What's the cheapest way to get Sky TV?

Dan Howdle | November 8th, 2023

Sky TV channels

Until very recently there were few good options to get anything approaching the full suite of Sky channels and services for less money than one might typically expect. Getting Sky 'on the cheap' has historically been limited either waiting for some limited-time offer, or settling for an extremely cut-down and under-featured sliver of the whole in the form of NOW TV.

And while it's still a good idea to look for limited-time deals when signing up for a Sky TV subscription, Sky Stream is now by far the most complete, highest-quality, flexible and hassle-free way to get the entire Sky TV enchilada. We will cover both this and your other options for getting Sky TV for as little money as possible in this guide.

Cheapest full Sky TV service: Sky Stream

Long has it been said that the cheapest way to watch Sky TV is via cut-down streaming alternative NOW TV. But here's the problem: The list of what you don't get with NOW TV compared to the traditional, full Sky TV satellite service we all know and love stretches off to the horizon and contains channels and features that are no small beer.

For example, you can stream some Sky-branded entertainment channels live through NOW TV, but not the 130 to 200 others you'd typically find in a full Sky subscription. And while NOW TV remains the cheapest way to access those specific channels (Sky Max, Sky Atlantic etc.), it falls far sort of offering what we would term a Sky TV subscription. That title now belongs to Sky Stream.

To illustrate our point, here is an at-a-glance look at how the three primary ways to receive Sky TV compare in services, channels, technical features and of course price square up:

Sky Q (satellite) Sky Stream (also Sky Glass) NOW TV
Device Sky Q Sky Stream Puck Various (via app)
Channels 200+ 150+* 40+
4K HDR Yes Yes No
Dolby Atmos Yes Yes No
Sky Box Sets Yes Yes Yes
Record Live TV Yes No No
Delivery via Satellite dish Broadband Broadband
Contract length 18 months 31 days, 18 months, 48 months (Sky Glass) 31 days
Requires Sky Broadband No No No
Prices from £31 per month** £19 per month** £10 per month**

*Missing channels are primarily +1 and SD (non-HD) versions of other channels see our full Sky Stream channel guide for details

**Prices correct at the time of writing and may vary over time. See below for latest deals.

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Sky Stream: Advantages beyond price

As you can see from the table above, Sky Stream is dramatically cheaper than Sky Q (traditional Sky satellite TV subscription). The reasons for this drastic price differential have to do with the equipment Sky needs to install and maintain to run the service. Sky Stream just needs a streaming Puck in your home, an internet connection and… that's it. Sky Q needs a satellite dish installed on your home, dedicated cabling throughout your home and, you know, satellites launched into space.

Here are the advantages Sky Stream has beyond being considerably cheaper:

  • No satellite dish: No one 'wants' a satellite dish bolted to their home if they don't have to. With Sky Stream you don't need one
  • No contract: For a slightly higher monthly fee you can get Sky Stream without a contract
  • Smaller set-top box: The volume of the Sky Q box is 2451cm cubed, while the volume of the Sky Stream puck is 207cm cubed. You could fit 12 Sky Stream Pucks comfortably inside one Sky Q box. The Puck is so small, in fact, you can tuck it behind a wall-mounted TV if you wish
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Cheapest way to get Sky Sports: Sky Stream

Although Sky Sports (11 channels) are available via other providers and services it should come as no surprise that Sky reserves the cheapest delivery method for itself:

Subscription method Sky Sports price Contract length
Sky Q £20 per month* 18 months
Sky Stream/Glass £20 per month* 18 months or 31 days
Virgin Media TV From around £25.50 p/m* 18 months
BT TV From around £25 p/m* 24 months
NOW TV £34.99 p/m or £11.98 p/day* 31 days or one-day

*Prices correct at time of writing, but may vary over time

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While Sky Q and Sky Stream share first place in terms of per-month pricing, Sky Stream remains the clear winner for all the same reasons as it wins in the cheapest Sky TV category. It doesn't require a satellite dish, obviously, but perhaps most importantly in the Sky Sports category the price is the same whether you subscribe to Sky Stream for 18 months or 31 days (where you can cancel anytime).

That means you can get Sky Sports, in full, on a no-contract basis. The only other place you can do that is via NOW TV, and goodness look at the price of doing it that way: Nearly twice as much and by far the most expensive way. NOW TV does offer a Sky Sports day pass, which no other provider or method of delivery offers, but relatively speaking it's almost absurdly expensive.

Cheapest way to get Sky Cinema: NOW TV

Perhaps surprisingly, NOW TV actually comes out cheapest when it comes to Sky Cinema (11 channels), while Virgin Media the most expensive. But there are some caveats that mean it might not be the 'best' option, and we'll get into those below this table:

Subscription method Sky Sports price Contract length
NOW TV £9.99 per month* 31 days
BT TV £10 p/m, but only via NOW TV* 24 months
Sky Stream/Glass £11 per month* 18 months or 31 days
Sky Q £19 per month* 18 months
Virgin Media TV From around £22.50 p/m* 18 months

*Prices correct at time of writing, but may vary slightly over time

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So, about those caveats. BT TV offers Sky Cinema's channels via the NOW TV app, unlike Virgin Media, which offers it via its streaming box (TV 360) in similar fashion to Sky itself. This is important because although NOW TV (and BT TV therefore) appear the cheapest, what NOW TV offers is not like-for-like with Sky Stream.

For one thing, you can't watch Sky Cinema in UHD (4K) resolution on NOW TV. And sure, while Sky will make you pay a monthly premium for the privilege on either Stream or Q, NOW TV wants an additional premium just to watch in HD. If you don't buy so-called 'NOW TV Boost' you'll be watching in 720p or worse which, if you have a large TV is going to look pretty terrible.

So even though NOW TV is about a quid cheaper on the face of it, we would still choose Sky Stream any day of the week.

Cheapest Sky TV without a contract: Sky Stream

Only NOW TV and Sky Stream qualify in this category. And as you'll see in the upcoming table, Sky Stream is not in fact the cheapest way to watch some form of Sky TV, NOW TV is. However, the two services don't really compare when it comes either to what's on offer broadly, or in terms of the technology used to deliver it. NOW TV is a false economy versus Sky Stream albeit for a handful of cases.

What cases? Well, if you just want to watch the latest season of a show – let's say Succession for argument's sake – NOW TV offers a way to jump in, binge the lot, and jump out again at the smallest possible cost to yourself. But you'll pay more to watch in HD, and if you have any TV ambitions beyond that one show, Sky Stream just offers so much more.

Service Contract terms Price Channels Sky box sets?
Sky Stream 18 months or 31 days From £19 per month* 150+ Yes
NOW TV 31 days £9.99 per month* 40+ Yes

*Prices correct at time of writing, but may vary slightly over time

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Conclusion

Satellite TV is dying. For Sky it is by far the most expensive way for the company to deliver your TV subscription. Rockets and satellites aren't cheap either to launch or to maintain, and likewise both the big, complicated Sky Q set-top box and the dish you need on your home all add to those price overheads.

And so Sky Stream was born. Delivery is so much cheaper because it leans only on something everyone already has – broadband. And it has a small, capable device in the form of the Sky Stream Puck. And in fact, the biggest question for Sky wasn't how Sky Stream fits in with Sky Q (it's going to replace it completely in the near future), but how Sky Stream fits in with NOW TV, which already does some of what Sky Stream is doing, but worse, and in many cases at greater cost.

Alternative providers such as Virgin Media and BT offer TV services that offer some Sky channels and allow the bolting on of Sky Cinema and/or Sky Sports, but this is universally the most expensive way to get Sky TV, and you'll be missing the jewel in Sky's TV channel line-up: Sky Atlantic. The best way to get Sky is to get it from Sky and the best, and cheapest way to get Sky is via Sky Stream.

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