1. TV
  2. Providers
  3. Sky TV
  4. Sky Arts

How to get Sky Arts

By Tim Smith | Tuesday, June 6th 2023

Sky Arts is a digital TV channel from Sky TV available in standard and high definition (SD and HD) formats. As its name suggests, Sky Arts shows films, documentaries and interviews related to music, movies, literature, dance, theatre, photography, painting and many other areas in the world of the arts.

In this guide we will tell you how to get Sky Arts, how you can access it in HD and SD, how to get it with and without a Sky TV subscription, and also what kind of programmes you can expect to see on the channel.

What is Sky Arts?

Sky Arts is a TV digital channel from Sky TV available in SD and HD formats with a Sky TV or Now TV subscription. It specialises in broadcasting programmes from all areas in the world of the arts. You can, for example, watch Lenny Henry talking to Jools Holland and performing alongside Mica Paris in his exploration of blues music, as well as see performances of opera and classical music.

There is also plenty for film buffs, with Discovering Film – a series of profiles on famous actors and music fans, including Video Killed The Radio star, which features famous bands and recording artists discussing their albums. There are special programmes on art and architecture, alongside repeats of popular old drama series such as Tales of the Unexpected and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

How can I get Sky Arts?

Sky Arts in high definition (HD) is only available as part of a Sky TV subscription or as part of a NOW TV Entertainment Membership. However, Sky has made the standard definition (SD) version of the Sky Arts channel available for free via Freeview and Freesat. Here are the options available to you:

Via Freeview

Sky has made the standard definition (SD) version of Sky Arts available using just a Freeview set-top box or a Freeview-enabled Smart TV. Although this is the SD version, the programme content is the same as the high definition (HD) version, it's just that the visual quality is slightly poorer.

As part of a Sky TV subscription

If you want to have a Sky TV subscription, you will get access to Sky Arts and Sky Arts HD with any package you choose as it is included as standard in every bundle. Choose from Sky Q, Sky Glass or Sky Stream.


You can also watch Sky Arts with Sky-owned NOW TV. The NOW TV Entertainment membership includes Sky Arts along with other premium Sky channels including Sky History, Sky Nature and Sky Atlantic. All NOW TV memberships come on a one-month rolling contract so you can cancel at any time. Simply sign up online and watch via the app on your Smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or games console.

TalkTalk TV subscription

Because it is on Freeview, Sky Arts SD is available with a TalkTalk TV package at no extra cost. TalkTalk TV can only be taken with TalkTalk broadband. Customers can choose to add on NOW TV memberships if they wish.

Virgin TV subscription

Because it is on Freeview, Sky Arts SD is available as standard in all Virgin Media bundles. To watch Sky Arts in HD, customers will have to sign up for Virgin Media's Bigger Bundle, or anything above it. TV channels are delivered via Virgin's branded TV 360 box.

BT TV subscription

Sky Arts is available in HD with BT TV packages via the included NOW TV Entertainment membership that enables you to watch Sky TV channels without the need for a separate contract. BT TV is supplied with its own BT TV box that can connect to an aerial or straight to your BT Smart Hub.

What shows can I watch on Sky Arts?

Sky Arts, as its name suggests, broadcasts programmes related to books, films, music (rock, jazz, classical and soul all feature), painting and many other areas of the wider world of the arts. It also shows some quirky drama series from the past including Tales of the Unexpected and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Here are some of the arts genres covered:


Sky Arts targets book lovers particularly with its Sky Arts Book Club show. This is hosted by Andi Oliver and Elizabeth Day. It features news and reviews of the latest books to the market, and also some classics. You'll also find interviews with authors.


Sky Arts features interviews and profiles of famous painters, documentaries about art styles and the different periods in painting (and sculpture). One of the most popular shows on the channel is Portrait Artist of the Year presented by actor Stephen Mangan, with guest stars and guest judges supporting him.


In order to bring the arts to life, Sky Arts also features documentaries and docudramas both heavy-and-lightweight in nature. These have included the Horrible Histories-flavoured Urban Myths, and the meatier Boswell and Johnson's Scottish Road Trip starring comedian Frank Skinner as the great writer Dr Samuel Johnson, and including crime writer Denise Mina.


There is lots of music and music insight to be had with Sky Arts. Live concerts and gigs featuring jazz, classical rock, alternative, reggae and soul stars, from Guy Garvey's Elbow via the London Symphony Orchestra to the Wu Tang Clan. There is also a host of music documentaries and interviews., including Video Killed The Radio Star, which looks at the story behind some of the most renowned music videos ever made.


Film buffs will enjoy interviews, documentaries, profiles and behind-the-scenes shows including the popular and informative The Directors series, examining the life and works of renowned directors from Alfred Hitcock to Ridley Scott, and also Discovering Film, which focuses on profiles of outstanding actors over the years, from Richard Harris to Marilyn Monroe.


Sky Arts is well provisioned with factual programming. This includes historical documentaries such as Casanova Undressed in which historians look at the life and times of famed lover Giacomo Casanova. There are also gritty documentaries such as playwright John Godber exploring The British.

Other genres

Some shows on Sky Arts are not so easily pigeon-holed. Take for example, Tales of the Unexpected. Yes, this classic mystery series from the 1970s is regularly broadcast on Sky Arts. So are timeless episodes of Melvin Bragg's arts magazine The South Bank Show Originals. Photography also features with the Master of Photography series where famed snapper Lois Greenfield analyses people's photos.

What do I need to watch Sky Arts?

Sky Arts standard definition (SD) is available via any Freeview set-top TV boxes and via Freeview-enabled smart TVs. The SD version of Sky Arts features the same programme contents at a reduced visual quality.

To watch Sky Arts HD with Sky, you need a subscription to Sky TV or a NOW TV Entertainment Membership or a Premium Virgin Media TV subscription. If you sign up to Sky TV, you can either take Sky broadband as well or a different provider, and you will be able to watch Sky Arts via whichever Sky TV equipment you choose: Sky Q, Sky Glass or Sky Stream.

Virgin Media TV requires you to also have Virgin Media broadband, and you will be supplied with a Virgin Media TV 360 box on which to watch it.

For NOW TV, you just need any broadband service and a means of watching your NOW TV content, whether that’s on a smart TV or via the app on a games console or tablet, for example.

Frequently asked questions

How much does Sky Arts cost?

Sky Arts standard definition (SD) is free to watch via Freeview on a set-top box or Freeview-enabled smart TV. Sky Arts in high definition (HD) is a paid-for channel available as part of a Sky TV subscription, within a NOW TV membership, or as part of a premium Virgin Media package.

Is Sky Arts for kids?

Sky Arts isn't primarily aimed at children in the same way as Boomerang, Nick Jr and Sky Kids itself. However, that's not to say that your kids might not enjoy shows such as Portrait Artist of the Year.

Is Sky Arts SD different to HD?

In terms of availability and visual quality, yes Sky Arts SD is different from Sky Arts HD in that the visual quality is a bit lower, but it is available for free on Freeview. Sky Arts HD is pay-to-view with a Sky subscription or NOW TV membership, or via other TV providers.

What genres does Sky Arts cover?

Sky Arts tries to cover all genres in the world of the arts with interviews, documentaries, live concerts and plays, reviews and artist profiles. Genres covered include: all kinds of music, books, painting and sculpture, architecture, dance, theatre, film and film making, and photography.

Back to top