Sky TV Essentials: Prices, features and channels

Dan Howdle | October 19th, 2023

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Did you know Sky offers a TV package even more basic and cheap than Sky Entertainment? Well, you do now. Sky essentials is its bare-minimum TV offering, which offers a Sky Q box (which can record, rewind and so on), along with a familiar line-up of Freeview channels. Packages include TB Essentials come under the heading of 'Q Lite'.

But who is that for exactly? And why would you choose Sky TV Essentials (Q Lite) over the more expensive Entertainment pack or even a bunch of additional premium channels? Well, the clue's in the question. You can save money, and if all you need is the Sky channels, BBC, ITV, a bit of Dave etc. then this could be the TV package for you. Let's take a closer look.

Overview of Sky's TV Essentials

Somewhat confusingly, Sky TV Essentials is one component in a tier of Sky TV and broadband bundles called 'Q Lite'. So when we talk about TV Essentials it is the TV portion of those bundles. We might equally call it Q Lite since it's the only bundle variation in which you'll find TV Essentials. For now we're going to stick with calling it TV Essentials, but when we mention Q Lite further down down the page we're talking about the bundle as a whole, which includes broadband. You cannot get Sky TV Essentials on its own, and Sky TV is only available on its own via Sky Stream, Sky Glass or NOW TV. Sky Q packages (such as Q Lite) are only available bundled with broadband.

You might question why Sky would even offer a basic TV package. After all, those Sky Q boxes aren't cheap and surely it's barely worth Sky's while handing them out to folk who only need the basics? Well, it's all about feet in doors. Their foot in your door to be precise. Once you have the hardware in your home and you're all set up, it's that much easier for Sky to wave tempting upgrades before your eyes, both through the service itself and other routes such as email. Sky Q Lite is sort of a Trojan shop.

Sky TV Essentials (Q Lite) doesn't even offer viewing in HD as standard for most channels (only about 22 of the 200+, in fact). It is literally the perfect platform from which to upsell you. So you'll need a modicum of willpower to take out the package and keep it how it is. You will get limited access to your channels via the Sky Go app however, so that's something at least.

How to get it

Sky doesn't make TV Essentials particularly easy to get, but if you're determined to find it, look for Q Lite. If you coast on over to the Sky website you'll be hard-pressed to find it, what with it buried under all the marketing for packages Sky would actually rather you subscribed to. It is, in fact, a better idea to give Sky call about it than it is to spend an hour poking around its website.

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Only available bundled with broadband

As briefly mentioned above, there is no way to get Sky TV Essentials on its own. The only way to get it is with a Q Lite bundle, which includes Sky Broadband. There is no Sky TV Essentials-type TV package available for either Sky Stream or Sky Glass (the streaming versions of Sky), and that of course also means you'll need a satellite dish to get TV Essentials.

Channels included with Sky TV Essentials (Q Lite)

You may be surprised to learn there are around 200 channels included with Sky TV Essentials. However (emphasis on the however), a lot of those channels will be +1 versions on others, and of course many of them will be shopping and other televisual 'things' that don't really qualify as proper channels. The best way to convey what you get then is to show you the highlights, and talk briefly through what you don't get.

Sky TV Essentials channel highlights

Here's a quick look at some of the more popular channels you'll get with TV Essentials:

Channel 4 Five ITV2
E4 Film4 More4
4Music 4seven 5*
5USA Paramount Network CBS Drama
CBS Reality CBS Justice Challenge
Sky Arts Food Network Dave
Drama Really Yesterday
Quest Quest Red DMAX
Pick BBC News Sky News
Bloomberg TV CBBC CBeebies
Arirang NHK World

What you won't get

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, Sky will be withholding anything that might be considered 'juicy'. So most of the Sky Entertainment channels are missing: Sky Max, Sky Atlantic etc. And you certainly won't find anything on the premium end such as Sky Sports, TNT Sports or Sky Cinema.

The Sky Q box

It's worth noting that, for us, the Sky Q box you get with Sky Q Lite (which includes TV Essentials) is really the star of the show. It's a very capable device, and even though it still must be tied to a satellite dish, which is beginning to feel increasingly old-fashioned even in spite of its inarguably 'space-age' technology.

Here's a breakdown of highlights covering what the Sky Q box can do:

  • Multi-Room Viewing: Sky Q allows you to watch TV in multiple rooms simultaneously. With additional Sky Q Mini boxes you can have a fluid multi-room experience, and even watch different channels on different TVs at the same time
  • Ultra HD and 4K Support: Sky Q supports Ultra HD and 4K content, providing you with a higher resolution and better picture quality, especially if you have a 4K TV. Bear in mind you won't any 4K channels with Sky TV Essentials, but you will be able to have your menus and apps in 4K
  • Recording: Sky Q offers ample recording space. The 1TB box allows you to record up to 1000 hours of content. You can record up to six shows while watching another, and even set recordings remotely through the Sky Go app
  • Pause and rewind: Don't miss a moment with the ability to pause and rewind live TV. This feature is a convenient way to ensure you catch everything, even if you step away from the TV momentarily
  • Voice control: Sky Q comes with a voice-activated remote control. You can simply speak voice commands to find shows, change channels, or search for content, making navigation quick and easy
  • Fluid viewing: The Fluid Viewing feature allows you to start a show in one room and continue watching it in another seamlessly. You can also transfer recordings between Sky Q boxes
  • Integrated apps: Access popular apps like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, and more directly from your Sky Q box. Enjoy a wide range of content beyond traditional TV channels
  • Sky Go: With Sky Go, you can watch your favorite shows and sports events on your mobile devices while on the go with most bundles. With TV Essentials your options will be somewhat more limited however, so bear that in mind
  • Dolby Atmos: It's Atmos compatible, but let's be honest, your TV/audio setup probably isn't. Still, it's there if you ever decide to put speakers on/in your ceiling
  • Remote record: If you're away from home and realise you forgot to set a recording, you can use the Sky Go app to remotely record shows to your Sky Q box
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What we think

At the time of writing, you'll save about £15 per month by opting for Sky Q Lite (which includes TV Essentials) over the mid-entry Entertainment pack (either through Sky Q or Sky Stream). And for many, that'll be worth it. But, the broadband offered as standard with Q Lite is a weedy 36Mbps, so many will want to upgrade that, and many will therefore find costs rising fast. And I you have a big telly, watching in SD just isn't going to cut it for most people.

Still, the actual Sky Q device is very, very good. It was when it first appeared several years ago and it still is. Over time the software has improved making the interface snappier, and the range of apps wider. Ultimately, we recking the biggest consideration is whether you want a satellite dish on your home. There are pretty cheap ways to get Sky TV and not have one, and to be honest they're not much more expensive than this.

Despite comprising the so-called 'basics', TV Essentials comes with a Sky Q box, which is both a boon, and of course the single factor that stops Q Lite being ultra-cheap. Seems like Sky wants to have its cake and eat it, and we think the lack of features on TV Essentials will soon have many upgrading just for a better quality of life. And, of course, that's the point.

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