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What’s Now TV? Sky’s pay-as-you-go streaming service defined

Ditch the dish and get Sky on demand at a significantly discount over the regular service? That’s what Now offers: the best of Sky distilled into a Netflix-like on-demand streaming service (plus some live broadcasts tossed into the mix for fun). It’s been doing t for years, but with the arrival of Sky Stream you might be wondering if (a) Now’s days are numbered and (b) how it differs from the company’s newer, shinier streaming platform. Well, we’re here to answer those questions and more, with our complete guide to What is Now TV.

What is Now TV?

Now is a streaming service, a little like Netflix, Prime Video or Disney+. It offers a wealth of content on demand, as well as live broadcasts, streaming the lot via your home’s broadband link (or your mobile data, if you’re watching on a smartphone or tablet on the move).Now is owned and operated by British broadcaster Sky, with a content offering that reflects that.

How much does it cost?

Now works on a “pass” system: you purchase passes (usually billed monthly) to add to your membership, with each pass giving you access to different content.

Cinema Membership costs £9.99 a month and gives you access to all the current Sky Cinema movies and 1,000 other on-demand films.

Entertainment Membership is £9.99 a month and gives you access to 24 live Sky channels (including six kids’ channels) and on-demand shows from all of them.

Sports Membership works slightly differently and can be purchased in three different forms. Day Membership is £11.99 and gives you access to all 11 Sky Sports channels for a single 24-hour period, while Month Membership (£33.99) offers the same but, well, for a month. Finally, there’s Mobile Membership, which costs £9.99 a month for existing members and offers five Sky Sports channels (Premier League, Action, Arena, Racing and News) on your Android or iOS smartphone.

There’s also Now Boost, which costs £5 a month on top of whatever you’re already paying. This increases streaming quality to 1080p from the usual 720p, adds Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, ups Sky Sports channels’ frame rate to 50fps (except on Xbox consoles and LG TVs, for some reason) and allows you to stream on three devices simultaneously rather than the usual one. It also removes the ads you otherwise occasionally see with on-demand content.

We have strong opinions about Now’s video and audio quality and device limitations, which are really poor and very stingy compared to just about every other streaming service on the planet. Most rival platforms now offer 4K UHD content and allow simultaneous streaming on multiple devices at no extra cost – and don’t even get us started on Now’s love of unskippable pre-roll ads. Boost goes some way towards fixing these issues (although it really should be offering 4K UHD by now), but the fact it’s an extra £5 on top of everything you’re already paying is hard to swallow.

What can you watch?

Now’s great strength lies in the fact that its best content can’t be found anywhere else (bar Sky Stream: see below for more on that). The sports offering is unmatched in streaming, and particularly appealing if you want to watch live Premier League football or F1 racing, while Sky’s deal with HBO means it’s the only place to watch the likes of The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Game of Thrones and The White Lotus. Some of the best TV shows around, in other words.

The Cinema Membership is appealing for slightly different reasons. While Sky’s original movie offerings are merely decent rather than a huge draw, Cinema tends to premiere big movie releases ahead of the other streaming services (although this doesn’t always apply: Disney/Marvel films will be on Disney+ first, while Netflix and Prime Video get a few big films first too).

Where can I watch it?

Now is mostly app-based. There are apps for mobile devices, computers, consoles, streaming devices and smart TVs, and most people will watch via one of these: just install the app, sign in and you’re ready to go.

Now also offers its own hardware devices in the form of the Now Smart Stick and Now Smart Box, which are handy if you’re watching on a non-smart TV or projector.

What about Sky Stream?

Don’t get it twisted: Sky Stream and Now are two totally separate services, despite their shared Sky heritage. Sky Stream is newer and a bit shiny, supporting 4K UHD, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos and requiring its own (very compact) set-top box. Its price of entry is also higher than Now, meaning we think the two will peacefully co-exist – at least for the time being.

Find out more about Sky Stream in our guide here: Sky Stream: What you need to know about Sky’s new TV service

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