Sky TV vs NOW TV: Which service should I choose?

Dan Howdle | May 4th, 2023

Sky vs NOW

Sky TV and NOW TV are two sides to the same coin. The former, a contracted subscription TV service accompanied by The Sky Q set-top box, the latter a pure streaming service providing the juiciest morsels of Sky-exclusive content, which can be watched on a plethora of different devices, and which includes movies and sport if you're willing to pay. So how do they compare side-by-side? Let's find out.

Key differences

Sky TV and NOW TV are two very popular services that offer a range of entertainment options to customers. The key difference between the two services used to be that Sky TV required a satellite dish, while NOW TV was accessed through a streaming device, such as a smart TV, games console, or streaming stick. However, that's all changed with the advent of Sky Stream, and it may be that the days of new satellite dish installations are soon to be behind us. However, one key difference is that NOW TV is a more flexible option for those who do not want to commit to a long-term contract as the offer rolling one-month arrangements.

Another major difference between Sky TV and NOW TV is their content offerings. Sky TV has an extensive range of channels, including sports packages, movies, and TV shows – which all depends on the package level you subscirbe to of course. The more you pay, the more you get. In contrast, NOW TV has a much more modular approach, when you can subscribe to only sport, only movies, only entertainment or any combinaton. And, via the Entertainment Pass, NOW TV does offer the ability to stream popular TV shows, including those produced by Sky and HBO, which are unavailable elsewhere short of buying the DVD or blu-ray.

Pricing is also a key difference between the two services. Sky TV is generally more expensive than NOW TV, with long-term contracts required. NOW TV, on the other hand, is significantly cheaper, with no long-term contracts necessary. But this does depend on what you add. Once you start piling in Sport and Movies, NOW TV can get expensive fast. But if all you need are the basics, NOW TV is the more affordable option.

Quick comparison

Subscription Minimum 18-month contract 30-day contract, cancel any time
Content Extensive channels, sports, movies Limited channels, sports, movies
Pricing More expensive, with long-term contracts Lower cost, with no long-term contracts
Installation Can require satellite dish installation Most streaming devices, no installation
Experience Advanced features like pause, rewind, and record Basic features, but easy-to-use interface
Availability UK and Ireland Multiple countries

What you can watch

Sky TV offers a wide range of content, including live sports, movies, and TV shows. Customers can choose from various packages, such as Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, and Sky Entertainment. Sky Sports offers live coverage of football, rugby, cricket, golf, and more, while Sky Cinema provides access to hundreds of movies, including new releases and classics. Sky Entertainment is a package that offers a range of TV shows across multiple genres, including dramas, comedies, and reality TV, all of which can be watched on-demand.

In contrast, NOW TV has a more limited selection of channels and content. However, it does offer a flexible way to access popular TV shows, movies and sport, including shows produced by Sky and HBO. Customers can choose from different passes, such as the Entertainment Pass, which includes popular TV shows like The Last Of Us, House of the Dragon, and The Handmaid's Tale, or the Sky Cinema Pass, which provides access to hundreds of movies on-demand. NOW TV also offers a Kids Pass, which includes a range of children's TV shows and movies, making it a great option for families. All Sky Sports content can be accessed via the Sky Sports Pass, but at this point things start to become expensive.

Sky TV vs NOW TV content comparison

Note that you won't necessarily have all of these in your Sky TV package, because it depends what you subscribe to. However, this shows what you can and cannot get on NOW TV by comparison.

Content Type Sky TV NOW TV
Live Sports Yes Yes (Sky Sports Pass)
Movies Yes Yes (Sky Cinema Pass)
TV Shows Yes Yes (Entertainment Pass)
Kids content Yes Yes (Kids Pass)
Documentaries Yes Limited
Music channels Yes No
News Channels Yes Limited

Technical comparison

Sky TV uses either a proprietary 'Sky Q' set-top box to deliver its content, or its new Sky Stream Puck, while NOW TV is a purely streaming service that can be accessed on various devices. The Sky Q box offers features such as 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Atmos sound, and multiroom viewing, making it an excellent choice for those who prioritize picture and sound quality. However, the Sky Q box requires a satellite dish to be installed, which may not be feasible for some households. Additionally, the Sky Q box requires a monthly subscription fee, which can be expensive compared to other TV viewing options. That said, as of summer 2023, it's likely you'll be offered a Sky Stream service, which also delivers TV via the internet – so no dish required.

On the other hand, NOW TV is a streaming-only service that can be accessed on various devices, including smart TVs, games consoles and streaming sticks. NOW TV offers a range of passes, including entertainment, movies, and sports, which can be purchased on a monthly basis and subscribed or unsubscribed to at will. This makes NOW TV a more flexible and affordable option for those who don't want to commit to a long-term contract. The most notable difference – one that will be very important tho those with large TVs or home cinema systems – is the picture quality. NOW TV streams at only 720p as standard and you'll need the 'Boost' pass to notch that up to a passable 1080p. You cannot stream in 4K on NOW TV and the audio is also quite low-quality.

Sky TV vs NOW TV technical specifications

Specifications Sky TV via Sky Q box NOW TV via various devices
Picture Quality Up to 4K Ultra HD Up to 1080p HD (witd Boost pass)
Sound Quality Dolby Atmos Stereo sound, DD+/DTS witd Boost pass
Hardware Sky Q box Streaming sticks or devices
Multiroom Viewing Available Anywhere witd a compatible device
Recording Capability Available Not available
Satellite Dish Required Yes No

Compare Sky TV

Pricing and packages

Sky TV and NOW TV offer different packages and pricing models to cater to different customers' preferences and budgets. Sky TV requires a contract and a satellite dish installation, and the pricing structure is based on monthly subscriptions. It can be a little complex so it's important when you buy to understand exactly what you're getting. Broadly speaking, the more you add to your Sky TV subscription, the better value you will get compared with NOW TV.

On the other hand, NOW TV offers a more flexible pricing model with no contract, allowing customers to pick and choose passes that include specific channels or genres, such as entertainment, sports, movies, and kids. Customers can purchase passes on monthly basis and cancel at any time. NOW TV also does not require a satellite dish installation, as it is a streaming service that can be accessed on multiple devices, including smartphones, PCs and laptops, streaming sticks, tablets, consoles and smart TVs.

Compare Sky TV

User experience

The user experience of Sky TV and NOW TV differs in various ways. Sky TV, through the Sky Q box, offers a highly responsive and well-designed interface that is easy to navigate, thanks to its intuitive menu and search functions. The interface displays recommendations based on viewing habits, and it allows viewers to customize their profiles, including the channels they prefer, and the shows they want to record. Sky Q supports 4K Ultra HD video, making it ideal for viewers who want to enjoy top-quality video and audio. The only downside is that the service is not accessible on all devices, meaning you need to have a Sky Q box to watch it.

On the other hand, NOW TV's interface design is more straightforward and user-friendly, with categories organised into logical groups. That's good if you know what you're looking for, but our experience of the NOW TV app is that it can amount ot pure torture if you just want to browse, because that same method of categorisation hides a lot of content within layers and layers of menus. NOW TV offers streaming quality up to 1080p, but only if you pay extra for Boost. And while that's sufficient for most users, it does not support 4K Ultra HD video or Dolby Atmos audio, which may fall short for customers with high-end TV and audio gear.

Both services offer unique features that distinguish them from each other. For example, Sky TV offers a Sky Go app, which allows viewers to stream content on mobile devices. It also has a unique feature that allows users to watch and record multiple channels simultaneously, thanks to the Sky Q's multiple tuners. NOW TV, on the other hand, offers flexible monthly subscription options, meaning viewers can pay for only the content they want to watch, rather than subscribing to a full package. Additionally, NOW TV has a Kids Pass, offering child-friendly content to keep young ones entertained.


In summary, Sky TV and NOW TV offer different options for accessing television content. Sky TV, with its Sky Q box, offers a more traditional TV viewing experience with live channels, on-demand content, and the ability to record and pause live TV. It also offers access to premium content such as sports, movies, and exclusive Sky original programming. However, the packages can be more expensive and require a longer-term commitment, depending on the channels you intend to subscribe to.

On the other hand, NOW TV offers a more flexible, streaming-based experience that doesn't require any long-term contracts. It's ideal for those who want to dip in and out of various packages, as they offer standalone subscriptions for sports, entertainment, movies, and kids content. While NOW TV does not have access to all the same channels as Sky TV, it does have a good selection of on-demand content and live TV channels, and is often more affordable for those who don't want to commit to a full Sky TV package. Ultimately, the choice between Sky TV and NOW TV will depend on individual preferences and priorities, such as desired content, budget, and whether or not you want to commit to a contact and the installation of a satellite dish.

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See also

Frequently asked questions

How does Sky TV work?

Sky TV is a satellite television service. The service is received via a satellite dish and a decoder box connected to your TV. You can choose from a range of packages that offer different channels and services, including sports, movies, and documentaries.

What is the difference between Sky TV and NOW TV?

Sky TV is a satellite TV service, while NOW TV is a streaming service. Sky TV requires a satellite dish and decoder box, while NOW TV can be accessed through an app on your smart TV, streaming device, or gaming console.

Can I get Sky TV without a satellite dish?

No, you cannot get Sky TV without a satellite dish. The service is delivered via a satellite signal and requires a dish and decoder box to receive the signal and display the channels on your TV.

What channels can I watch on Sky TV?

Sky TV offers a wide range of channels, including entertainment, movies, sports, documentaries, news, and children's programming. The specific channels available depend on the package you choose.

What is the picture and sound quality like on Sky TV?

Sky TV offers high-definition (HD) channels and some programming in 4K ultra-high definition (UHD). The sound quality is also high-quality with some channels offering surround sound. The specific picture and sound quality available depend on the package you choose and the capabilities of your TV and sound system.