At least once a year, Virgin Media has a rejig of its TV-only and TV bundle offerings. 2018 is no different, although this year Virgin Media appears to have made some effort to simplify things.
Where Virgin Media previously offered TV in five 'packs', now there are only two, with the ability to bolt on additional bits and bobs at the checkout. We're going to talk about them in the context of TV-only deals, then of bundles involving broadband and phone.
Finally, we'll finish off by taking a look at Virgin Media's 4K-capable V6 set-top box, how Virgin Media TV deals with multi-room (it isn't the same as Sky), a little about the process of having it installed and finish with our overall conclusions. Let's get started.
We're going to talk about the channels offered in each Virgin Media TV deal more generally a little further down. Before you hear what we think of the selections offered though, we've built an interactive tool that shows you which channels are available with which bundles, sorted by category. Bear in mind that if you're thinking of having TV without broadband and phone, only Mix TV and Full House TV are available to you. There is more choice if you opt for a bundle including broadband.
Virgin Media TV now comes in two TV 'deals'. Virgin Media calls them deals, not packs or anything else, clearly not wanting to get them confused with its bundles, which we'll talk about a bit further down. These deals, then, offer TV on its own and are called 'Mix TV' and 'Full House TV'.
Mix TV is the cheaper of the two and with that you'll get all the Freeview channels, natch. So that's your BBC and ITV channels, Sky News, CBeebies – basically everything you'd get for free anyway if you just got yourself a Freeview box without any kind of monthly subscription. What's the point then?
Well, part of what you're paying for is the box itself. An incredibly capable box, in actual fact. But then you also get a lot of great channels you won't get on standard Freeview. There’s Sky One, Sky Living, FOX, MTV, a smattering of kids channels such as Boomerang and Cartoon Network, and more besides.
Full House TV contains everything you get in Mix TV, but with a load of extra channels added on. Full House comprises roughly twice as much as Mix, so it really comes down to whether these additional channels are ones you're likely to watch. Refer to the link to our channel checking tool and spend some time with it if you need to be sure.
If you want to get Virgin Media TV on its own, we won't judge you. Okay, maybe a little. It's just it's not going to get you the best value for money. For example, if you opt for Full House TV, then add on Sky Sports and Sky Cinema, it will cost you more than the VIP Bundle does, and that has all those channels, plus 350Mbps broadband, free anytime calls and an extra Virgin V6 set-top box to have in a second room.
'Bundle' should really apply more to how much you save than it does how much is in it. Opting for a bundle is far and away the most sensible decision you're likely to make when it comes to your home services. As alluded to further up, if you start with TV-only from the outset, then add broadband later, it's going to be a lot more expensive than if you just opted for a bundle in the first place. Virgin Media bundles come in four flavours.
Confusingly, this bundle contains 'Player TV' – which you can't buy standalone. It consists almost exclusively of Freeview channels. And before you get too impressed with the Player Bundle's vaunted 134-channel count, remember that many of those are either HD or timeshifted (+1) versions of other channels, and a goodly portion of them are radio stations. Still, it will be enough for households that just want basic TV delivered via a high-quality set-top box/recorder.
The Player Bundle comes with 50Mbps broadband, which is enough for almost any household, it really is. You could have six people all watching HD movies on different screens at the same time and you'd be fine. It's plenty.
Here you get everything in the Player Bundle, except broadband speed is now at 100Mbps (already getting a bit silly, to be fair), and likewise the 134 channels of the Player Bundle now become 231 channels in the Mix. As outlined further up in the 'TV-only' bit of this guide, Mix adds on Sky One, Sky Two, MTV, Syfy, Fox, Cartoon Network and a load of others.
The Full House Bundle contains everything in all the previous bundles, plus another 100 additional TV channels. Still no Sky Cinema or Sky Sports, but you literally get everything else. Highlights include all the BT Sport channels, oodles more kids channels and HD versions of channels that are already in the Mix Bundle, including the ones that really matter in a higher resolution, such as National Geographic Wild and Animal Planet.
Broadband is 100Mbps here, as it is in the Mix Bundle, the main differentiator being those extra channels.
If you just want everything – all the TV, Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, BT Sport – literally everything, and couple that with the fastest broadband in the country, and not one, but two Virgin V6 set-top boxes, well, then this is it. Although the VIP bundle looks expensive, it's actually a bargain compared to the cost of having all that separately. You pay about half, actually.
The monthly premiums are steep, and you get so much it's actually hard to imagine a household making good use of it all. Then again, there's peace of mind in knowing that if you need it, you have it – both in terms of the thermonuclear overkill of 350Mbps broadband and 369 channels in two rooms of your house. Second thoughts, we love this bundle.
Virgin's V6 box is, in short, unmatched. We're not going to say unrivalled, because Sky's 2TB Sky Q box can match it blow-for-blow, and has twice as much storage space, but then the V6 comes free with every Virgin Media TV deal, where Sky's flagship box will cost you an extra £200, paid upfront. Because of that, there's really no contest.
The V6 has a slightly stumpier profile than the Sky Q – it wants you to know it's there. It allows you to record six channels while you watch a seventh (seriously, who's ever going to do this?). And it's even capable of putting out 4K content, if you have access to it and a 4K TV. It also allows you to install apps on it like Netflix and Amazon Prime (unlike Sky), which means it'll happily become the only TV box you ever need.
It really wasn't that long ago (early 2017-ish?) that we would have said, hands-down, that if you want the very best TV packages, you're better off with Sky. But Virgin Media has not only gained a lot of ground, but in some ways now exceeds the offering of its number one TV competitor (BT TV and TalkTalk TV both still have a long way to go to compete at this level).
We cannot emphasise this strongly enough: if you're going to get Virgin Media TV, just make sure you do it in the form of a bundle. The savings amount to free broadband in many cases, so it really is pointless to get TV on its own. Finally, you won't get Sky Atlantic on Virgin TV – perhaps its one Achilles heel. Still, that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to stream it and with the last season of Game Of Thrones later this year, we're running out of reasons to care.
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