NOW TV is a subscription-based streaming service from Sky, and gives you a way of accessing Sky shows without having to stick a satellite dish on the side of your home or get yourself tied into a long contract.
Having said that, there is a contract option, in that you can sign up for the company's unlimited broadband on a one-month or 12-month basis - which will come in handy for watching all that lovely TV and movies, and which comes with content bundled in.
But the main point of the service – apart from the low cost – is the flexibility, in that it allows you to buy your content through a range of monthly passes, covering movies, sports, kids and entertainment.
All NOW TV Passes are based on Sky TV's Cinema, Sports, Kids and Entertainment packages, with the Entertainment, Sky Cinema and Kids Passes costing just a few quid a month. You can sign up for all three in one go; but there won't be a discount compared with buying them separately, unless you're lucky enough to come across a special sign-up offer - which is quite likely.
The NOW TV Entertainment Pass gives you access to Sky One, Sky Living, Sky Atlantic, Gold, Comedy Central, SYFY, Sky Arts, ITV Encore, Fox, MTV, Discovery, Nat Geo Wild, Challenge, ITV, Pick, Viceland and ABC Studios. That's only a third of the number of channels that you get with a Sky TV subscription, but it does include what's arguably Sky's most popular channel, Sky Atlantic, and most people will probably find it plenty.
You also get access to on demand content with the Entertainment Pass, and catch-up is available for up to 30 days. There are more than 300 box sets from premium channels, with must-see content including Game of Thrones and Walking Dead.
With NOW TV's Sky Cinema Pass, you get more than 1,000 movies on demand, with a wide range of both classics and new releases. There are themed movie collections, including science fiction and horror, action and comedy, Disney and romance. Even if you manage to watch your way through the lot, there's a new premiere every day to keep you entertained.
And all this comes in at a price that's noticeably cheaper than accessing Sky Cinema through Sky itself or even through a rival provider like BT.
This is the cheapest pass available from NOW TV, and gives you access to six children's channels that aren't on Freeview: Boomerang, Cartoonito, the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr and Nicktoons, as well as catch-up and on demand content. There's a simple, picture-based interface, which means that your kids shouldn't be badgering you for help all the time.
There are thousands of episodes to choose from, with plenty of content for kids of all ages, from babies up to teens, and parental controls mean you can choose what your kids are able to watch. However, the lack of Disney channels may leave some customers disappointed.
As we've seen, the NOW TV Sky Sports Pass works rather differently from the other three, enabling people who just want to watch occasional sporting events to do so. Whatever length Sports Pass you buy (one day, one week, one month, etc), you'll get access to the same ten channels. There's a dedicated channel for the Premier League - with 126 live matches this season - as well as football, cricket, golf and Formula 1.
Meanwhile, the Sky Sports Action and Arena channels cover international Rugby Union, Rugby League, boxing, darts, NFL, tennis and more; and there's also a Main Event channel dedicated to the biggest live events from across Sky's range of sports channels.
With the three main content packages, if you don't cancel a pass within a month, you'll automatically be charged for another 30 days. With Sky Sports, though, you can buy daily and weekly passes as well as monthly, meaning you can sign up to watch just the events that you want. Daily and weekly passes don't have to be cancelled, but are treated as a one-off payment.
Currently, 720p is the highest resolution you can get on NOW TV - HD quality, more or less, but nowhere near 4K. However, the company is gradually rolling out 1080p, which should be available by the end of 2018. And while it's not currently possible to download content for later viewing, this feature is on its way too. It'll be rolling out gradually during the spring of 2018, with kids' content set to benefit first and the entertainment and cinema packages following soon after.
You can get set-up by downloading a free app to watch online from nowtv.com/shop, after which you can choose the passes you want. The app is available on more than 60 devices, including smart TVs, iPads, iPhones, games consoles and some Android devices.
You can also watch NOW TV on your TV using a NOW TV box or stick, which basically turns your television into a smart TV. This means you can access free on-demand content like Demand 5 and BBC iPlayer. There are also more than 50 apps available, bringing you popular sites including YouTube, Spotify, BBC News, BBC Sports and TED Talks.
You can watch live or through an on-demand catch-up service. You can register up to four devices for the service, and watch on two at the same time.
It costs more than three times as much as the Smart Stick, but it gives you a whole lot more. With the NOW TV Smart Box, you get HD capability, allowing you to choose from 12 HD channels, and you can also pause and rewind live TV. Some customers, though, complain about the fact that the programme guide only shows the current programme and the next one: you can't browse any further ahead.
Again, getting it as a bundle with one of the company's passes will give you three months' entertainment or two months of cinema for a fiver more; you can also pay another few quid to get a month of Sky Sports thrown in.
The cheaper of NOW TV's two hardware options, the Smart Stick, turns an ordinary television into a smart TV, and now comes with HD and voice search and voice control capability. You can also pause live TV for up to 30 minutes. You'll need to sign up for a NOW TV account first; then you just plug the stick in to a spare HDMI port on your TV and away you go.
Made by Roku, the Smart Stick is dirt cheap – way cheaper than the Amazon Fire TV Stick for example – and if you buy it as a bundle with one of NOW TV's passes, you'll get a month of movies, two months of entertainment or three months of kids' TV thrown in for just a fiver more.
NOW Broadband offers three speeds, on a par with those offered by most other providers, averaging 11Mbps, 36Mbps and 63Mbps. However, unlike much of the competition, all NOW Broadband packages are truly unlimited: there's no fair usage clauses, and no traffic management is ever imposed. It's one of the biggest selling points for the company, and is actually pretty necessary given the fact that most customers will be streaming TV and movies on a regular basis.
NOW Broadband is now available as a standalone service without the need to buy one of the company's TV passes too. Pricing is very reasonable for the first year or a contract, though it increases quite sharply after that. There's also a no-contract option.
You can add on a call package; choose from pay-as-you-use, unlimited calls to UK landlines and mobile numbers at evenings and weekends, or unlimited calls 24/7. With all three packages, you get 141 number withhold and voicemail, with 1471 last number recall and caller display costing a quid a month extra each.
There's no denying that Sky TV is about as good as a TV service could possibly be, but it has to be said that it comes with a very hefty price tag attached.
NOW TV is a cut-down version, but still offers some cracking content – most notably including an easy and commitment-free way to access Sky Sports for those important events. And, importantly, NOW TV comes in at a very much lower price than the full Sky service, as well as being available without a contract. You don't need a satellite dish either, for that matter.
Meanwhile, the NOW TV stick is a really cheap way to turn your standard television into a smart TV, and even comes with voice control; on top of that, the company offers truly unlimited broadband at a reasonable price. All in all, if you're looking for solid content on a flexible contract and at a good price, NOW TV is fantastic value.
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