You no longer have to commit to an annual contract in order to watch premium pay TV.
The rapid rise in non-contract subscription services like Netflix and Lovefilm has prompted TV colossus Sky to launch its own PAYG proposition, Now TV.
For the first time you can watch the broadcaster's top tier channels without tethering yourself to a dish. But just how do the two services compare, and what can you expect if you opt for IP TV rather than have your telly served up on a dish?
Now TV vs Sky TV: price
Full fat Sky and semi-skimmed Now TV have very different price tags. Like SVoD rivals Netflix and Lovefilm Instant, Now TV tempts at less than a tenner, however it differs in the choice of packages offered.
The Now TV Entertainment bundle is currently promoted at £4.99, scheduled to rise to £8.99 per month at the end of May. It offers selected shows from ten Sky pay channels (Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, Sky Arts, Gold, Fox, MTV, Disney, Discovery and Comedy Central), and access to live channel streams.
Now TV's Sky Movies pass offers rolling access to Sky's channel bouquet. New subscribers get a 30 day free trial, which then defaults to a monthly fee of £8.99. This auto renews, but you can bail at any time.
Sports fans can score the Sky Sports Day Pass for £9.99. This allows you to watch all six Sky Sports channels live for 24 hours. An event-driven purchase, it's a no-fuss way to catch specific games and special events.
As a contract-in Pay service, the Sky proposition is fundamentally different and a good deal more complicated. Buyers can opt for specific packages or the whole enchilada (which incidentally will cost you a whole lot more than a whole lot of enchiladas).
The basic Sky Entertainment TV pack is £21.50 monthly, and includes Sky 1 & 2, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living and Sky Arts. In total you get you over 35 premium channels and all the usual free-to-air stuff, including 11 HD services. There are also Extra and Extra + iterations, upsold for £27 and £32 respectively. The Extra deal brings the pay channel count up to 80(ish), while Extra+ adds over 50 HD channels as well as Sky 3D and access to boxsets. The additional content is undoubtedly worth the uplift, particularly if you're an HD snob.
Sports and movie packages are incremental to the TV entertainment pack. Sky Sports is an additional £22 a month. HD is an additional £5.25 monthly.
Similarly, the expansive Sky Movies portfolio is an additional £16 a month, with another £5.25 if you want them in HD.
Now TV vs Sky TV: content
With access to ten live TV channels, the Now TV Entertainment package looks like a steal, however subscribers don't get unfettered access to all programmes due to rights and licensing issues. This results in slating – a practice wherein you see only an apology slate instead of a programme. The general rule of thumb seems to be that if it's a popular US show you actually want to watch, it'll be slated.
Conversly On Demand offers a goodly selection of Sky's home made shows alongside some strong imports. It should be noted that episodes are only available for a few of weeks, which makes the selection look a little random. There's a limited selection of boxsets, however these change routinely and may only be available for a few weeks before vanishing.
Now TV Movies is a churning service, albeit one with a large repository of movies available – Now TV cites 800 currently on demand. You also get a curated selection of new-ish titles, up to 16 a month. These arrive in line with its satellite-delivered sibling.
By way of comparison, Sky TV's content choice is immense. From its sprawling entertainment channels, though to premium movie and sports content, the satcaster seemingly has something for everyone.