April 2017 saw the launch of NOW TV; a new online TV streaming service offered by Sky. Its biggest selling point is the fact that it is currently the only contract-free online streaming service that lets you watch live pay TV, on-demand TV shows, movies as well as exclusive live sports. The question is; is it any good?
Much like Netflix, NOW TV is an on-demand online entertainment streaming service accessible across a variety of electronic devices including TVs, laptops, phones and tablets.
To access NOW TV, all you need to do is choose a package (Entertainment, Cinema or Sport) and purchase a “pass” which will give you access across a range of devices for a predetermined time depending on the package you have selected.
You don’t need a subscription or contract - just dip in and dip out by purchasing any pass you want at will. For more detail about exactly what you get with each package, click here.
So how does the new Netflix competitor measure up? Is it worth it? Without further ado, here is the official bonkers.ie review of the service:
Getting up and running:
We’ve become quite accustomed to online streaming services and their navigation over the last number of years and customers will be pleased to hear that both the setup process and navigation of NOW TV’s interface is both easy and convenient, although the experience does vary slightly across devices.
The setup process couldn’t be easier. If you’ve decided to purchase a NOW TV box to use with your TV set, all you have to do is plug it into your TV, select the correct HDMi channel and away you go! Navigation with the remote that comes with the box is a breeze and all of the content is neatly organised into searchable categories.
A huge benefit that shouldn’t go unnoted is that you don’t actually need a NOW TV box to use NOW TV (you only need one if you want to watch on your TV set). If you want to watch on your laptop, phone or tablet, just head over to their website or app and sign in. This is pretty standard for streaming services but unusual for a service that offers live TV, as NOW TV does.
You can also save titles to your “My TV” section to watch later, which is a handy feature, similar to Netflix’s “My List”.
Potential customers should note that sharing one account with multiple users (which many people do on Netflix) is a bit harder to do with NOW TV. Instead of having separate user profiles on one account, NOW TV supports one user profile on which you can register up to four devices.
Basically, what that means is not just anyone can sign into your account can start watching - you can only do so using one of your four approved devices. You can add and remove devices to fill the four slots but you can only do so once a month, so be careful with who you decide to share your account with!
NOW TV content:
As previously mentioned, the Entertainment Pass grants you access to 11 live TV channels including the much-coveted Sky Atlantic, as well as Sky One, Fox, Gold, Sky Living, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Sky Arts, MTV, SYFY and Nat Geo Wild.
Having access to live TV online is novel and great to have but NOW TV is first and foremost an on-demand service and if you’re going to shell out €15 a month to use it you are most likely coming for the 250 boxsets on offer.
The big draw here for most people is undoubtedly going to be access to big HBO shows that become available very soon after they are released in the US - but be warned, the most coveted shows don't stick around on the service for long!
The rest of the boxsets mostly come from the above listed channels, so if you are a fan of those you will most likely enjoy the content on offer.
Stand-Outs: If you’re into the arts, music and offbeat documentaries you’ll find a lot to get through here. There are tons of concerts and music documentaries on offer from the likes of Sky Arts as well as a wide selection of quirky documentaries from Vice.
Having access to big blockbuster shows is all very well and good for your average TV punter, but if like me, you’re a voracious TV binger who needs to see new shows as soon as they come out, you’re likely to have already seen most of the content that the NOW TV Entertainment package uses as its principal selling point.
And as for the rest of the content that the NOW TV Entertainment pass offers; unfortunately (at least in my opinion), there isn’t much to write home about - especially not for the current price tag.
It’s also worth noting that big blockbuster shows don’t stick around for long! At its launch in April 2017, the NOW TV Entertainment Pass came bursting with big shows including Big Little Lies, Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Girls and much more but many of these titles have disappeared from the service and it seems that the bigger the name of the show, the shorter a time it will be available on the service. This being said, if a big show is pulled from the service, that doesn't mean it won't make another appearance at a later date.
Sky Cinema Pass:
As with the Entertainment Pass, the Sky Cinema Pass also gives you access to live TV, only here you get access to all of Sky’s live Cinema channels. It’s debatable as to whether or not live TV is redundant in this case, as all of the movies showing are also available to view on-demand.
The Cinema Pass selection is sizeable with over 1000 movies on offer and it features some of the biggest blockbuster titles currently available. You’ll find the films handily organised into genre categories as well as themed collections including “Fantastical Films”, “90 mins or less” and “Buddy Cops”, among others.
Stand-Outs: The “Family Faves” collection will no doubt act as a god send to families with young children all over the country. It features hotly anticipated new films such as Alice Through the Looking Glass, Finding Dory and Zootropolis as well as all the older Disney staples.
Navigating the Sky Cinema Pass can be a little trickier than the Entertainment pass in my personal experience if you are using the NOW TV box. I found it hard get to the full list of movies which is a lot easier to find via tablet, phone or laptop but it’s a minor issue.
Also, foreign language films, as well as independent features, are fairly lacking.
Other than that I can’t really fault the Sky Cinema Pass, it’s a good service and offers a lot of great content. It really all comes down to how much you are willing to pay for such a service, which we will come to shortly!
Sky Sports Pass:
The third and final pass offered by NOW TV gives you access to all the Sky Sports live TV channels. I can’t in good conscience give a definitive review here as I do not have access to the package. I can, however, tell you that the Sky Sports Pass is the most expensive pass of the three on offer. Customers can choose one of three options to get access; €10 for a day pass, €15 for a weekly pass and €50 for a monthly pass.
The €10 day pass will be welcomed by casual sports fans, who will be able to sign up for big or short golf tournaments, for example.
The big question: is NOW TV worth the money?
The great thing about NOW TV is that there’s no contract so if you purchase a monthly pass and then decide that you don’t like the service, you can cancel it with no questions asked. Both the Entertainment and Sky Cinema packages also currently offer a free two-week trial so you can get a taster before you decide to commit to anything at all.
That being said, is the service worth its price tag?
The Entertainment and Sky Cinema passes both cost €15 per month. So, if you want both TV and film you’ll be paying €30 per month which is three times what you would be paying for a standard monthly Netflix subscription which has both.
Premium content has always garnered premium prices, so some would argue that you can’t compare the likes of NOW TV to a less premium service like Netflix. I would have agreed a year or two ago but Netflix is now consistently producing its own premium original films and programming that bring in massive audiences, yet its prices remain relatively low. On the other hand, hugely popular HBO shows aren’t available on Netflix but are accessible on NOW TV via Sky Atlantic. It’s hard to know where to draw a line.
Wherever you stand on pricing, you can’t deny that NOW TV is offering on-demand content that no one else is, as well as offering the latest blockbuster films before other streaming services can get their hands on them. The value you place on having on-demand access to certain shows will be particular to your own needs and preferences.