Sky has launched a new TV streaming box for customers that means you don’t need a satellite dish.
Following on from Virgin Media’s Stream box and BT’s TV-over-the-internet, Sky is launching a box-only option to watch pay TV without a dish – or the need to buy a Sky Glass TV.
You also don’t need to have broadband from Sky to access it (unlike Virgin and BT’s offerings), so could this be the best way to reduce your TV costs?
What is Sky Stream?
When Sky Glass launched last year, the idea was good, You could get Sky’s channels without a satellite dish or long contracts. But there was a big (and expensive) problem. You had to buy a whole Sky TV in order to access the service.
Sky Stream is effectively the same thing but with a small box (just plug it into the HDMI on your TV). That makes it cheaper and more practical than Glass for those who don’t need or want to shell out for a huge telly.
The Sky Stream box has the same user interface as Sky Glass, which is similar to Sky Q. It means you can watch or Sky and Freeview channels “as live” via a guide. You’ll also be able to access content from other streaming apps via the Sky home page, without having to go into each individual app.
There’s an option to “playlist” shows, which is sold as the equivalent of recording them. But it’s not the same. You’re really just linking to shows in other on-demand apps. If those shows are removed from those services, you won’t be able to watch them.
Plus, these Sky features (live TV, playlist etc) will only work while you’re also paying a monthly subscription to Sky. Cancel these and you’ll only be able to access streaming apps such as iPlayer, Disney+ and Netflix (and some of these will require their own subscription).
The box comes with a traditional remote control that has more buttons than other streaming devices, and it’s also got voice search functionality.
Who can get Sky Stream?
When it’s released on 18 October 2022, anyone will be able to buy the box from Sky’s website and shops. You can sign up to the packages (either monthly or for 18 months), regardless of whether you’re already a Sky TV or broadband customer.
There’s no need to also get your broadband from Sky, though you will obviously need a decent broadband connection to watch programmes.
How much does it cost?
The Sky Stream box
There’s a single upfront charge of £39.95 (reduced to £20 if you commit to 18 months of Sky channels). But this just gets you the box or “puck” itself. You still need to pay monthly to access Sky channels.
Sky Ultimate subscription
You can pay for 31-day rolling subscriptions to watch Sky content with the entry level known as Sky Ultimate. This costs £29 a month, reduced to £26 a month if you commit to 18 months.
This includes most Sky entertainment channels such as Sky Atlantic and Sky Max, and freeview channels. The full list is here. These should be in HD, where available (and if your TV allows this).
You’ll also get the basic Netflix package, which is SD only and allows a single stream at any time. It’s extra if you want the Standard or Premium Netflix tiers, which improve picture quality and allow extra streams. You can’t opt out of Netflix if you don’t want it.
Sky Stream add-ons
You can pay extra to boost your channels. Prices are for 31 days then 18 months (sourced from Cordbusters):
- Sky Cinema – £13 pm / £11 pm
- Sky Sports – £27 pm / £25 pm
- Sky Kids – unknown
There are also extra services you can pay for to enhance existing channels:
- Ultra HD – £5 pm
- Fast forward adverts – £5 pm
If you want to have Sky Stream boxes on additional TVs, you’ll pay £12 a month. That’s on top of the cost for each box itself, though there might be discounts on these if you commit to longer contracts or extra packages. You’re likely limited to five in total in a household.
How do prices compare?
Sky Stream vs NOW
The equivalent NOW passes to what you get with Sky Ultimate via Stream is paying £9.99 for Entertainment and £5 for Boost (which gives HD). Then the basic Netflix costs 5.99. So all in that’s £20.98.
But it’s not exactly the same as NOW Entertainment includes the Kids channels and Boost skips adverts and the ability to watch on more than one device. These would add between £5 and £12 a month via Sky Stream, or £22 extra if you got all three.
Sky Cinema is also cheaper on NOW, and it’s only Sky Sports which is less via Sky Stream. But there are frequent deals and discounts on offer with NOW which will massively reduce what you pay each month. I’ve detailed many of these in my NOW review.
Plus, where NOW really has an advantage over Sky Stream is you’re not required to have Entertainment to access the other passes. So if you want just Cinema or Sports, you can pay just for them.
WINNER: NOW TV
Sky Stream vs Sky Glass
This prices for subscriptions via Stream are a fraction more than the same channels via Sky Glass. For example Sky Ultimate with Netflix is £24 a month. Add ons are also less.
However, Sky Stream avoids the extra cost for the TV set each month which really adds up. So if you’re torn between the two and don’t need or want a new TV, the extra cost of Stream is probably worth paying.
WINNER: Sky Stream
Sky Stream vs Sky Q
When you compare the upfront prices for Sky Q it’ll look pretty similar – though you’ll be tied into 18-month contracts with Q. From that point of view Sky Stream is the winner.
But you need to take into account that you can haggle prices down with Sky Q once you’re out of contract. So it’s likely you’ll be paying a lot less than the listed prices.
And you’re also getting better features, such as recordings and the ability to keep watching TV if the internet cuts out.
So you’ll only save with Sky Stream if you don’t keep paying for the full 18-months. And if you’re going to do that, you may as well go with NOW.
WINNER: Sky Q
Should you get a Sky Stream box?
It’s always good to see cheaper and more flexible ways to access normally expensive subscriptions. One of the biggest problems for me with Sky is the long-term contract, while Sky Glass users needed to pay extra for a new TV.
So the 31-day contracts and cheaper box-only package for Sky Stream are ticking lots of boxes. But ultimately it falls down for the same reasons Sky Glass did.
First up is NOW TV, which also offers on-demand Sky channels but for even less money and greater flexibility. And deals bring those prices down even more.
Then compared to Sky Q, it’s simply just not as good. If I was going to pay for a Sky interface I want to be able to record.
If you’re committed to Sky’s interface then this could save you money as you aren’t linked to a long 18-month contract, meaning you can ditch it from month to month. But if you want to ditch Sky, I’d still think NOW is a better option. And I’d imagine there’s less room to haggle discounts here than on those longer contracts.