Game Of Thrones is back, and thankfully after a rocky final season of its original run, the new prequel series is off to a roaring start with plenty of mystery, violence and scenes you’d rather not watch with your parents.
House Of The Dragon is a fantasy series set around 200 years before the events of Game Of Thrones, and stars Paddy Considine, Emma D’Arcy, Matt Smith and Rhys Ifans. Fans of the original series are already raving about the series, but it's UK audiences that once again face low-quality and expensive streaming options.
It's Sky's way or the highway
As Game Of Thrones is an IP owned by HBO and Warner Bros Discovery, it's inherently an American property, and is therefore distributed by Sky in the UK on Sky Atlantic. The issue is accessing this channel in the UK, which can only be done two ways.
The first is through a Sky TV subscription, with Sky Q being the most popular offering to many, as it represents the standard cable TV experience. In true Sky fashion it remains a costly choice, with Sky quoting £26 a month for 18 months, and a £49 set-up fee. And that’s for the most basic package, with extras such as Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, BT Sport and Disney Plus ranging from an additional £6 to a whopping £28 a month.
The real kick in the teeth here is the absence of HD or UHD channels, with those being an £8 a month, or £12 a month additional cost respectively. So if you want to watch House Of The Dragon in the UK, on Sky Q in HD, it would cost £83 for the first month, and then £34 a month subsequently. Which seems a lot for a TV show, and that’s not even in 4K.
An alternative from Sky is its Sky Glass package, which includes a decent enough TV as part of the subscription, however for the many that just want to watch House Of The Dragon on their existing TV, this isn’t the answer. The whole Sky angle only really works for those who want to commit to an extended and expensive service, and will use all of Sky's services and features.
Thankfully, there is an alternative way of watching without committing to a full Sky package. Sky’s offshoot streaming service, Now (formerly NowTV), offers Sky channels and on demand in a more compartmentalised affair, with Entertainment, Cinema and Sport passes available that you can swap out to make a modular service that suits you. Entertainment is the pass you’ll need in order to watch Game Of Thrones, and it comes in at around £10 a month, which doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all. However, this pass only allows you to watch in, get ready for this… 720p.
You can purchase the £5 a month Boost package upgrade that brings Full HD streaming and access to the service on multiple devices at once, but this feels like a petty upgrade – and there is no option to stream in 4K.
I watched the first episode of House Of The Dragon in 720p so you don’t have to.
Using Now's app on the PS5 is clunky, and being limited to 720p on a powerful streaming device such as this is frustrating. For reference, I was also watching on a 1440p BenQ monitor, so even if 4K wasn't an option, at the very least Full HD would have been appreciated. The debut episode looked blocky in parts with slightly soft textures, and just overall I felt cheated out of experiencing this landmark episode in a more fitting resolution.
Game Of Thrones is a series that’s always boasted stunning visual effects and locales, with much of it being filmed in the UK, so why do we get to watch the worst possible version of it?
Now might be the the cheapest option, but it's still not good enough, and if the quality doesn’t convince you of this, then the horrendous app user experience will. Janky menus and glitchy operation persists on the platform after years of software updates, with the most recent overhaul of the service seemingly just changing the logo from orange to teal… thanks Sky!
In the US, HBO is streaming House Of The Dragon in 4K HDR, and it even has Dolby Atmos – whereas UK audiences are stuck with either a blocky, low resolution option, or face spending over £80 just to watch the series. HBO Max on the other hand costs around $15 (roughly £13) a month. You can access HBO Max in the UK via a VPN, but this is a technical work-around and requires some effort. So what's the solution?
Well, you could wait for the inevitable Blu-ray release, however there’s no official date for that as of yet, and you’ll be a sitting duck for spoilers. HBO Max is slowly expanding into Europe, but with Sky locking down a deal for the foreseeable future, don’t expect HBO Max in the UK any time soon. So unless you’re ready to commit to over a year of Sky (and fancy remortgaging your house), Now is unfortunately your best bet, and we recommend you spring for the Boost upgrade for the least sub-standard experience.