Replacing Sky with Now TV

If you’ve got Sky or Virgin, can you save loads of money every month by replacing everything with Now TV? Short answer: Yes, it costs less money than a Sky or Virgin subscription. Long answer: It’s complicated. Here’s why…

Whether or not you can make the move depends on so many factors. You need to take into account how you watch TV, what you watch, where you want to watch it, and how you want to watch it. It even depends on what phone you have, and what little boxes are connected to your television. See, I told you it was complicated.

My personal reference for this test is my own Sky package. It’s not what you’d get if you were a new subscriber today, but it’s close enough. I’ve also been testing out the Now TV Entertainment package. My monthly Sky bill is £38. For that I get what Sky currently refer to as the Family Bundle. It has all the channels, Sky+ DVR, Catch-Up TV, Sky Go, Sky Box Sets, and over 50 HD channels. Because we have an old package, we also get Sky F1 HD which is now part of the main Sports bundle. That’s a lot of stuff to replace with a £6.99 service.

Now TV is Sky’s streaming service. It has three parts to subscribe to. They are Entertainment, Movies, and Sport. Most set-top boxes have a Now TV app, as well as there being apps for iOS and Android.

Entertainment cost £6.99 per month and includes 13 channels. They are Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, Fox, Gold, Sky Living, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, MTV, ITV Encore, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, ABC Studios, and Sky Arts. Only you can decide how important those channels are to you. While most of the content I watch on Sky is on those channels, there’s stuff I’d have to give up watching. For your money, you get access to all the catch up services, as well as the vast catalogue of TV shows that Sky offer through their Box Sets service. You obviously don’t have the ability to record live TV like with Sky+, but you don’t need it because everything is available on demand. You also have the ability to stream live channels. The most important thing you need to know about that is that you cannot currently stream live television in HD. On demand content comes in HD, but not the live streams. By moving to Now TV, you’re giving up live HD television. If you currently record everything you watch using Sky+ then you may well be ok with this situation. If you want to watch Game of Thrones in HD, you can do, just not until it’s available on demand.

The Movies package is £16.99 per month and comes with all the Sky Movies channels. You can also stream these movies on demand. Like with the Entertainment package, it’s SD only on the live streams, and HD for on demand. How much mileage you get from the Sky Movies package is down to you. I’m of the opinion that if you rent new films, or buy blu-rays, then Sky Movies isn’t for you. It’s really only worth it if it’s your only source of relatively new movies.

The Sports package has no subscription available. It’s either £6.99 for a day or £10.99 for a week. The only sport I’m a fan of is F1 so I don’t have a frame of reference as to how good those prices are for football fans.

As a Sky subscriber I have access to their Sky Go app. That allows me to have two devices that have access to all the content I’m entitled to as part of my Sky channel package. That means my Sky Go app has access to far more stuff than the Now TV app. However, two devices is not many. It’s basically my phone and Allison’s phone. We get by happily with that because we rarely watch TV on our phones. If you have a train or bus based commute, this feature may be far more important to you. Now TV lets you register four devices, however that’s not as good as it first sounds because whatever you use to watch on your TV counts towards your registered devices. My four are taken up by the Chromecast in the living room, the Roku in the bedroom, then my iPad and iPhone. Already there are problems there. In order to get something to play on the Chromecast, I need to start it playing on my phone. If I’m not at home with my phone, Allison can’t watch Now TV content. It’s very easy to hit your head on the four device limit.

That leads me to talk about how you intend to watch Now TV. Like I said, most set-top boxes have a Now TV app. I think there may even be apps for the Xbox and Playstation. You’ll want something that plays it on your TV, and right now I’m inclined to recommend the Apple TV. Set-top boxes are generally still a bit rubbish. Not one of them does everything you’ll want it to, and they all have their little quirks. If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, you might well do better with the Apple TV, but you can’t beat the Chromecast for price. Avoid the Roku. The Amazon Kindle Fire TV isn’t bad, but it lacks access to your iTunes content. I could go on for hours about that stuff. If you’ve got a streaming device of some kind connected to your television, the chances are it works with Now TV so just stick with what you’ve got if you’re happy.

Something else to take into account is the free to air channels. How do you normally receive BBC or Channel 4? You may well be getting those channels through your Sky or Virgin box. If you give up that box you’ll need another way of getting those channels. If you’ve bought a TV in the last few years, you may well have Freeview HD. Alternatively, Sky can provide you with a freeview card, which replaces your existing subscription smart card that lives in your Sky box. It’s not a major problem, but it’s something you should take into account.

So can you replace a Sky or Virgin subscription with Now TV? Like I said, it’s complicated. Gone are the days of us all watching the same television content at the same time. Television used to be free and you needed a television to watch it. You could be fooled into thinking that we’ve moved on, but we haven’t. We’re in the process of moving. That indicates progress, but it also means we aren’t where we want to be yet.