While BT and Sky are roughly equal on broadband, customer service, phone and extras, it's Sky's pretty much unbeatable TV offering that brings it out on top both for digital TV and, as a matter of course, for bundles. The only noteworthy advantage offered by BT is its sole ownership of this season's Champions League rights. If that's really important to you, it may swing things BT's way, but otherwise it simply has to be Sky.
BT and Sky are like-for-like on speed, but is that the whole story? Both offer a different range of extras and they are most certainly not priced equally.
BT offers several standard and fibre broadband packages, many of which come bundled with a landline calls plan. Also included is the BT Home Hub wireless router along with unlimited access to the UK’s largest public wi-fi network. BT’s fastest widely available package has speeds of up to 76Mbps, which is the same as Sky’s fastest package.
Sky offers two standard broadband and three fibre broadband products. Sky has three speeds: 17Mb, 38Mb and 76Mb. They come bundled with a pay-as-you-talk plan as standard, a Sky Hub wireless router and, with the exception of Sky Broadband Lite, unlimited access to The Cloud network of public wi-fi hotspots.
Do we really need to tell you the winner? When it comes to TV, Sky beat all comers, and that includes BT. However, BT is the only place to watch Champions League football.
BT offers three TV packages to new customers – Starter, Entertainment Plus and Total Entertainment – that have to be taken with BT broadband and phone. The BT Sport Pack (BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, ESPN and BT Sport Europe) and AMC channel come free with all BT TV packages.
Starter comes with around 80 Freeview channels, a basic YouView box and catch up TV. Entertainment Plus comes with an extra 25 channels and a 500GB Youview+ box, which allows you to record TV.
Total Entertainment has around an extra 47 premium channels including BT Sport Ultra HD channel. It also comes with a 1TB YouView+ box. Note that you have to take BT Infinity in order to get the Entertainment packs.
The Essentials and Entertainment Max packages are only available to existing customers. Essentials is the same as Starter, but comes with a YouView+ box. Entertainment Max comes with around 47 extra channels including HD Extra, Kids Extra and a YouView+ box.
Sky TV is a more complete digital TV offering. It can be taken either as a standalone service or in a bundle with Sky broadband and home phone calls. Whichever option you choose, you’ll get a Sky Q box. All Sky’s bundles can be further enhanced with Sky Sports and Sky Cinema (previously Sky Movies).
The basic package – the Original Bundle – features over 240 free-to-air channels, including Freeview, plus 35 entertainment channels including Sky One and Sky Atlantic. The Variety Bundle comes with an additional 75 entertainment channels. The Box Sets Bundle (previously the Family Bundle) comes with on demand box sets, Sky 3D and over 50 HD channels.
If you want the full works, you can opt for Sky's premium bundle – the Complete Bundle. It comes with over 90 channels including Sky Sports and Sky Cinema. You'll also get access to 73 HD channels, Box Sets on demand and Sky 3D.
Both BT and Sky offer a wide-range of call packages with exclusive discount rates for UK and international calling. But which is the most competitive?
BT's broadband includes unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines and 0845 & 0870 numbers. You have the option to pay extra to add anytime calls. .
Currently, BT's per-minute national rate is slightly higher than Sky's. This obviously becomes more important the more you use your home phone outside of your free calling periods. Anytime customers should care a little less about this, but evening and weekend users may be surprised by how often they 'just make the odd call' during the daytime.
Sky's broadband does not come with any inclusive calls. You’ll automatically get a pay-as-you-talk plan, or you can pay to upgrade to Evenings and Weekends Extra, which gives you free calls to UK landlines, mobiles and 0870 numbers in the evenings and at weekends, or to Anytime Extra.
If you have family and friends who live abroad you can go for the International Extra call plan. Everything is the same as Anytime Extra but you'll also get inclusive international minutes to 50 destinations.
Both BT and Sky offer bundles including broadband, TV and home phone. Which is the right provider for you will largely depend on which of those services you wish to focus on.
Home phone lies at the heart of BT’s business, and line rental costs are included in all advertised prices.
BT’s bundles operate on a pyramid. To get broadband, you need a home phone (landline). To get BT TV you need broadband and a home phone – all of which must be taken from BT.
There is a little more flexibility with Sky packages, with the option to take TV on its own. If you combine TV with broadband the price will rise considerably as you will have line rental included in the price of your broadband line.
Sky bundles are competitively priced, and you get more for your money than with BT, but there is a catch; if you live outside the Sky network area, you’ll pay more for a basic broadband package.
Deals are one thing, but customer experience can go from a relative irrelevance to the single most important factor the moment anything goes wrong. So how do BT and Sky compare?
In Ofcom’s latest report, BT achieved 60% for broadband customer service, beneath the industry average (67%). For landline BT got 60% in comparison to the industry average 61%. There are no official results for its TV service.
Sky performed significantly better than BT across all measurable standards in the same Ofcom reports. Sky rated above average in terms of customer satisfaction, achieving 80% for broadband, 73% for landline and 76% for TV.
Basic services are exactly that. Many providers primarily differentiate themselves on their extras – things like internet security, free sports channels and more. So how do BT and Sky stack up?
BT Broadband customers (and anyone with BT TV) will get access to cloud storage and parental controls. BT TV customers get free access to the BT Sport Pack, however BT broadband-only customers have to pay an extra £5 per month through the online player or on Sky TV. If you don't want to purchase the pack, you'll still get BT Sport 1 for free.
Customers also get free use of any BT hotspot in the UK. There are millions of these BT hotspots around the country, so it can be a great way to get online with your mobile device when you’re away from home, without using up your mobile data. BT broadband customers can get a 4G BT Mobile SIM at a discounted price.
Sky TV can be enhanced with Sky Sports and Sky Cinema (though don’t forget, you’ll have to pay), and you get Sky’s mobile online player Sky Go for free. Broadband customers will get parental controls through the much-touted Sky Shield software. You can also get online for free with Sky wi-fi hotspots, although these are fewer in number than BT's.
Sky also offers, shall we say, a more flexible range of free rewards for new customers. These include things like movies to own, large denomination shopping vouchers and free hardware like TVs and tablets.
Ultimately it's going to come down to where your primary focus is. But if you care even a little bit about telly (and aren't fussed about Champions League) it's Sky all the way.
BT has the edge over Sky when it comes to offering extras like public wi-fi hotspots. Plus you’ll get the BT Sport Pack for free if you are a BT TV customer.
Sky is the clear winner when it comes to TV channel choice and customer service, and has truly unlimited downloads on its broadband. However, these two heavyweight providers are equally matched when it comes to widely available download speed.