Sky TV Essentials

Last updated: 27 October 2023   By Lyndsey Burton

Sky TV Essentials provides customers with access to free-to-air content with the recordable Sky Q Box.

Sky's low-cost package for satellite-based customers offers the feature rich Sky Q box for a small monthly fee.


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Sky TV Essentials allows customers with a satellite dish access to Freesat channels with the recordable features of the Sky Q box.

New customers will also get a Sky satellite dish installed if they need one, as well as an engineer appointment to install the Sky TV service.

The low-cost Sky TV plan can also be bundled with Sky Superfast Broadband 35, which offers some savings compared to taking the services separately.

sky q box

At a glance

Monthly price £15
Setup cost £20
Minimum term 18 months
TV channels 200+ free-to-air channels
Channel packs None
On-demand apps Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Paramount+, Discovery+, Apple TV+, Lionsgate+, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All4, and others
TV box Sky Q box
Requirements Sky satellite dish (provided)
Pros Cons
Pause, rewind & record live TV No access to Sky Entertainment, Sky Sports or Sky Cinema
200+ live TV channels via Freesat Sky Q box doesn't support NOW TV app
Wide third-party app support Only one broadband speed available
Many channels available in full HD
Package TV Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Sky TV Essentials + Superfast 35 Broadband 200 36Mb average £33 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Save £8/mth on Sky TV Essentials + No setup fee (Ends 27/06/2024)

Is Sky TV Essentials right for me?

Sky TV Essentials is a great low-cost option for households who want to watch hundreds of live TV channels broadcast over Freesat.

That means customers will need to be able to install a satellite dish on their side of their property, although the setup fee on this package covers all equipment needed and an engineer installation.

To get the most out of the Sky Q box included with Sky TV Essentials customers will also need to hook the box up to a wired or wireless Internet connection. This will allow customers to stream content over broadband for catch-up and on-demand apps.

While Sky TV Essentials doesn't include any paid content, customers can have subscriptions with third-party apps supported by the Sky Q box separately, such as Netflix and Prime Video.

There are two important points worth bearing in mind in terms of the suitability of the Sky TV Essentials package however.

Firstly, customers won't be able to access or subscribe to Sky Entertainment, Sky Sports, or Sky Cinema. To access these channel packs, customers need to upgrade to Sky Signature or take the Sky Stream service.

The current deals available on Sky TV Essentials are also limited to Sky Superfast 35 broadband. This offers average download speeds of 36Mbps, which will be adequate for most, but larger households or those who go online a lot, might want to consider a faster Sky broadband deal.

Overall, Sky TV Essentials is the cheapest way for satellite customers to continue watching Freesat on the Sky Q box without a bigger Sky TV subscription. It benefits from recording features as well as support for a wide range of on-demand apps, but customers are forced to upgrade to Sky Signature if they want to watch any of Sky's premium content.

What does Sky TV Essentials offer?

Sky TV Essentials is Sky's cheapest TV plan and offers customers a way to watch over 200 free-to-air channels broadcast over Freesat using a Sky satellite dish and the Sky Q box.

The main benefit of the Sky Q box is the ability to pause and rewind live TV, as well as record programmes onto the 1TB of hard disk storage to watch later.

Sky TV Essentials costs £15 per month, but is currently discounted to just £7 per month when taken with Sky Superfast 35 Broadband:

Package TV Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Sky TV Essentials + Superfast 35 Broadband 200 36Mb average £33 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Save £8/mth on Sky TV Essentials + No setup fee (Ends 27/06/2024)

Sky TV Essentials customers will also be able to use the Sky Q box to watch catch-up and on-demand programmes through apps such as BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All4 and My5.

It's also possible to subscribe to additional third-party apps and watch these via the Sky Q box in up to 1080p HD. This includes apps like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Paramount+, Discovery+, Lionsgate+, Apple TV+, and many others.

Content on Sky TV Essentials

Sky TV Essentials offers access to over 200 Freesat channels via the Sky Q box, with customers getting a satellite dish installed by an engineer if needed.

The Free-to-air channels on Sky TV Essentials include:

BBC One HD BBC Two HD ITV 1 HD Channel 4 HD Channel 5 HD
BBC Three HD BBC Four HD BBC Alba HD BBC Scotland HD ITV 2 HD
More 4 E4 Extra 4Seven 5USA 5Star
5Action 5Select RealityXtra UK CBS Reality Legend
HorrorXtra GREAT! TV Sky Mix HD Challenge Sky Arts
Food Network DMAX PBS America W Dave
Drama Yesterday Really Blaze Together TV
HGTV Quest HD Quest Red That's TV BBC News HD
BBC Parliament HD Sky News Film 4 Bloomberg TV Talk TV
GB News SportyStuff TV GREAT! Movies GREAT! Action Talking Pictures TV
4Music The Box Kiss Magic Kerrang!
CBBC HD Cbeebies HD Pop POP Max Tiny Pop

As well as these channels, Sky TV Essentials also includes access to a range of +1 and radio channels.

The benefit of the Sky Q box that comes with Sky TV Essentials means customers can also watch content on a range of catch-up and on-demand apps supported by the box.

This includes:

  • BBC iPlayer
  • ITVX
  • All4
  • Youtube
  • Spotify

Where customers have subscriptions to third-party apps paid for directly with the platform (i.e. not via Sky), they can also watch this content where the app is supported on the Sky Q box.

This includes:

  • Netflix
  • Prime Video
  • BritBox
  • Disney+
  • Paramount+
  • Discovery+
  • Peacock
  • Apple TV+
  • Lionsgate+
  • Fiit
  • Peloton
  • Amazon music

The Sky Q box supports viewing quality up to Ultra HD 4K, although Freesat channels will only be available up to 1080p HD. In addition, many app subscriptions, like Netflix, will require a certain tier membership to gain content in Ultra HD.

Access to these third-party apps, along with over 200 live Freesat channels, and the ability to record programmes, sets Sky TV Essentials out as a very good value for money way of accessing a lot of TV content cheaply.

Apps such as Discovery+ offer access to channel packs like TNT Sports, while Netflix and Prime Video cover a range of content from binge-worthy series to well-known films.

One minor drawback to Sky TV Essentials however, is that premium channel packs like Sky Sports or Sky Cinema aren't available. The Sky Q box also doesn't support the NOW TV app, so that isn't an option to watch these channels either.

The only way for customers to access premium content on Sky, including Sky Entertainment is to upgrade to the Sky Signature TV pack, which costs an extra £13 per month, bringing the total cost of Sky Q to £31 per month.

Alternatively, customers can just move to Sky Stream, which costs £19 per month and includes much of the same content here, plus the additional Sky Entertainment channels and a subscription to Netflix.

Sky Q box

Undoubtedly, the main reason for customers to opt for Sky TV Essentials is that it includes the Sky Q box.

Despite being launched why back in 2016, the Sky Q box still surpasses the features available from rival devices such as Virgin's TV 360 box or the BT TV Box Pro.

Here are the main specifications of the Sky Q box:

Storage 1TB
Recordings Up to 150 hours of HD content
Tuners 7 (Record 6 shows while watching a 7th)
Resolution Up to 2160p Ultra HD
Remote Voice control

The Sky Q box is Ultra HD-ready although many of the channels available through Sky TV Essentials will be in SD or 1080p HD at best.

However, it does mean where customers have subscriptions to third-party apps with Ultra HD content, the Sky Q box will be able to support this, assuming the customer also has an Ultra HD-ready TV.

The Sky Q box also benefits from a large hard disk drive so customers can record programmes to watch later, with up to 150 hours' worth of space available. Multiple tuners also mean customers can record as many as six programmes simultaneously while watching a seventh separate channel.

Sky Q does rely on a satellite feed however, and customers will also need to supply the box with a wired or wireless Internet connection for it to work with on-demand apps.

Verdict: Is Sky TV Essentials any good?

Sky TV Essentials offers a low-cost way for customers to watch content on Freesat with the benefit of being able to pause, rewind and record content on the Sky Q box.

When discounted in bundles such as the Sky TV Essentials + Superfast 35 deal above, the TV element comes down to just £7 per month, which seems reasonable.

However, at the full price of £15 per month, Sky TV Essentials loses some of its appeal, as customers are effectively paying the monthly subscription just to rent the Sky Q box.

This is especially true when we compare it to the new Sky Stream service, which offers more premium content, including Sky Entertainment channels such as Sky Atlantic, and a Netflix subscription, for just £19 per month.

Overall, Sky TV Essentials offers a wide range of content and households will no doubt benefit from the ability to record lots of shows at once. However, unless customers take it in the bundled TV and broadband deal, they may be better off considering the upgrade to Sky Stream.


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