality though I do understand start can be an issue but I’m not a sport fan so can’t comment.

    Apple 4K with TV Launcher and Now is a winner.

  3. Don’t know why sky just doesn’t do what all the other major streaming services do – an app for your smart TV. Why they persist in you having to have their “equipment” to watch their channels (which is generally problematic to say the least) I don’t know. Scrap now TV, and just have one streaming service that offers full 4k viewing and Dolby sound etc, and price it accordingly. Far simpler (and cheaper) all round I should think.

    • I suppose the idea is that if they control the hardware they can control piracy and also provide a simple support model for their employees. If they created an app the support people would spend ages trying to work out why someone couldn’t watch bake off on their cheap ASDA TV.

  4. Sky Stream is a glitchy box of tricks after 9 months no option but to bin it. Reading their forums the same concerns are raised today with stream as launch date, the cost too is a major factor, so expensive boost on Now and a Fast Forward option charge on Stream, who wants to pay to fast forward!!!!

    Stream is a different product to Now a system being compared alongside an app hmmmmm.

    Personally I really like Now and is far superior to stream and the many glitches. AD free too which is a bonus with boost and the layout of the app is clear and easy to navigate whereas stream bombards you with rail after rail of content.

    So Now isn’t 4K but viewed via an Apple TV upscaled the quality is truly outstanding. With beautiful sound via Apple HomePods.

    Finally Now is so cheap Entertainment and cinema for less than a tenner a month with constant deals Sky Stream cannot compete.

    Winner is Now Sky Stream needs major software improvements.

  5. I’ve had Now TV for years, via the Now TV Smart box – that’s the one with an aerial connector built in. So I get Freeview via the tv aerial on the Now TV box plus the various packages. All with a useful EPG.

    I constantly look around online to see if there’s anything else around for better value, but for me, Now TV wins every single time.

    I’ve been to a few shops but was told “nobody watches live tv on Freeview anymore” and “EPG’s are a thing of the past” – well we do and find it very useful.

    The only annoyance with the Now TV Smart box is the lack of apps, I can no longer get Disney+ (the app wasn’t upgraded apparently and Now no longer supports it). I can still get Amazon and Netflix however.

    I would say that Now TV makes it difficult for the user to navigate, especially to go to the Movies on Demand section.

    So…. until something better comes along I’m sticking with Now.

  6. The only real reason to opt for Sky Stream is if you simply must have sports in 4K with HDR.
    Any other half decent streaming device (Firestick, Roku, Apple TV 4K, etc) can access all the same Freeview channels live via free apps. Sky just gives you an EPG to plan viewing which is helpful to some but not for others.
    The Stream puck hardware is cheap and slow compared to many other streaming devices, and it is utterly impossible to fast forward and rewind effectively. Very frustrating.

  7. To say NOW and Stream are not competiting products is kind of marketing speak. As the article says once you purchase NOW you can watch it on any of your devices.
    A quick search across the digital spy forums will show that many people do not pay list price for NOW. I am currently paying £6 for movies and £6 for entertainment, but others are paying £4.99 and even £2.99.
    I agree Stream wins for the Freeview piece, although every channel has their own streaming apps you can watch live.
    I’m not sure the demographic for Stream, but once you get past the idea of not having a dish, other options such as Roku, Amazon , Google and Apple TV suddenly make sense.
    Using these you can remain fully in control of your viewing, isn’t that what cord cutting is about?


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