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Eye on Demand | August 18, 2017

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Now TV Live Entertainment Pass

Now TV Live Entertainment Pass

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
7
User Interface
7
Channels on Offer
7
Device Availability
7.5
Airplay and iOS
3
6.3

Just Getting Better!

Recently, Sky’s Now TV service added the much anticipated Entertainment Pass, offering 13 channels of on-demand amusement. But what many people don’t realize is that this service also includes 13 of Sky’s pay-television channels, streamed live through the Internet (almost) as they appear via satellite.

Although many people will be attracted to Now TV’s on-demand offerings with the new £6.99/month contract-free Entertainment Pass, some people still prefer good old fashioned, live linear television. The UK already has one of the most widely accessible live television services available via the Internet, and Sky’s foray into this market just makes things even better.

Lets be honest here. Although BBC, ITV and Channel 4 all offer their own channels up for free via their websites, you shouldn’t expect the same for Sky. We are talking pay TV here after-all, so of course, we shouldn’t be too surprised to actually have to pay for it. In fact, if you find a service offering Sky’s entertainment channels for free, it is most likely illegal and should be avoided. That out of the way, this package offers considerably fewer channels than the satellite-equivalent basic Entertainment package, although it should be pointed out that it is also cheaper and many of the missing channels are not exclusive to Sky and available freely from other legal sources.

 

Note: This review is concentrating purely on the separate Now TV Entertainment Pass from Sky. Other packages, such as the Movie and Sports Passes also offer live streams but will be reviewed separately.

Unfortunately, not all programmes that Sky broadcasts over their satellite services are available via the Now TV platform due to licensing restrictions. Now TV provides a list of programming each day of which they can’t stream online, and although at first glance it looks quite significant, Now TV says that it is only a small fraction of their total list of shows.

So what live channels does Now TV offer for £6.99 per month?

Sky1, Sky Arts, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel, Fox, Gold and MTV

  • www.nowtv.com

    NowTV’s live home page can be directly accessed here, and is a pleasant, clean environment to explore what is currently playing live along with what’s coming up next. There are no commercials to distract the browser, and no clutter to confuse.

    That also means there is not a terrible amount of features available either, but what features there are works well enough.

    In fact, until you start watching a particular channel, the only thing you can really do here is select the Watch button. There are no further popups or links to additional information, but what is displayed shows what is currently playing, and what will be on next.

    Once you start a live stream, you are confronted with a small window on a darkened background, the same method as used for their on-demand material. But full-screen viewing is of course also possible.

    The current show playing is always highlighted in blue text, which is handy as you can scroll through the other channels through the info box, and if it is listed in white, the information shown is not related to what is playing on the screen. Switching channels is therefore quite easy, as you don’t have to return to the main web page. What you can’t do is fast forward, rewind or even pause, three things which may not be too unusual for basic old fashioned television, but which has radically changed since the prevalence of modern PVRs.

    X

    Just remember. when watching via a computer screen, it is important to close the video window from Now TV’s own “X” rather than the browser’s. Failure to do so, or using the back button could result in Sky suspending your stream for 10minutes in violation of their simultaneous streaming policy.

    Platform Pros:

    • Clean and uncluttered web page.
    • Easy to use.

    Platform Cons:

    • Not the most sofa friendly environment.
    • No FFW, REW or Pause features.
    • No recording or other PVR features.
    • No Popout window.

    (Accessing NowTV outside of the United Kingdom may require a good VPN or Smart DNS service)

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19173″]

     

     

  • Best Choice StampIf you thought one of the best methods to watch Now TV’s Entertainment live channels was not the dedicated Now TV or UK Roku box, it certainly would be worth checking out the amazing £10 STB.

    Now TV’s live channels on the Now TV box offer a clean and clutter-free experience, with the first screen highlighting what is currently playing on each channel. You can also browse by channel, which highlights the current playing show as well as the next two.

    If you click on a show, the next page reveals a little more information, such as episode details and what stage the show is currently at via a handy timeline. Unfortunately, there are no time-shifting abilities here, so you can’t start a programme from the beginning if you arrive half way through. This may be the latest in technology, but live television with Now TV is still much more akin to traditional television of yore.

    Still, once you begin watching a live channel, the EPG information much more closely resembles a modern television set, with a programme information bar at the bottom of the screen which can be expanded, and ease of switching channels. Granted, there are no true channel up/down buttons like on a good old TV, but the next closest thing, scrolling up the EPG and then selecting a channel is good enough and one of the best implemented I have seen on live IPTV.

    There are no PVR options at all, no pause and no fast forward or rewind. Which means of course no recording function either. Maybe some of that will arrive in the not to distant future, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

    Video quality is similar to that of the web browser, with SD streams only. My own tests at their best, averaged 1750kbps, which was a very good standard definition picture. Other times were not so good and I did experience the odd buffering problem on occasions, although it has not yet been proved this wasn’t to do with my own network or geographic location.

    Note: This platform is based on the Now TV or UK Roku box. This service will not work on a Roku box purchased from outside the UK due to a different firmware installation.

    Platform Pros:

    • Excellent UI.
    • Good SD quality streams.
    • Info box and channel hopping are well designed.

    Platform Cons:

    • No FFW, REW or Pause features.
    • No recording or other PVR features.

    (Due to the design of this platform, in order to access outside of the UK, you may need a Smart DNS service and a router where DNS servers can be configured. VPNs are not a practical solution)

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18165″]

     

  • It took a little longer for Now TV’s Entertainment Pass to be added to the existing iOS app, but it is available now from the UK iTunes store.

    On the positive side, the app is beautifully clutter-free and well laid out. It did take a few short moments to realize I had to click the Movie tab to bring up other options, but once I was at the Entertainment Pass, accessing the live streams was easy enough using the menu bar at the top/right of the screen.

    As with 0ther platforms, the live TV section is extremely simple. All your channels are laid out and showing what is currently playing, and what will play next. The only choice is to select a channel to play, which takes the viewer straight to full-screen playback.

    There are no quick channel selectors so once you begin playback you will have to stop the live stream and return to the main channels page to select an alternative, but on the positive side, it is actually possible to pause a live television stream, though only for an incredibly short period of time. By short, I’m talking a few seconds, so not even enough for a toilet break.

    As for video, 16:9 (wide-screen) content played back fine, naturally with the expected black bars on the top and bottom of the 4:3 aspect iPad, but where you would expect then a 4:3 video itself to fill the screen, it doesn’t and there were four disappointing bars surrounding the video.

    AirPlay is totally non existent, and by that I mean Sky have even blocked mirroring. If you have invested in an Apple TV, don’t expect any way to wirelessly stream the content to your big screen.

    Platform Pros:

    • Acceptable SD video quality for the smaller iOS screens.
    • Well designed layout.

    Platform Cons:

    • No HD streams.
    • No AirPlay including mirroring.
    • No offline options.
    • Poor implementation of 4:3 aspect programmes.
    • No quick channel selector.
    • No PVR features.

    (Accessing the live streams from outside of the United Kingdom requires a good VPN connection to the UK)

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18165″]

  • Now TV offer 13 live streaming channels, contract-free for £6.99 per month, and to be honest, I find this a fair price for this small selection of pay TV channels. The user interface, especially via the Now TV or UK Roku box is especially good and the fact that the live channels are really just supplementary services that sit behind the main business end – on-demand and catch-up – make the five quid go even further.

    Video quality in my own tests only came through at approx. 3320kbps* via STBs, which is quite a pleasing 720p HD stream.

    That and the odd missing feature prevents this from being a killer service. For a start, we would like to see proper, basic PVR features such as cloud recording and at the very least, time-shifting. More channels wouldn’t go astray, and Sky could very well attract a whole new customer base if they also started to include the FTA networks as well – not unlike their own satellite service.

    Once a few of these omissions are sorted out, Now TV’s live Entertainment Pass will probably find itself jumping up the scale. It’s a good start, but it does need to work a few things out.

    Pros:

    • Fantastic, clutter-free UI.
    • 13 of the most important Sky Entertainment channels.
    • Good, if basic EPG (considering there are no PVR features)

    Cons:

    • No PVR features (FFW, REW, Pause)
    • No AirPlay support.
    • No cloud or local recordings.
    • No HD streams in my own tests.
    • Some programming are not licensed to stream live.
    • Does not include other FTA networks.

    Technical Details:

    • Live TV channels include: Sky1, Sky Arts, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel, Fox, Gold, MTV, ABC Studios, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr
    • Only SD streams possible.

    Log:

    08.11.2013: Review published: Score: 5.4 – Great UI.

    12.11.2013: iOS review added. Score increased to 6.

    24.07.2014: Added New Channels & improved Video: Score increases to 6.3.

    * Bitrate tests were based on multiple averages and are subject to both the geographical location and ISP bandwidth at the time.

     

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Comments

  1. Richard

    Did you get this working through overplay smartdns or a vpn, if you did it over a vpn how did you do it?

    • The Entertainment Pass is working via Overplay’s Smart DNS on the Now TV Box, but so far I have only had it working via VPN on a PC. Still, the Now TV box is the better platform to use it anyway.

  2. Richard

    on the nowtv box (roku lt)

    • Works great on the Now TV box. I haven’t tried a Roku UK box, but I suspect it will still work. Would be interested to hear from someone with a UK Roku box. One very important thing to keep in mind is that you will need to put Overplay’s Smart DNS addresses on your router itself. This is easy, but not all routers allow this. If this interests you, just follow your routers manual to log in, and see if there is a place where you can manually set DNS addresses.

  3. Richard

    Been looking here http://www.toytowngermany.com/lofi/index.php/t301284-15.html and you say the box is working, any help for a fellow expat 🙂