This week, NOW TV launched a brand new set-top box, one that allows users to pause and rewind live TV. But with it came something else a bit more revolutionary: the NOW TV Combo, the UK’s first contract-free TV, broadband and calls bundle.
Sky’s contract-free streaming service has grown in recent years, giving viewers access to Sky content live and on-demand without a contract. To get a bundled service of Internet and a phone at the same time, though, customers have traditionally had to sign up to a minimum contract of 12 months, whether that’s with BT, TalkTalk, EE or, indeed, Sky. NOW TV’s expansion, then, is a big shift for the industry – especially because it arrives just as Sky puts more eggs into its pay-TV basket, with the launch of premium set top box and service Sky Q.
Which is more affordable? And what do you get for your money? We put Sky and NOW TV head to head to find the best option for you.
NOW TV’s new box comes with a digital tuner, which means you get access to Freeview’s 60+ channels (including 15 in HD). Apps such as Spotify, YouTube and Sky News are included, along with all of the Freeview catch-up apps: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5.
Sky gives you access to 300+ channels, including around 50 in HD. As well as the Freeview catch-up apps, there is also a whole heap of on-demand content from pay-TV channels, including Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, Sky 1 and so on. Sky also has Sky Sports and Sky Movies available as bolt-ons, which means you can watch major movies before they arrive on Netflix or other SVOD services, or follow Premier League football and other sporting coverage.
NOW TV also offers bolt-ons for pay-TV content: an Entertainment Pass, which includes 11 live pay-TV channels (the main Sky channels, plus FOX UK, ITV Encore and others) and 250 box sets on-demand; a Sky Cinema Pass, the whole of the Sky Movies catalogue live and on-demand; a Sky Sports Pass, live-streaming of all seven Sky Sports channels (available daily, weekly and monthly); and a Kids Pass, a dedicated monthly package of six live kids’ channels and shows on-demand.
NOW TV offers three types of broadband: Brilliant Broadband – speeds up to 17Mbps, Fab Fibre – speeds up to 38Mbps, and Super Fibre – speeds up to 76Mbp. All have unlimited usage.
Sky has similar options: Broadband Unlimited – speeds up to 17Mb and unlimited usage, Fibre – speeds up to 38Mbps, but with 25GB monthly allowance, and Fibre Unlimited Pro – speeds also up to 38Mpbs, but with unlimited usage.
NOW TV’s new Smart Box is available in addition to NOW TV’s older box, but that’s all the kit you need to get started – Sky, on the other hand, requires you to have a satellite dish and a Sky set-top box.
Sky has therefore invested in developing its box tech significantly.
The normal Sky+HD box allows you to pause, rewind and record live TV, as well as access streaming content via a Wi-Fi connection. Sky Go also allows you to watch Sky on up to two mobile devices wherever you are.
With Sky Q, Sky’s new premium box, you get more storage for recording content, and can also record three channels at the same time, while watching a fourth. Sky Q Silver, the super-premium option, adds Ultra HD compatibility for when Sky launches its 4K service later in 2016.
While NOW TV’s new box does not allow recording of TV, though, you can always watch things on-demand after broadcast. For those who already have a Freeview box, meanwhile, you don’t even need a box to get it – NOW TV is an app already available on Chromecast, PS4, YouView, Roku, Apple TV, iOS and Android devices. With up to four devices supported, you can stream content on the move without the fuss of installation and hardware. The major downside, however, is that NOW TV only streams in up to 720p (this varies with live and on-demand content), rather than Full HD.
If you don’t like being in a 12-month contract, NOW TV has no contractual obligations whatsoever, which means you can cancel at any time, no matter what service or bundle you have. Sky, simply put, doesn’t allow that.
NOW TV charges a one-off set-up fee of £40 for its basic NOW TV Combo and £50 for Unlimited Fab Fibre Broadband and Unlimited Super Fibre Broadband. (Alternatively, the box is available for just £39.99 as a standalone device.)
Sky charges a £99 one-off cost for Sky Q boxes with Sky Broadband, Sports or Cinema – and £249 without them. Sky Q Silver raises those costs to £149 and £299.
This is where it gets complicated.
You can read a full breakdown of NOW TV Combo prices here. The below table, meanwhile, gives you a basic head-to-head of the monthly costs for NOW TV, Sky+, Sky Q and Sky Silver. Sky makes it difficult to find out the rates for its broadband, TV and calls bundles, although these can vary for existing and new customers and temporary deals often come and go.
|Basic Monthly Cost||NOW TV||Sky Q||Sky Q Silver||Sky+
|with Full Pay-TV||£6.99||£42||£54||£38
|with Sky Cinema||£9.99||£59||£71||£38
|with Sky Sports||£31.99||£67.5||£79.5||£47.5
|with pay-TV, Sky Cinema and Sky Sports||£48.97||£76.5||£88.5||£80
It’s worth bearing in mind that this does not include line rental of £17.99 a month. Your choice of broadband speed and call package will mean that your final cost will also vary. However, let’s presume that you’re looking for the full kit and caboodle: that’s £51.99 for a Sky Sports Month Pass at the highest possible broadband speed. Add to that £6.99 for an Entertainment Pass (access to pay-TV channels and box sets), plus £9.99 for a Sky Cinema Month Pass (all of Sky Cinema’s library on-demand), plus £2.99 for a Kids Month Pass. That’s a total of £71.97. Including a £17.99 line rental fee, that’s £89.95 for the best contract-free Sky experience currently available. It’s a lot, right? But if you went for something similar with Sky, that would be closer to approximately £130 a month, including your line rental. That’s not taking into account the cheapest possible set-up fees of £40 for a NOW TV Combo or £99 for Sky.
The main pro, however, is that NOW TV’s cost is only that: a monthly charge. You don’t have to have a Sky Sports Pass or a Sky Cinema Month Pass. And, more importantly, you don’t have to have any of it for more than 30 days. With Sky, you are committing to paying that monthly fee for a year. With NOW TV, you can cancel and customise any time you want.
As we’ve said above, these costs will change, depending on whether you are a new or existing customer – and there are a mind-boggling array of options and tiers within each bundle and service (remember, for example, that NOW TV’s Sports Pass can be for one day or one week, not just a whole month). But while this isn’t a comprehensive guide to all of Sky+ and Sky Q’s various features, this hopefully gives you a better grasp of what’s on offer from both Sky and NOW TV. On the simple basis of cost and flexibility, we know which we think is better, but what would you go for?