How do I choose a TV package?
Like anything in life, if you want to do a good job you’ve got to put the work in. Happily, there’s not that much work needed to find the right TV deal for you and your household. It’s just that if you don’t want to be guessing, there is some…
1. Research your household’s viewing habits
You know what members of your household like to watch – of course you do, you live with them. However, for the purposes of this exercise, you’re going to have to look a little deeper than ’Jack likes kids stuff ‘cos he’s 8’.
Sit down, interview your household/family and make sure you get it right. The last thing you want to hear Jack say is “I wanna watch The Clone Wars on Netflix” and you’ve chosen a provider without the right box to do it.
So find a notepad, sit them all down and ask…
- What are your favourite shows, movies or streams?
- Do you watch stuff not shown on regular TV (Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Twitch etc.) – streamed to your computer or mobile, say? If so, what?
- Do you prefer to watch TV in a living room setting or do you prefer to watch in your own room?
Write down the answers and keep them handy for step two…
2. From your list, identify special requirements (4K, HD, Asian, Netflix and so on)
If you’ve ever booked a plane ticket, you’ll be familiar with the process of having to choose a meal suited to your food ideology, allergies or religion. This is a bit like that – if you have to have the Kosher meal and your preferred airline doesn’t serve it, you’ll either go without or choose another airline.
In the case of TV packages, this manifests as discreet services or features that you can’t get with all providers. For example, you can’t watch Netflix on a Sky box, but you can on a Virgin TiVo or a BT YouView, and there’s a comparatively pathetic assortment of Asian channels available from most providers, while Sky (with the inclusion of the Asia Pack add-on) has them by the bucketload.
3. Think carefully about your budget
It’s time to give the financials some thought. In an ideal world we’d probably all take out Virgin’s Big Daddy Bundle or Sky’s Complete Bundle. If money is no object, go right ahead and do that – there’s more content in either of these packages than you’ll be able to watch in nine lifetimes.
For most of us, though, money is a factor, not only because it makes good old fashioned sense to keep our monthly costs down, but also because everyone loves finding a good deal – there’s something immensely satisfying about it.
In our TV package comparison, you’ll find the best deals in the country right now. But how much should you expect to pay? You can get a vast majority of channels for around £20-£30 per month these days. Sticking to Sky or Virgin means you’ll also get the best selection.
It’s when you add on premium channels like sports and movies that things start to get considerably more expensive. Sky Sports on its own (which you can also get on Virgin, TalkTalk, BT and Plusnet) costs about the same as all the other channels put together, ditto with movies, so you should seriously consider whether you really need these if budget is paramount.
The primary reason you should have a budget in mind, however, is to prevent yourself getting carried away. A figure in mind before you compare packages gives you what psychologists refer to as an ‘anchor’ – a point from which to make reasonable judgements as to what you can and can’t afford.
4. Get TV only or bundle with broadband, phone and even mobile
You will save money if you get your TV, broadband, home phone and even mobile SIMs from one provider. It’s good for the provider – it gets them more valuable customers – and it’s good for you, since you can take advantage of, say, cheaper SIM tariffs only available to broadband and/or TV customers.
There’s no getting away from it in many cases. Sky TV without broadband is like a sink without a tap, and in the case of TalkTalk TV, you’re not even allowed to have it unless you’re also a TalkTalk broadband customer.
If you have existing services beyond TV, opening your mind to the idea of bundling two, three or even four services from the same provider will expand your options and save you money.
5. Decide how many screens you’ll want to watch on
When you interviewed your household, did anyone express a keen interest in watching telly on their own, in bed or in their own space? If they did, there is an additional layer of complexity to consider here.
For one, needing a multiroom TV solution means you’ve narrowed possible providers to just three: Sky, Virgin and BT. TalkTalk does not allow or provide for multiroom viewing. The additional complexity then comes in the form of how many additional rooms members of your household will want to watch in.
On Virgin TV, you’ll need to actually buy an additional, full-blown TiVo box for every additional room – that can get very expensive, very fast. The advantage, though, is that unlike Sky’s most basic multiroom boxes (more on those in a sec) you can record, play back and watch on demand content in every room.
With Sky, though, you have the option of doing this somewhat more cheaply – in the short term at least. Sky offers a dedicated miniature multiroom box option, so no big up-front box fees. If you want to watch in HD, however, you’ll need to buy an ‘HD Pack’ for every additional box. It’s about £6 per month and because you’ll be paying for this for the entire length of the contract, things can quickly add up.
Sky also offers Sky Q – a specialised multiroom solution that also enhances your home wi-fi and allows you to record and access recordings from every room. Think of it like a big ’ol home network. A home network of wall-to-wall entertainment in every room. Sky Q is the current state of the art when it comes to TV solutions, but like anything at the bleeding edge, it isn’t cheap.
With BT, you’re back to buying extra boxes, but since a lot of what BT TV offers is Freeview (channels you could have for free by any number of other means) you have to ask yourself if it’s really worth it.
Multiroom, then, means picking Virgin or Sky if you’re serious about it. You’ll need to decide for yourself which option is easier to swallow financially. Pick Sky if you want to spread the cost, Virgin if you’d rather do your spending up-front.
6. Match your household’s viewing habits to the right package
You probably have a fairly decent idea of what you’re going for by now – two or three categories of programming that are important, along with one or two features you’d prefer to have. There’s a wealth of information on those ‘special features’ we talked about (Netflix, Asian Channels etc.) further down this guide, but for now it’s time to play with some fun tools to help you find what you want.
In the next section – How to choose a TV provider – you’ll find a tool for each of the main providers that will allow you to see exactly what channels are available from each provider. So head down there and have a fiddle…
Compare TV package deals