Now TV streaming service - Performance

John Archer

By John Archer



Our Score:


The video feeds are at least delivered using an adaptive bit-rate system, but there’s no getting round the fact that even on the relatively small screen environment of a PC or Mac we’d like at least the option to watch our films in HD. This feature is effortlessly supported by Netflix, after all, which delivers smooth HD streams even using a standard 6MB broadband connection.

Sky argues that you don’t need HD on a computer screen, but even if we ignore for a minute the fact that we were using a 21.5in iMac during this test, it’s by no means uncommon for people to connect their computers to their TV for watching streamed content on a bigger screen.

Now TV

There is some good news regarding resolution, though. For Sky tells us that it intends to deliver HD when it launches its console apps. With this in mind we’ll probably do a little update feature when the Xbox service is up and running. However, Sky told us that it will be continuing to only deliver stereo soundtracks with its Xbox feeds, following LoveFilm’s practice of not even offering Pro-Logic surround sound. This is hard to fathom given that Netflix routinely offers Pro-Logic and even manages to deliver digital 5.1 audio with some of its HD titles.

Standard def performance

Regarding the standard definition feeds we were able to watch for this test, when blown up to fill our 21.5in screen the results are best described as decent. There are obvious compression artefacts, especially during dark scenes and over subtle colour blends, and even on our swankily powerful Mac in full-screen mode we quite often experienced horizontal tearing and flickering over moving objects, as well as the occasional momentary stutter (though both these issues were greatly reduced using a much smaller screen window).

Detail levels are fair by standard definition standards, though, and the image’s contrast and colours both look dynamic and natural if you reduce your screen’s brightness from their normal levels. Overall, video is never less than watchable, but nor is it a streaming revelation.

Now TV

The stereo sound is clean and clear meanwhile, with no apparent compression-related ‘burbling’ or whistling. Plus it remained locked to the video at all times, meaning we never experienced significant lip-synch errors over the course of watching numerous titles from start to finish.


When it comes to stability, we suffered a few pre-play connection errors, but once the video file is accessed it’s buffered in ready to start playing very quickly - just two or three seconds - and consistently played through from start to finish during our tests without any buffering pauses using our national average 6MB broadband system. Playback also adapted quite cutely to us putting more stress on the broadband pipe.

Obviously we can’t promise that your own buffering experience will be as good as ours. But if it isn’t, our experience would suggest that the problems lie more with your broadband provider than Sky’s Now TV servers.


Now TV has got off to a rather mixed start. Its structure of offering separate monthly subs and pay per view content will strike some as being over complicated in an environment where Netflix gives you everything it has for just one fee - even though the current video release ‘window’ regulations pretty much make such a structure unavoidable.

Now TV

The confusion over the 30-day free trial during registration might put some people off too, and then there’s that £15 a month price for the Sky Movies Pass. This looks very high indeed against the £4.99 and £5.99 prices of LoveFilm and Netflix - especially when those services offer thousands of titles versus the 600 or so of Now TV. It seems to us that anyone looking to the Now TV Movies Pass as their main video streaming service might also frequently want to purchase some of the Pay & Play titles, making their monthly spend even higher.

The lack of an HD playback option on smart devices and especially computers seems unfortunate, too.

Now TV does have one significant ace up its sleeve, though: the quality of its content. While it’s not wholly comprehensive (no UK film streaming library is), Sky’s unmatched muscle when it comes to negotiating film right deals with the big film studios means that it seems to have a wider selection of films that we actually want to watch (as opposed to reams of straight-to-video dross) than any of the rival platforms right now.

The fact that Sky is prepared to offer a 30-day free trial certainly suggests that it feels pretty confident that users will be impressed enough with what they see to happily cough up £15 a month thereafter.

Plus, of course, there’s the tantalising prospect of much more content to come in the months ahead, as well as HD viewing via Xboxes.

So here’s our conundrum. Now TV currently feels too expensive, a bit confusing and technically average. Yet technically its still in Beta mode, and its potential in terms of content quality and maybe even quantity is clear for all to see. So let’s kick things off with a rather neutral score of 6 for now and book in a reassessment for, say, Christmas time.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Image Quality 7
  • Sound Quality 6
  • Value 6


July 23, 2012, 2:59 pm

I sure wouldn't pay £15 a month for essentially, a film streaming service, when I can get the very latest blu-ray films delivered to my door by Lovefilm for as little as £5 a month.


July 23, 2012, 6:43 pm

I currently pay Lovefilm £16.33 a month and for that I get four physical discs (DVD or BluRay) and a streaming service over three devices with a lot of that content in HD. This SKY service just isn't comparable in that respect. I think they were lucky for TR to give the service 6/10 !!!!


July 24, 2012, 2:40 am

I think John is being *far* too generous. Firstly why offer a trial during a beta "phase" (of which was never mentioned in the initial PR) - things are clearly not right and this is going to interfere with the trial. A trial is meant to evaluate and not to act as mechanism in which to willingly give BSkyB permission to charge your card.

Further more what difference does the Pay & Go options have over and above that of, say, iTunes which offers a fair chunk of content to rent in HD format?

Given that Ofcom have paved the way for BSkyB's stranglehold on exclusivity to be broken, I'm sure we can start to expect re-negotiations between the studios and BSkyB's competitors to ensure that content is offered on a much more equal footing. Where Now TV is almost entirely based around the fact that the content is newer than the rivals, *will not last long*.

I give this service about 3-6 months before it folds. Yes, even thought it's from BSkyB. What *might* save it is the Sports and Sky Atlantic offerings, but I can't see people paying any more than £10 for a monthly subscription for each channel.


August 19, 2012, 10:22 pm

I've had a look at this using their Xbox app (which is in 720p but with old school stereo sound) and the movie selection on the monthly pass is hilariously bad. LoveFilm and Netflix are streets ahead. I guess if all you want are somewhat newish kids films then Sky may have the advantage, but if you're into films for grown ups, and films which actually come from somewhere other than America, Sky's offering just doesn't cut it.

Also £15 a month is insane. Based on their feeble content line-up I'd struggle to justify £2 a month for it.


February 18, 2013, 4:25 pm

Why bother with all of these pointless subscription services. They all provide poor choice lack of quality. Just stream as and when you like from the plenty of other choices. suerly 2 discs 1 at home at a time is enough in a month. HD is a waste of time any any screen below 42 inches. You wll not detect any improvement. Better still watch less and go outside and excercise.

Mandy Farley Owen

March 14, 2013, 7:25 am

Really not worth the money sadly which is a shame as the quality if the content is good, however, it's not the latest and greatest. I currently pay LoveFilm £5.99 a month and for that the streaming service includes a massive back catalogue of TV series as well as pretty good film content. LoveFilm has recent,t been showing Breaking Dawn Part 1 for example, a big popular film and Sky are showing none of the Twilight series of films at all, even those which have been on DVD for some time, like it or not these are a big set of films and for £15 a month I'd be expecting this and more from them.
My feeling is that this service was put out before being ready and it feels like it will go downhill unless they up their game massively. The price is way way too high.....for that price my LoveFilm subscription would include much much more.
My opinion is that until Sky lower the price then you are better off going to LoveFilm or frequenting the sale section of the supermarket.


March 23, 2013, 5:22 pm

this has to be the worst streaming service l have ever used...the website is crap and its not user friendly...after trying to watch the first film, the video was in low quality,,took forever to load l quit after 15 mins now im trying to cancel my subscription its taking me forever and l can never find anything on the site...its just an act to slow the process down so that l can charged for something l dont want.

Callam Kitcher

May 22, 2013, 7:58 pm

HD a waste of time on anything smaller than a 42inch? sorry but that is total crap i have 24inch and the hd quality is far better than my 32inch.

Callam Kitcher

May 22, 2013, 8:00 pm

Just signed up after getting the email offer of the £10 voucher (im sure i will never actaully get it) gave it a try and in full screen the quality of the films is shocking id describe the quality as a cam copy its that bad.


July 3, 2013, 1:58 am

Trying to cancel, they tell you the steps but the cancel tab is missing, they promised £20 voucher that was never sent, DO NOT SIGN UP i am still trying to cancel.


August 3, 2013, 9:32 am

The main problem I have with it is that the follow up is just not very competitive, compared with LoveFlim and Netflix, they're both under £6 a month after their one month free trial, had Now TV beaten that then I might have given it a go without hesitation, from the general concencus for reviews you don't get anything extra for the higher cost!

glyn sheppard

August 4, 2013, 9:23 pm

I have a 48MB line and the thing is always buffering and going in to low quality. There is very limited amount of films so I am glad I am only on a free trial as it is so awful I would not pay a penny for it.

Dj 2dex

November 8, 2013, 1:40 am

I'm currently on a reduced price plan of £4.99 a month. Only reason I brought it is for iplayer and 5 on demand ect. Picture quality on the tv programs is 100% spot on his better then freeview. Would I keep the subscription running when the price goes up? Probably not.


November 15, 2013, 10:44 pm

I bought a box and installed it very easily, then sat back to start enjoying a wider choice of entertainment than the constant stream of twaddle on Freeview and Freesat. Picture quality was good and and the selection of films looked great (I paid more to get the box with a 'free' 3 month Movies subscription as I have lot of time on my unemployed hands), but everything else is really pretty second rate. The ads have a cartoon tv screen with 4od showing on it, but that service is not available... yet... they SAY it'll be there by the end of the year. There's also no ITV Player and the search function on Demand5 displays a screen saying 'coming soon'! I thought I'd branch out and try some of the other channels. Again with the disappointment. I'm not into music tv or 'top selections of videos from the internet' so was looking forward to exploring things like the History Channel. Whilst I wasn't expecting live programmes I was hoping for (ok, expecting) a back catalogue of vids. But if you want more than 4-minute trailers, guess what? You have to have an account and pay another subscription. Even the Spotify channel requires you to be paying for Premium membership and PlayTo constantly says the video I've picked from its (not exactly inspiring) on-line catalogue is incompatable with the box. All in all my DNLA does a better job of streaming, my laptop/tablet linked to the TV with HDMI and a wireless keyboard & mouse gives a wider range of choices and, if I decide to get another box, I think I'll invest in a proper Roku for a few pounds more and at least get the likes of Netflix. Once my free trial expires, TVNow may well hit the bin...

Mark Jeffery

March 26, 2014, 4:33 pm

I've come to conclusion that Now TV is a waste of money.

I got it to watch Sky Sports football matches rather than go down the pub. As soon as the matches come on the quality drops dramatically and buffering starts. It becomes unwatchable pretty quickly. Any other time and the picture is fine, so Sky just haven't got the bandwidth to meet peak demand.

Luckily I've just got the box and five passes for around £35, once I've used them up then I'll be back for a beer - it's cheaper than the £10, you'd have to pay Sky for the privilege of watching blurry teams run around a fuzzy pitch!

Dan Gleebits

May 25, 2014, 3:53 pm

STAY AWAY!! The "packages" on offer are little more than a scam dressed up as a special deal - users are forced to submit credit card details to qualify to sign up for voucher deals. It then becomes nigh on impossible to cancel (visit the NOW TV website and do a search on the "Community" pages on cancellation to verify this) - horror stories abound. No telephone number to call - the claim is that they are web-based so don't offer that luxury. Time for the communication authorities or ombudsman to look into this one?

Scott Basil Hall

May 26, 2014, 1:12 pm

I have only had my NowTV box for 2 weeks and already it is unplugged and back in the box.

purchesed the NowTv box for use in the kids room so they could watch
cebeebies on the iplayer so we could have the main Tv to ourselfs
sometimes. Being in the kids room we setup the pin protection on it so
we didnt have to worry about things being ordered with out knowing.

was going well untill 2 weeks later my bank statment turned up and i
found I had been charged for a 1 day sports package costing £9.99. Well
knowing this couldnt be right I spent a hour searching the website and
following instructions on this forum trying to find the Live chat help
tab. Thankfully just as I was beginninng to feel the need to jump
infront of a truck I found the live chat tab. (I sort of feel like I'm
owed a medal just for finding it)

With live chat now found
and working I though all my worrys would now be sorted in a nice timely
manner, How wrong I was. After explaining what my issue was I took the
time to make a cuppa tea and make toast while waiting for a reply from
the agent. The agent asked me to confirm me account details to them and
just as I was feeling a little better at getting sorted I got
disconnected. Oh well I thought these things happen. After 4 more
attemps I finally got to talk to someone with out getting cut off..
There first answer to me was you must have ordered it and I should have
set a pin number to the box so it doesnt happen again. ( As said I
already had )

Anyway after 47 minutes I finally get told
im getting my £9.99 refunded within 3 days. Any customer services that
take 47 minutes to deal with a problem is my book not acceeptable. Why
should i be expected to waste this time out of my life to sort out a
problem that is not my fault. Do sky think its ok to make someone to 3-5
minutes for replys to a message on Live chat. The agent I spoke to
refused to supply me the address for there head office when i'm under
the impression that all companys should supply this if asked for ( i may
be wrong )

My NowTV box is now packed back in to the box
and will be returned to Sainsburys tomorrow and NowTV is something I
will be advising everyone I know to stay well clear of.

Dan Gleebits

June 15, 2014, 7:48 pm

Bought the entertainment box which promises 4 months free use. Website
forces you to input card details and promptly charges for one month.
Complaints to website for refund totally useless, and a month later
(even with claiming free period), no access.

Somewhere someone is sitting in his Mom's garage running this pathetic excuse for an
entertainment service. Just stay away, and buy youself the Google Dongle. Cheaper in the end, and will save hours of frustration.

Absolute crap.


July 23, 2014, 9:38 pm

thanks for the article. For those who live outside UK and want to access Now TV, you can use UnoTelly as I do to get around the geo block.

Chase Paulo

August 13, 2014, 5:10 am

Thanks for the article John. For those who live outside UK and want to access Now TV , you can use UnoTelly as I do to get around the geo block.

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