Changes to the passes from NOW could save you money – but you’ll have to shell out more to avoid adverts.
NOW (formally NOW TV) is Sky’s on-demand streaming service. Since you can pay month by month and not commit to a long contract it’s a far more flexible and usually cheaper way to watch your favourite Sky channels.
But from 15 July 2021, there’s big revamp in what you’ll pay for NOW. Some prices are going down, others going up, while a couple of plans are being merged. Here’s everything you need to know.
Thanks to my friend Or at Cordbusters for the heads up on these changes.
How NOW is changing
NOW says that it’s simplifying the streaming plans, and this includes some price cuts and merging of memberships/passes. NOW aren’t scared of changing things, with the last increases taking place in September 2020. Here’s what’s happening this time:
NOW Kids will be part of NOW Entertainment
The children’s TV pass will end and all the channels will be available as part of the Entertainment pass instead. This remains at £9.99, so if you paid for both (at full price – more on this later) you’ll save £3.99 a month.
If you currently only have Kids, you’ll automatically be moved onto the Entertainment membership and keep paying the lower price for “the foreseeable future”.
Sadly it’s too late to jump in and sign up for Kids to get this ongoing offer as the pass has been taken off sale for new passes.
There will be adverts on NOW Entertainment and Cinema
This is the most frustrating development. Though we’ve known it’s been coming for a while, and some users might already have experienced this, it should come to all Entertainment and Cinema passes from 15 July.
It’s not clear how these will appear. In the trials they’ve been “pre-roll”, so they appear before and between episodes, and before films. I’d expect them to begin to appear in the middle of shows on the Entertainment pass. I’m hoping they won’t do the same and interrupt the films!
To avoid getting these extra adverts you’ll need to pay for the NOW Boost extra (more on this in a second). However you’ll still get the Sky TV adverts you’re probably already familiar with.
Sky Cinema passes drop in price
You’ll now pay £9.99 rather than £11.99 each month for access to all the Sky Cinema channels. I think this price cut is in part down to the lack of new releases during the pandemic. There really has been very little new to watch on there.
And with cinema’s only just reopening now, it’ll be Christmas at the earliest that we see most of those on Sky. More realistically it’ll be early to mid 2022! So I wouldn’t be surprised if prices go up next year.
You’ll only be able to watch on one device
Though you can sign into NOW account on different devices, you’ll only be able to watch on one at any time with the different passes, down from the current two. This will obviously make it harder for sharing within or outside a household (more on sharing streaming accounts and passwords here).
You can however watch on three at the same time if you add on NOW Boost.
You can have unlimited devices
Previously you could register your account on six different apps or devices, and change three per month. This limit is now gone and you can sign in on and watch on as many computers, tablets, phones, smart sticks and apps as you want.
Boost will go up by £2 a month
NOW has been pushing the Boost add-on for a good while, giving 7-day free trials to new and existing customers. This will now cost £5 a month rather than £3. In return you get:
- Ad-free viewing
- Full HD
- 5:1 sound
- 3 concurrent streams
No change to Sports or Hayu passes
Sky Sports and Hayu prices will remain the same, though NOW has removed the weekly Sports pass in the last year and mobile Sports passes tend to only be available via special promotions.
NOW will no longer sell smart sticks
This is slightly older news, but NOW has also stopped selling bundled smart sticks and passes. These weren’t only cheap ways to turn an old TV into a smart TV, they also were a great value way to get passes. Stock is still available right now but I expect it’ll get harder and harder to get these as the year goes on.
Is this good or bad news?
I’m going to go with bad news. I hate adverts, and I’ll now need to add on Boost to avoid this. Which has suddenly got more expensive. The removal of simultaneous streaming will also push some people to Boost, especially in busy households.
If you want some form of NOW all through the year, and add Boost on, that’s an extra £60 a year you’ll be paying.
It’ll be less for me as I tend to pick and mix my NOW memberships and usually only sign up for Entertainment three or four months a year (it all depends on whether there are “must-see” shows) and movies maybe twice. And rarely at the same time. I then make the most of what’s available and binge, binge, binge. So that means I’m now looking at an extra £20 to £30 a year.
Even so, it makes the price difference with the likes of Netflix and Disney+ even bigger, and that’s accounting for their own price hikes earlier this year.
You could argue, and NOW does, that the merging of Kids and Entertainment and price cut to Cinema represent good value for money. And they might do for you.
But I never, ever pay full price for these, and you don’t need to either. Unless NOW also changes the policy to offer reduced prices to people who cancel, I’d expect you won’t really see that £2 discount.
My only hope is that they’ll begin to offer discounts on the Boost plan – something they’ve yet to do.
Andy’s top streaming tip
There are so many films and TV shows available via an ever increasing number of streaming services that there’s no way we can watch everything.
So why pay for more than one each month?
Instead, sign up to one, binge it, cancel it and move on to the next one. Then the next. And repeat. After a while you’ll be back to the first one, with all that new content to watch.
Don’t forget you’ve also got services like iPlayer and All 4 to factor in, giving you a break from or alternative to some of the paid services.
Can you beat the changes?
There’s very little you can do as most changes are making things cheaper (on the surface at least).
If you know you’ll plump for Boost you can save yourself a few quid by signing up before 15 July and getting it for a month at £3 rather than £5.
You could also see if it’s possible to buy a Kids Pass via a NOW Stick bundle. That should be upgraded to a NOW Entertainment membership, at least for the duration of your prepaid pass. But there’s no guarantee it’ll carry on at the lower £3.99 once this ends. And I can’t see any sold online, so your best chance will be dusty stock at the back of a shelf in a supermarket.
Is NOW still better than Sky?
This is possible the most important questions. I’ve been recommending people ditch Sky contracts and move to NOW for years. I think overall NOW will still be better value, but that depends on a few things.
- Will you be paying full price for your NOW membership passes?
- Will you definitely have NOW every month of the year?
- Will you definitely be adding Boost?
- Will you be adding Sports passes on top?
If the answer is yes to all of these then you might find Sky is cheaper, especially if you sign up with a special offer or haggle a renewal.
Yet if you can pick and mix your passes and take advantage of special offers, I think the flexibility offered by NOW to choose when you have it and when you don’t should mean it comes in much cheaper.