They may have different back stories, but Netflix and Now TV represent two of the best and most popular streaming platforms on the UK TV landscape. Between them they both have extensive libraries including a wide range of original and syndicated content. From Now TV’s Chernobyl to Netflix’s Roma or Black Mirror, they each have programs which can’t be viewed on traditional TV. But, they do of course cost money – so which gives you the best value for your hard earned.
Streaming Services in the United Kingdom
In the UK, we’ve long benefited from our excellent freeview programming. That said, we’ve lagged behind the United States when it comes to streamable content. Streaming has changed the way we watch in so many ways. No longer do we need to watch when the networks want us to; instead we can watch when it suits us. No longer do we need to space out our viewing; if we want, we can watch one after the other. And unlike video stores and other examples of on-demand content, no longer do we need to pay more when we watch more. Sounds pretty good, huh?
Netflix are the big daddy when it comes to streaming. While they started their life in 1997 as a company which would send DVDs to customers via the post, they quickly saw the value of using the internet rather than external mediums to transmit video content. This effectively led to the birth of what we now call streaming – a flat-rate charge for a video store accessible by almost any device that connects to the internet.
Now TV’s story is different. They’re one of the newer kids on the block, having been launched by parent company Sky in 2012. The rationale behind Now TV is simple: provide Sky content in a cheaper, more flexible fashion. Since then they’ve been a roaring success, capturing customers across the country. As Sky TV itself has sought to move more and more into streaming and the production of original content, this has further benefited Now TV.
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Content: What’s on the box?
Both Netflix and Now TV have an extensive range of syndicated (new and classic) and original content. Indeed, naming the titles in the comprehensive libraries would take weeks – so here are some highlights.
The Netflix UK streaming platform doesn’t have as much content as their US parent company, but they still pack a mighty punch. Hits like Black Mirror, Stranger Things, Orange Is The New Black and The Crown have become some of the most popular shows in Netflix history. They also have an extensive back catalogue of classic shows from the UK including Peaky Blinders, Line of Duty and Doctor Who. Outside of movies and box sets, they’ve also got an incredible range of stand up specials, documentaries, kids shows and reality shows.
And what about Now TV? While it is only relatively new, it benefits from having access to all content which Sky TV has the rights to. Kidding, The Handmaid’s Tale, Sharp Objects, Westworld and Big Little Lies are just some of the examples. UK content includes Alan Partridge’s Mid Morning Matters, along with Britannia and the recent hit show Chernobyl among others. In addition, there’s also access to Sky Sports which has cricket, rugby and of course the English Premier League.
Now TV’s content is organised in a different fashion to Netflix. Unlike Netflix which gives you the rights to access pretty much its entire library once you pay your membership, Now TV provides passes which basically give you access to different content depending on what you’re interested in. The passes include the Sky Cinema Pass, the Entertainment Pass, Kids Pass, hayu Pass and a range of specific Sky Sports Passes which are largely based on how long you want to watch for.
Ease of Use
The great thing about streaming in the UK is that it’s accessible largely everywhere. You don’t even need a TV to watch or to subscribe! Both Now TV and Netflix operate through an app, which means you can watch on any device from your tablet to your laptop and your smartphone. Netflix has a bit more functionality – particularly on gaming machines – but the two are largely similar (Now TV can only be watched on the newer Playstation and Xbox consoles).
As for watching on your actual television – a sentence which seemed strange up until just a few years ago – your best bet is to watch on your Smart TV. A Smart TV is an internet-enabled television which can load either the Netflix or Now TV (or any other streaming) app. Don’t have a smart TV and don’t want to upgrade? No problem. From smart sticks to a range of set top boxes, you’ll be able to hook up your existing TV in no time. Simply read our in-depth article on the topic and see which solution fits you best.
Signing up to either Netflix or Now TV is easy. There’s no need for a satellite dish and you can even elect to get a subscription for your phone only. In the name of flexibility, they’re also available on short-term month-to-month deals – which means you won’t need to sign up for a long contract with either. Netflix’s 30-day free trial lets you know what you’ve been missing, as does Now TV’s relatively shorter seven-day free trial deal.
As for the specs you’ll need under the bonnet to successfully stream, fortunately the device doesn’t need to be all that sophisticated. Both are available on over 60 devices – from smartphones to tablets, laptops, Smart TVs, set-top boxes and sticks. For Now TV, if you’re using Wi-Fi or broadband, you need a speed of at least 2.5Mbps. For 3G or 4G devices the minimum speed needed is 450Kbps.
As for Netflix, the company recommends 25Mbps to stream Ultra HD, 5Mbps for HD quality, 3Mbps to stream in SD and 1.5Mbps as a minimum speed. Netflix adjusts streaming quality automatically – although if you’re using your data, be sure to change the settings so that you don’t use maximum data, which will burn through your allowance faster than you can say 4G.
Value for money
Netflix’s entry-level package allows for one device, add a bit more and you’ll pay for two devices and HD streaming support. The top-shelf plan gets you access on four devices and Ultra HD streaming.
Now TV have more packages available than Netflix, but they are around the same cost on average. Starting from the lowest priced pass going up, the Now TV Passes are Kids Pass, hayu Pass, Entertainment Pass and the Sky Cinema Pass. The sports packages are a little pricier, there’s a day pass, weekly and monthly access, as well as a mobile only pass.
Now TV’s customer service is within the Sky TV network, which is great news for customers. This is because Sky TV has the fewest complaints against it as per Ofcom. Now TV has an online contact form where a customer service rep will get back to you, while there’s also an online forum which will link you to other Now TV users to troubleshoot your issues.
Netflix’s contact centre has an extensive range of FAQs and troubleshooting help, while also being available by phone. They’ve got a live chat service which they prefer you use, but you can call them on 0800 096 8879. Both their live chat function and their telephone line are available to subscribers and non-subscribers alike.
Choosing between Now TV and Netflix
While the choice between the two might be difficult, fortunately there’s no wrong decision. Both have excellent content at affordable prices, while you’ll be able to watch on pretty much any device from your smartphone to your Smart TV.
The technical specs are largely the same, with neither requiring a particularly sophisticated device (or high-level technical understanding) to set up. Making the choice might simply come down to which exclusive programming you’d prefer, from original content to syndicated classics.
One major difference however is the sporting content on offer. Now TV’s Sky Sports package has excellent sporting content. While it might be a bit pricier than the other options with both Now TV and Netflix, it’s a fair bit cheaper than taking up other BT or Sky Sports packages. This means it’s an absolute must for any sports fan.
Now TV also offer bundle deals, letting you save big on your broadband internet and your phone should you choose to also take these from Now TV. Given that Netflix is focused completely on streaming, this may tip the scales in Now TV’s favour.
But on the whole, the decision will come down to you, your household and what you want to watch. Now TV has a greater range of flexibility, although Netflix’s extensive library is unlikely to leave anyone disappointed.