29th May 2014 | 12:35
On demand TV boxsets and movies are complimented by live TV streaming
Now TV is a non-contract Video on Demand service powered by Sky TV and launched in the summer of 2013.
Aimed at those that (for whatever reason) don't want to be shackled to a premium Pay TV contract, it offers a low cost way to consume Sky's exclusive sports content, stream movies from its sundry film channels and keep up to date with some of the best entertainment telly around.
It's a similar proposition to Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, albeit one with a good deal more focus: you get to choose from dedicated sport, movie and TV content strands, plus live channel streams.
So is Now TV right for you? And if so, what's the best way to watch it?
What's On Now TV?
Now TV offers timed chunks culled from Sky's various subscription channels. For many the biggest lure will be the movie package. Unlike Sky's satellite-delivered platform, Now TV is a dip-in/leave whenever proposition, useful when you've blazed through everything of interest.
New subscribers get a 30 day free trial for the movie service, which then migrates to a monthly fee of £8.99. This auto renews, but you can cut the chord at any time, without penalty. Fill your boots and it works out as a sweet deal.
For less than a tenner you gain access to films at exactly the same time they debut on Sky's various Pay movie channels. Time your buy-in correctly and you can take big advantage of the broadcaster's comprehensive Hollywood deals, goggleboxing everything from White House Down to The Croods.
Films here inevitably appear before they land on rival services such as Netflix and Amazon, and shortly after the DVD/Blu-ray release window.
Content is themed by genre: Disney, All-Time Greats, Action, Comedy, Family, Crime and Thriller, Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama, Romance, Indie and Classics. Now TV also curates special Collections, such as Monsters (featuring Godzilla, naturally, alongside Pacific Rim, Jurassic Park and a host of other creature features).
The monthly entertainment pass is £4.99, which makes it the cheapest streaming option amongst the big providers.
The service offers recent transmissions of some of Sky's biggest shows, including Game of Thrones and the re-launched 24: Live Another Day.
There's also a healthy selection of box-sets to gorge on. These include Spartacus, An Idiot Abroad, Strike Back, Moone Boy, Bones, Dracula, Desperate Housewives, Hannibal and Once Upon a Time.
While you can watch live streams of select channels (Sky One, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, Sky Arts, MTV, Fox, Discovery, Disney, Gold and Comdey Central) not all programming appears, due to rights limitations. Similarly, boxset availability will churn.
Typically users have two ways to catch hot shows, either as they're broadcast or from the On Demand library; featured programmes tend to appear within 24 hours of transmission.
Unlike its sibling services, Now TV's Sky Sports Day Pass is payable daily. It allows you to view all six Sky Sports channels for 24 hours. Of course, the idea is to use the service as an event purchase, not a daily one.
The ticket price is good value if you're not looking for a long term sporting commitment. Get some mates around, combine resources, and off you go. There's plenty to choose from, including the Premier League, UEFA Champions league, rugby fixtures, coverage of international test cricket and live coverage of the European and US PGA Tours.
What's the best way to watch Now TV?
The number of platforms offering Now TV continues to grow. The service is currently available on LG Smart TVs, along with YouView set top boxes, PS3 and Xbox 360, with both PS4 and Xbox One to follow shortly, Roku media streamers, Apple TV, plus apps for iOS and Android.
Alternatively you can buy the dedicated Now TV box. Available directly from the Now TV website, it's just £9.99 including post and packing - you even get an HDMI cable bundled. The Now TV box is both a dedicated portal to Sky's own services, as well as host to a range of third party streaming content, including BBC iPlayer.
Now TV doesn't promote itself as a high definition service, instead using adaptive bitrate streaming to cope with different broadband speeds. A fast broadband connection will reward with very acceptable image quality. Viewed via a VirginMedia fibre connection, we found the service consistently delivered image quality comparable to DVD.
Navigating the user interface is reasonably quick and intuitive. There are usability caveats though. Buffering can be an issue, and when a big show like Game of thrones hits, the Now TV servers have experienced outages.
Arguably the best way to view Now TV is via the dedicated Now TV box which upscales content to 720p.
Now TV has evolved into a compelling alternative to the all-you-can-eat buffet offered by Netflix and Amazon, and the straight PPV of Blinkbox and its ilk. If you're interested in making a specific Sports grab, or simply want to catch up with some trending TV, it has much to offer.
While there are some performance niggles, those on the right end of a fast broadband connection should be able to watch a pleasingly smooth stream. Overall value for money is high.