Long gone are the days when Sky was just a TV service which required strapping a satellite dish to the side of your house. There are a number of different options for getting Sky TV in your house, some of which can be setup and have you watching within minutes.
While Sky Q is the obvious choice (that’s the set top box which needs the dish), Sky has a few satellite-free options. You could go for Sky Glass, which is an actual television with Sky built-in so all you need to do is connect it to the internet.
If you’ve got a TV and don’t want a dish, then you can use Sky Stream, a tiny little box similar to an Apple TV which plugs into your TV so you can stream content with minimal hassle. The firm calls it ‘Sky TV over Wi-Fi’.
Finally, there’s Now (previously called Now TV) to stream all kinds of content on a wide range of devices in much the same way you would with Netflix but with a different set of subscription or ‘membership’ options.
That’s a brief overview of the four options but we’ll go through them all in more detail to help you decide which one is right. Here’s a table outlining the key aspects such as prices, contract length and features.
|Sky Q||Sky Glass||Sky Stream||Now|
|Starting price||£26pm||£14 + £26pm||£26pm||£4.99pm|
|Long-term contract required?||Y||Y||Optional – monthly rolling available||No – monthly rolling|
|Min contract||18 months||18 months||1 month||1 month|
|Picture quality (max, may cost extra)||4K Ultra HD||4K Ultra HD||4K Ultra HD||Full HD|
|Netflix Basic (HD) included||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Sky Sports included||N||N||N||N|
Price & Contracts
How much Sky is going to cost you depends on a lot of different factors, such as which TV channels you want and then extra features.
As a base line, Sky TV costs £26 per month for the regular Entertainment & Netflix package. This includes Sky Signature which consists of 300 channels including Sky Atlantic, Sky, Max, Comedy Central, Quest, MTV and Gold. The Netflix plan included is the Basic option so that’s HD streaming on one device with no simultaneous streams – you can see the differences in our comparison of the Netflix plans.
This package applies to Sky Q, Sky Glass and Sky Stream, with the additional cost in the table above for Glass relating to the TV itself. It comes in three sizes – 43-, 55- and 65in – and you can either pay for it outright starting at £699 or monthly payments from £14pm after a £10 upfront fee.
Beyond the basic package, you’ll want to decide whether to add various things on such as Sky Sports, Ultra HD picture quality and Multiscreen (which I’ll explain in detail later). Here’s a breakdown of the most common ones. Note these are the RRP figures but Sky almost always has them reduced.
Sky Q prices per month
- Sky Sports – £32
- Sky Cinema – £19
- BT Sport – £28
- Sky Kids – £6 rolling
- Disney+ – £7.99 rolling
- Paramount+ – Free with Sky Cinema
- HD – £8 rolling
- Ultra HD + HD – £12 rolling
- Multiscreen – £15 rolling
- Setup fee – £20 (one-off)
Glass/Stream prices per month (18 month/31 day rolling)
- Sky Sports – £25/27
- Sky Cinema – £11/13
- BT Sport – £30 rolling
- Sky Kids – £6 rolling
- Paramount+ – Free with Sky Cinema
- Ultra HD & Dolby Atmos – £6 rolling
- Ad skipping – £5 rolling
- Netflix Standard – £4 rolling
- Netflix Premium – £8 rolling
- Whole Home – £12 with first puck free
- Whole Home setup – £39.95 (one-off)
As you can see above, things can get pretty pricey once you’ve added a few things to the basic Sky Signature package. Even adding Sky Sports and Ultra HD will set you back an additional £44 each month. The good news is that it’s very flexible so you can really tailor the experience to what you want.
If this puts you off, then this is where Now comes to the fore. This is Sky’s proper streaming service which requires none of its own hardware. Just like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, you can watch on a large range of devices such as smartphones, games consoles and smart TVs.
It can add up if you want access to all the different areas but if you just want Sky Sports, for example, it’s far cheaper compared to Q or Glass. There are different Memberships to choose from as follows:
- Entertainment – £9.99pm
- Cinema – £9.99pm
- Entertainment + Cinema – £12.99pm (6 months)
- Sports – £11.98 (24 hours)
- Sports – £34.99pm (from 28 Feb)
- Hayu – £4.99pm
- Boost – £6pm (from 28 Feb)
Most of the above packages are self-explanatory, providing you with Sky channels for their respective categories. Hayu is specifically for US reality shows such as Real Housewives, Million Dollar Listing and Below Deck.
Boost isn’t a channel package, but an add-on you’ll need if you want to watch in Full HD quality, get rid of adverts, enjoy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, stream on three devices simultaneously and get Sky Sports in 50fps. Note that some of these have hardware requirements.
Now also offers deals and bundles throughout the year, particularly around sale seasons such as Black Friday. If you sign up for Now and cancel, then the streaming platform may also offer you a discount as an incentive to sign up again.
In conclusion, Sky Q is the most expensive and locks you into an 18-month contract but has benefits that the others don’t have; mainly that you’re using a satellite dish so don’t require good broadband and it has a hard drive for recordings.
Now is the cheapest, simplest and most flexible option but the experience will depend on what device you’re using it on. It is also the only Sky product to not offer 4K, so if that’s a priority, consider one of the other options.
Sky Glass and Stream provide a happy middle ground where you get a very similar experience to Sky Q but at cheaper prices and more flexible rolling contracts on the content. They also provide the choice of an actual TV or a tiny streaming box, which leads us nicely onto the hardware.
We can leave Now out of this section because it’s purely an online streaming service. You have to provide the hardware yourself. The other Sky products are all quite different though so here are the key differences.
Sky Q is your traditional set-top box. It plugs into your TV and to the satellite dish so you can watch TV without relying on your broadband and Wi-Fi. It also has the benefit of a hard drive so you can record broadcast television and keep it stored.
The Sky Q mini is an optional extra specifically made for Multiscreen (see below) and also acts as a Wi-Fi network extender if you’re using Sky Wi-Fi.
Sky Glass is a television with Sky built-in so all you need to do is plug it in and connect it to your Wi-Fi network to get going. The user interface is a little different to Sky Q because it’s more of a streaming based system.
You don’t need a dish strapped to the side of your house, but you will need decent broadband to avoid buffering and the like. Sky recommends 10Mbps for HD and 25Mbps for UHD but note that both Glass and Stream have Ethernet ports, so you don’t have to use a Wi-Fi connection. You can check your Wi-Fi speeds here.
Either way, you should note that streaming on Glass or Stream results in a broadcast delay compared to Sky Q so ‘live’ TV isn’t truly live. Users will be watching around 45 seconds behind the satellite broadcast but some users report a lag of up to two minutes.
This might not matter much for a lot of content but if you watch a lot of live sports or shows like Love Island where you’re chatting about it online in real time, you don’t want to be getting goal alerts or seeing spoilers on social media before you’ve seen the actual event.
Sky Stream is a palm-sized little box that for many will be the most convenient way to get Sky TV at home. Much like an Amazon Fire TV device, it plugs into your existing TV via HDMI and then connects to the Wi-Fi to stream content.
It’s essentially Sky Glass but without the TV. Confusingly, Sky also refers to it as a Sky Stream puck when talking about the Whole Home multiscreen system. More on this below.
Recordings & Apps
As mentioned already, you have to get Sky Q in order to record TV and store it locally. Sky offers a 1TB box as standard which is plenty of space for hundreds of hours of shows.
Sky Q is the only product with recordings, though the Sky Q mini can access the recordings but doesn’t have its own hard drive. Sky Glass and Stream are fully online services, but you can ‘save’ things to a Cloud DVR with the + icon within the interface as a way of keeping your favourite shows and movies together.
You still get Sky Go regardless of which you choose though. This is Sky’s on-the-go app where you can watch Sky on devices like your laptop or tablet. If you’re at home, you can access your Sky Q recordings and download selected titles before you head out.
Sly Go comes at no additional cost and if you’re a Sky Mobile customer then using the app won’t count towards your data usage.
Now is its own app and online service and, as mentioned earlier, is available on a wide range of devices. It can’t be used via a web browser but there is app support for Windows and Mac.
For Now, multiscreen is simple. Subscribe to Boost along with your Membership and you can watch on three different devices simultaneously with the added benefit of Full HD quality.
Things are more complicated on Sky’s other products.
On Sky Q, you’ll need to add Multiscreen to your package, which costs £15pm on a rolling contract and comes with one Sky Q mini box giving you two screens. You can add more mini boxes later – these cost a one-off fee of £50 per box.
Multiscreen also gives you the ability to watch Sky Go on four devices simultaneously.
For Sky Glass and Sky Stream, you’ll need the Whole Home package. This costs £12pm including your first puck (a Sky Stream). You can add up to four on Glass and three on Stream, requiring a setup fee of up to £119.85.
Which Sky product is best for me?
With all the above considered, here’s a summary of which Sky product to choose depending on your needs.
Sky Q – For those who want a traditional broadcast TV experience with the ability to record as well as stream and who don’t mind having a satellite dish.
Sky Glass – For those who don’t want a satellite dish and want Sky built into a 4K smart TV.
Sky Stream – For those who want Sky TV over Wi-Fi and just want to plug it into an existing TV.
Now – For those who want to stream Sky content on a wide range of devices at an affordable price without the need for a long-term contract.
Sky TV alternatives
If you’re not convinced any of Sky’s products are right for you then you do have lots of other options.
The main one would be Virgin TV 360 which is similar to Sky Q in that you have a hard drive for recordings and access to a wealth of channels – including Sky Sports – but works via cable rather than satellite.
Virgin Stream is a very close rival to the Sky Stream. It’s a one-off cost of £35 then you can simply pick and choose which content you want to access at further monthly cost such as Netflix, Essential Entertainment channels and Sky Sports.
Going further afield, there are almost endless modern options to watch TV and often for free. Many smart TVs come with Freeview Play and plenty of apps to on-demand and catch-up TV. Again, apps like ITVX and Channel 4 are free to use.
If you have a basic TV, you can choose from a wide range of streaming sticks and boxes which are very cheap. These plug into your TV and connect to your Wi-Fi much like the Sky Stream, giving you access to loads of apps. Makers include Amazon with its Fire TV range, Roku, Google’s Chromecast range and Apple TV devices.