Both are run by the same company, both offer broadband and TV bundles, and they’re the only two ways you can get Sky Atlantic live on your telly - but which provider is best?
Plus, Sky owns NOW Broadband, so there's that...
Appropriately, for a long time NOW Broadband operated as a sort of… baby Sky. It offered basic broadband and TV products at a lower price than its parent company. But now little Junior is all grown up and striking out on its own, has it escaped from daddy's shadow? Let's find out.
At a glance
|Broadband packages||Broadband Essential(average 11Mb), Broadband Superfast (average 59Mb)||Brilliant Broadband (average 11Mb), Fab Fibre (average 36Mb), Super Fibre (average 63Mb)|
|Fibre||Yes - average speeds of 59Mb||Yes - average speeds of 36Mb and 63Mb|
|TV packages||Entertainment Pack (300+ channels). Can add on Box Sets (350+ on-demand shows), Cinema (10+ channels), Sky Sports (up to 7 channels) and Kids (11 channels)||Entertainment Pass (11 channels), Sky Cinema Pass, Sky Sports Pass, Kids Pass (6 channels)|
|Recording||Yes, up to 1000 hours (Sky Q 2TB box)||No|
|HD||Yes, up to 4K on compatible devices||Yes, up to 720p on most devices; up to 1080p on some|
|Set top box||Sky Q 1TB or 2TB||No|
|Contract lengths||12 months, 18 months||1 month, 12 months|
|Key features||Top quality TV, HD and surround sound, latest tech||Short term contracts, value for money, flexibility|
That said, broadband providers regularly release special offers to entice new customers to their networks. These can include discounts, free gifts or even cashback, and mean that on some occasions Sky can sink below NOW Broadband for price.
The best advice we can give is to compare current deals to gauge which currently works out cheapest.
When it comes to TV, Sky is considerably more expensive than NOW Broadband, but it's important to note that you get so, so much more.
Access to NOW TV's Entertainment pass via smartphone, tablet, PC, games console or streaming stick used to be around the price of a London pint. It's now increased slightly but you'll still get change from a tenner. Get it bundled with broadband and you'll get an additional discount. You can also get Sky Sports and Sky Cinema channels, but they cost more, and aren't privy to a discount.
Another downside is that you don't get a set top box included, so if you need one you'll have to pay a fair bit extra.
Sky gives you the works - set top box, recording, on-demand, and more channels to name but a few of its many positives. It's a premium service that has a premium price.
NOW Broadband generally works out cheaper, though it's important to note that, particularly with TV, you also get less. Still, if we're purely looking at price, the little guy grabs it.
With Sky, you can take out broadband, home phone, or its TV service - or you can bundle them together into a single convenient (and cheaper) package. The way the TV works is simplicity itself - everybody gets entertainment channels like Sky One and Sky Atlantic as standard, and you can then add the extra channel packs that you want. These packs include Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, Kids channels and Box sets - each works on a rolling monthly basis, so you can chop and change as desired.
NOW Broadband takes a slightly different approach. When you sign up, you get a package of broadband, and home phone… and that's it.
One particularly cool thing is that the provider does no-contract broadband. You can sign up for a rolling one-month contract, giving you the flexibility to switch at any time. Bear in mind, there's a significant setup cost to pay, which is a nominal fee if you commit to a 12-month contract.
Once you've signed up for broadband, you can get a monthly NOW TV pass. Four are available, comprising Entertainment (11 channels including Sky One and Sky Atlantic), Sky Cinema (all movie channels), Sky Sports (the full suite of sports channels) and Kids (we're sure you can work out this one).
Unlike Sky, you don't get any set top box, so if you want to watch on the TV, you'll either need a TV-compatible device with the app (some examples include games consoles, and some streaming sticks) or to buy one from NOW Broadband for an additional fee.
Tricky one this. NOW Broadband's one-month contracts make it more flexible way to get internet access. On the other hand, the amount of TV channels and on-demand content and equipment you can get with Sky far surpasses what's available with NOW Broadband. Ultimately, the sheer breadth of Sky's packages wins out for us.
Both providers offer very similar broadband, using the Openreach network: standard broadband with average download speeds of around 11Mb, and fibre with advertised speeds around 36Mb and the 63Mb range. Besides contract length, there's not much real difference here.
A perfect tie.
NOW TV is all about the passes. The Entertainment Pass only gives you 11 channels, but they're good ones: Comedy Central, Discovery, Fox, Gold, MTV, Nat Geo Wild, Sky 1, Sky Arts, Sky Atlantic, Sky Witness, and Syfy, plus on-demand content from Viceland and ABC Studios. You can also get the full suites of Sky Sports and Sky Cinema channels to watch live and on-demand.
Sky, meanwhile… well. Depending which TV packs you add, you can get over 350 channels. Even the most basic one will nab you over 300.
Sky's the winner, with more TV channels than you'll know what to do with.
Sports and movies
You can get Sky Sports and Sky Cinema with either provider, so that's good.
NOW TV has a couple of advantages here. For a start, taking out a Sky Cinema Pass is a shade cheaper than it is on Sky, and you can get Sky Sports Passes that last just a day, or a week - perfect if there's a specific event you want to catch.
However, Sky has a little something up its sleeve too: BT Sport. Once you're set up with Sky TV, you can call up BT and add it on - it's far from cheap, but ideal for hardcore sports fans. You can't get it on NOW TV. Sky also lets you watch both sports and films in higher definition, including a bit of 4K-resolution content here and there.
Plus, if you reckon you'll only watch a couple of Sky Sports channels regularly, Sky lets you subscribe to individual channel packs rather than the full suite. You can grab up to three packs for a cheaper price than the complete set costs.
NOW Broadband wins for convenience, value, and casual fans, but major sporting types and movie buffs are better off with Sky.
On demand and catch-up
With NOW Broadband, you'll get basic catch-up, through services like BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. You'll also get a good range of on-demand telly with each TV Pass - there's box sets galore with the Entertainment Pass, for instance, but it's limited to just those channels.
It also lets you log in and watch your shows on a massive range of devices: smartphones, tablets, computers, streaming sticks, even other people's TV boxes. Home entertainment isn't just for the home any more, folks.
Sky, on the other hand, has a frankly eye-watering amount of on-demand content. Tons of channels have programmes to catch up on, and if you get the Box Sets TV pass, you get more than 350 series to watch on-demand too. And you can watch them from anywhere thanks to Sky Go - though you can only register two devices.
Sky has more to watch on-demand by a long shot, although where you can watch it all is more limited.
Let's not beat about the bush: Sky is better. It's got the best equipment, the most comprehensive TV service you can get in the UK by a country mile, and amazing top-of-the-line home entertainment tech in the form of Sky Q. If you're into your TV, you really can't get better.
However, that doesn't necessarily make it the best choice. NOW Broadband has a couple of things that Sky doesn't: flexible 30-day contracts on everything, and a more affordable price tag.
If you want the best TV service money can buy, with excellent broadband to boot, go Sky.
If you just want simple broadband, or to watch Game of Thrones and a few movies - or if you're on a budget, or need something temporarily - you won't regret choosing NOW Broadband.