If you think Sky TV means installing a satellite dish, think again. Sky is now available through your broadband connection. Therefore, you don’t have the cost and upheaval that comes with a satellite dish.
It also means Sky is available to more households, as some were previously unable or not allowed to install a satellite dish.
There are two ways to get Sky without a satellite dish – Sky Stream and Sky Glass.
Sky Glass is a TV with Sky built-in. Because it means buying a whole new TV, it’s more expensive than Sky Stream. Although, they both run the same software, so the menu and channel selection are the same.
Sky Stream, however, doesn’t require buying a whole new TV, so it’s a much cheaper and simpler solution. Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about it.
And if you’re wondering how to watch all the shows you want without breaking the bank, take a look at our guide on the best TV streaming services.
What is Sky Stream?
Sky Stream is a streaming ‘puck’ (so-called because it’s similar in size to a hockey puck) that brings you Sky through your broadband connection. That means you can watch all of Sky’s channels without having to install a satellite dish.
How does it work?
The Sky Stream puck is small enough to hold in one hand. That means it won’t take up much space on your TV cabinet. It plugs into a mains socket for power and into your TV’s HDMI socket to display video on screen.
How do you set up Sky Stream?
First, you’ll need to connect it to your home Wi-Fi network. It’s as simple as joining any device to it, like a smartphone, laptop or tablet. Just find the Wi-Fi network on your TV menu and enter your password.
Next, you connect your remote control to the Sky Stream box. The on-screen instructions will show you how to do this.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to connect your Sky Stream remote to your TV. This means you can control your TV and Sky Stream box with just the one remote.
All that’s left is to link your Sky account to Sky Stream. Head to sky.com and enter the password that appears on your TV screen. Then you’re all set.
How is Sky Stream different from Sky Q?
While Sky Stream and Sky Q both bring you Sky TV, they are quite different propositions.
The main difference between them is how they deliver Sky TV. The Sky Q set-top box takes its TV signal from a satellite dish that you need to have installed on the outside of your home. If you live in a block of flats, this can be tricky, as you may need permission from other residents. And if you’re renting, you’ll need your landlord’s permission.
Sky Stream, however, delivers Sky TV through your home broadband connection. That means you’ll need suitably fast broadband, otherwise you won’t be able to watch. Sky recommends at least 25Mbps, otherwise Sky Stream might clog up your bandwidth (the amount of data that can pass through your broadband connection). This could slow down the internet connection for any other devices connected to the home network, like smartphones, tablets or laptops.
You can connect Sky Stream to your internet router either via Wi-Fi or plug it in using an Ethernet cable. The Ethernet cable will give a more secure connection, so it might be worth trying if you’re having issues with your Wi-Fi. Just make sure your router is positioned close enough to your Sky Stream puck.
Another difference between Sky Stream and Sky Q is that you’re only ever renting your Sky Q set-top box. You have to give it back when you cancel your contract. But with Sky Stream, once you’ve paid the upfront fee, the device is yours to keep.
The Sky Q set-top box is much bigger and heavier than Sky Stream. That’s because of its built-in hard drive, which lets you record shows and films as they air. This is a real plus, as once you’ve recorded something, it’s yours to keep until you delete it (or you swap/send back your Sky Q set-top box).
Sky Stream instead relies on a section of the menu called ‘Playlist’, so you can add shows and films when they air. However, this relies on them still being available to view on catch-up. If Netflix drops a show because it hasn’t renewed its license to show it – which often happens – it’ll drop off your ‘Playlist’. And if it’s not available on any other of your streaming services, you won’t be able to watch it. (If it goes to Prime Video, say, which you don’t subscribe to, you’ll miss out.)
This can be a problem, as plenty of BBC shows stay on iPlayer for only 30 days before being removed. However, on the plus side, there’s no limit to the number of shows you can add to your Playlist, as they are stored in the cloud on Sky’s servers. The Sky Q box’s hard drive, by contrast, is limited to only about 500 hours of recordings.
The hard drive also makes Sky Q louder than Sky Stream. The Sky Q box whirs as it comes to life and records shows, whereas Sky Stream is silent. But it’s not a big issue – you won’t hear the Sky Q box over the sound of the TV.
Sky Stream runs a slightly different operating system to Sky Q. Called Entertainment OS, it’s a little brighter and more image-heavy, and looks a bit fresher and more modern than Sky Q’s.
But the selection of sports, films and shows is very similar. Sky Q does have more channels, but those missing from Sky Stream are quite niche. Sky Stream also has voice controls, just like Sky Q – with both products, you hold down the microphone button on the remote and speak to search for a show, change channel, activate subtitles, and so on.
One niggle – there’s a slight delay in broadcasting live content over the internet compared to via a satellite dish. So if you watch live on Sky Stream, you will be slightly behind your neighbours with Sky Q. If you hear them cheer, you know a goal’s coming…
Pros and cons of Sky Stream
How much does Sky Stream cost?
Sky’s pricing is always a bit complicated, and Sky Stream is no different.
First, you’ll need to pay an upfront fee for the streaming puck. This is £20 on an 18-month contract, or £39.95 on a rolling 31-day contract.
Then you’ll need a basic selection of channels. Sky Entertainment and Netflix is £26 a month on an 18-month contract or £29 a month on a rolling 31-day contract.
Next come the extra channels, if you want them. These include Sky Sports (£25 or £27 a month, depending on your contract length), Sky Cinema (£11 or £13), TNT Sports (£28) and Sky Kids (£6).
Then there are the extras. 4K picture quality is £6 a month, ad-skipping on certain content is £5 a month, and Whole Home (which lets you watch on more TVs, though you’ll need more Sky Stream Pucks to do so) is £12 a month.
So it can get quite pricey.
Sky Stream: summary
Sky Stream is a lot more expensive than a single streaming service like Netflix or Disney+, but then it offers a lot more content. If you’re keen on Sky and don’t want – or can’t have – a satellite dish, and your broadband is fast enough, it could be for you.