• Sky TV Original

    Sky
    • 35+ entertainment channels, 11 HD channels
    • 250+ free-to-air channels
    • Pause, rewind & record live TV
    Free laptop, 32” LG TV or £100 voucher & Free Sky+HD Box
    £20
    per month See Deal
  • BT TV Entertainment Plus + Unlimited Infinity 1 + Calls

    BT
    • Over 100 TV channels, free BT Sport Pack
    • Up to 52Mbps unlimited fibre broadband
    • 100GB BT Cloud, weekend calls
    £14 p/m off broadband for 12 months & Free £100 BT Reward Card
    £18
    £32 after 12 mths See Deal
  • Virgin The Player Bundle

    Virgin
    • Up to 50Mb unlimited fibre broadband
    • 70+ channels (TV M) and TiVo box
    • Unlimited weekend calls
    Free Virgin Wines or wireless speaker & Save £168 over 12 months
    £12
    £26 after 12 mths See Deal

Compare by digital TV providers

TV packages to suit your needs

If you're after a TV package, you've come to the right place, not only can we help you with the nuts and bolts of buying one that's suited to you and your household, we also have some stellar advice on how to go about choosing...

by Dan Howdle

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…

  1. What are your favourite shows, movies or streams?
  2. Do you watch stuff not shown on regular TV (Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Twitch etc.) – streamed to your computer or mobile, say? If so, what?
  3. 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

How do I choose a TV provider?

Choosing a TV provider has one thing going for it: It’s nowhere near as baffling as choosing a broadband deal because there are a lot less providers who offer it. On top of that, only two providers – Virgin and Sky – offer a lot beyond the standard Freeview channels.

BT would argue with that, and to some extent it would have a point – BT Sport is very good indeed. But, not everyone likes football.

Pros and cons of Virgin TV

Virgin TV offers up to 230 (ish) channels and is generally accepted as the second-best TV provider in the UK. Sky offers almost double the channel count on its top-end packages, but cannot match Virgin Media’s top broadband speeds. Plus, if you want all your services from one provider, Sky does not yet offer mobile SIMs.

Virgin does offer the ‘meat’ of Sky’s TV offering, but falls short in two key areas: Sky’s exclusive channels – we’d love to be able to say they don’t matter, but we’re talking the likes of Sky Atlantic here, arguably the most sought-after channel of all thanks to its exclusive screenings of Game Of Thrones, True Detective and others. And Sky Box Sets, which offer free, on-demand access to 300 TV shows and 1,000 movies at any given time. Virgin cannot get even close to that with its limited on-demand offering.

Pros

  • Bigger selection of channels than anyone bar Sky
  • You can bundle with the fastest widely available broadband in the country
  • You can add both BT Sport and Sky Sports (all the football)
  • You can watch Netflix on Virgin’s TiVo box
  • No satellite dish required

Cons

  • Paltry on demand offering compared to Sky’s
  • Virgin’s TiVo box is starting to show its age
  • Virgin has no native sports service like BT does
  • Virgin TV is only available to 50% of the country
  • Multiroom options are quite expensive

For Virgin TV's full TV channel listings, see our channel checker tool at the bottom of this page.

Pros and cons of Sky TV

There aren’t a lot of downsides to Sky TV. Some might not want a satellite dish on the side of their house – unavoidable, sadly – while others might simply not need that much choice, or prefer the much, much faster broadband speeds offered by Virgin Media.

Sky doesn’t offer mobile SIMs either, so there are no savings to be made there, and you can’t keep your telecoms bills all in one place. Other than that, Sky has the best content, the most content and the best equipment. It is, hands-down, the best TV provider. However, it is not the best provider of broadband, or for that matter anything else. Choosing (or not choosing) Sky, then, comes down to where you put your priorities.

Pros

  • Double the amount of channels as its nearest rival
  • Exclusive channels such as Sky Atlantic (Game Of Thrones etc.)
  • Sky Box Sets offer 300+ on-demand TV series and 1,000 movies
  • Sky+ HD and Sky Q are both very capable boxes
  • Cost-effective multiroom options

Cons

  • You’ll need a satellite dish – they’re not pretty
  • Broadband speeds are capable, but a long way short of Virgin’s
  • Sky doesn’t provide HD content unless you buy the additional ‘HD Pack’
  • Can’t watch Netflix on any of Sky’s boxes
  • Nope, that’s it

For Sky's full TV channel listings, see our channel checker tool at the bottom of this page.

Pros and cons of BT TV

The vast majority of BT TV’s channels are Freeview. That is, you don’t actually need to pay anything to get these channels. In this respect, BT TV pales in comparison to Virgin TV’s offering, and is utterly obliterated by Sky’s.

However, BT TV does have some unique things going for it. For one, you can have it pretty much for free if you sign up for BT Broadband or BT Infinity fibre. It won’t make the channel selection any better, but something for as good as nothing always tastes sweet.

You’ll also get the basic version of BT Sport. BT Sport shows Europa League football and has exclusive rights to the majority of Champions League matches. If football is all that matters to you, BT TV is a decent choice. You’ll still have to add Sky Sports onto that, though, if you want to watch everything.

BT TV also has a top-end box on offer, which allows you to watch selected sport events in 4K ultra-high definition, provided you have a 4K TV and an internet connection of at least 30–50Mbps. You’ll need fibre, basically.

Pros

  • Exclusive access to Europa League and Champions League football
  • Basic BT package is free with BT Broadband and BT Infinity fibre
  • If you’re not TV crazy, Freeview selection offers plenty to watch
  • Can add BT Mobile SIMs to your package and save money
  • BT’s top box offers 4K viewing on selected events

Cons

  • No exclusive channels, limited choice compared to Virgin and Sky
  • No free on demand options beyond BBC iPlayer and ilk
  • The bottom-level YouView Box doesn’t offer recording
  • Adding on Sky Sports is expensive and only offers Sky Sports 1 & 2

For BT's full TV channel listings, see our channel checker tool at the bottom of this page.

Pros and cons of TalkTalk TV

Like BT TV, only worse, TalkTalk TV shares the same BT TV box (YouView) and offers the same Freeview channels, but unlike BT, which has BT Sport, offers nothing at all that’s unique or exclusive. You also have to be a TalkTalk broadband customer or you can’t have it at all.

Hang on. There must be something, right? It can’t be that bad. That’s the point – there’s nothing bad about it at all. It’s just there’s nothing good about it either – nothing noteworthy. It’s a good option if you’re already a TalkTalk broadband customer and not fussed about channel count, free on-demand content, multiroom or anything else, but otherwise forget it.

TalkTalk does offer on-demand movies and TV, but it’s on a pay-to-play basis. TalkTalk recently bought Blinkbox, the online movie and TV store formerly owned by Tesco. Now called the TalkTalk TV store, you can rent and buy movies and TV, which you can then stream to the TalkTalk TV box. But then, you can do that with Amazon, Netflix, Now TV and others already, so it’s hardly unique.

Pros

  • It’s cheap

Cons

  • Only basic channels, no exclusive content
  • Very basic set-top boxes
  • Base-level YouView box doesn’t offer recording
  • You have to be a TalkTalk broadband customer
  • No multiroom options whatsoever

For TalkTalk's full TV channel listings, see our channel checker tool at the bottom of this page.

Why you might choose TV from someone else

Are you the type of person who favours a python over a dog? Do you run Linux on your PC instead of Windows? Are your children called Agamemnon and Boudicca? Maybe, then, you’re the sort that just has to be different.

There really is no reason to look beyond the options we’ve outlined above. It represents the full gamut of decent telly packages in the UK, and if you read between the lines, what with us running out of things to say by the time we got to the numbingly basic TalkTalk TV, you’ll have already realised there isn’t a lot more out there.

However, there are some hipster choices, like Freesat or EE TV. We wouldn’t recommend them, but if you must, you must…

Compare TV package deals

Which TV provider has the best package for Sports?

You can thank Sky and BT for making this a rather complicated question to answer. On the face of it it’s obvious: Sky has seven channels of Sport including Premier League football and a whole channel dedicated to Formula One.

But complication arrives in two forms:

  1. You can add Sky Sports to packages from other providers at vastly varying costs
  2. BT Sport now has a substantial amount of football not shown on Sky

Of course, this is less of a problem if you don’t care about football. If it’s all about Formula One or golf or cricket, say, it’s an easier question to answer: Get Sky or get another service onto which it can be added. For those who really do care about being able to watch all the big football matches, however, it’s going to come down to who offers the best solution to getting both BT Sport and Sky Sports. And in that, there’s no clear winner…

Sky has by far and away the most comprehensive Sport offering

But, you have to add it on or go for one of Sky’s specialised Sky Sports Bundles. You can add BT Sport on, too, but none of this is cheap.

Sky Sports offers seven channels of sport: Sky Sports 1 to 5, Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports News. Adding Sky Sports to an existing Sky package will set you back £13.75 per month, although if you’re a new customer and are taking Sky Sports right from the outset, you can usually do better than the combined cost of this add-on and the TV package itself.

You can add BT Sport to any Sky TV package, but if you’re adding Sky Sports too things are already going to start looking expensive. BT Sport on Sky levies a one-off £15 charge if you sign up for 12 months (this is £30 if you’re after a one-month rolling contract), along with a monthly fee of £10.99.

  • Sky Sports Bundle

    Sky
    • 7 sports channels, 11 HD channels
    • 35+ entertainment & 250+ free-to-air channels
    • Add BT Sport for extra £19.99 p/m
    Free laptop, 32” LG TV or £100 voucher & Free Sky+HD Box
    £47.50
    per month See Deal
  • Sky Sports Bundle + Unlimited Broadband + Calls

    Sky
    • 7 sports channels, 250+ free-to-air channels
    • 35+ entertainment channels, 11 HD channels
    • Up to 17Mb unlimited broadband
    Free laptop, 32” LG TV or £100 voucher, £5 p/m unlimited broadband for a year & Free Sky+HD Box
    £52.50
    £57.50 after 12 mths See Deal

You can watch both Sky Sports and BT Sport on Virgin TV – for a price

Virgin Media actually offers one of the most cost-effective ways to get both Sky Sports and BT Sport and, unlike BT TV which offers only Sky Sports 1 and 2 as potential add-ons, you can get the full Sky Sports offering. You cannot, however, get BT TV’s 4K channel (BT Sport Europe) on Virgin TV. Virgin’s TV box is creaking as it is, and a very long way from being able to output 4K. Shame, really, since Virgin’s very, very fast broadband is a perfect match for 4K UHD content.

We cannot actually say whether getting one or both of these sports options on Virgin is the cheapest way to do it right now. That’s because deals and offers are changing all the time. At the time of writing (though almost certainly no longer the case) Sky has just half-priced its Sky Sports Bundle, for example. You should use our comparison tools to find the best deal on a given day.

You can add Sky Sports onto your Virgin TV bundle for £29.75 per month. There is no set-up fee. Additionally, if you want to add only one channel (Sky Sports F1 is probably the main instance in which you might want to consider this), you can do so for £10 per month. Virgin is the only provider that allows you to add on single Sky Sports channels.

You can add BT Sport to your existing Virgin TV package for £18 with no initial set-up fee.

  • Virgin The Player Bundle + Sky Sports

    Virgin
    • Full Sky Sports Collection
    • 70+ TV channels + TiVo
    • Up to 50Mb fibre broadband & calls
    Free Virgin Wines or wireless speaker & Save £168 over 12 months
    £43.75
    £57.75 after 12 mths See Deal
  • Virgin The Full House Sports Bundle

    Virgin
    • 245+ channels, Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, F1
    • 50+ HD channels inc BT Sport & ESPN
    • Up to 200Mb fibre broadband & calls
    Save £390 over 12 months & Free Virgin Wines or wireless speaker
    £55
    £87.50 after 12 mths See Deal

BT TV offers BT Sport for free and the ability to add on Sky Sports 1 and 2

If you have BT TV, you have BT Sport. It won’t cost you a bean – but to get BT TV, you’ll also have to have BT Broadband or BT Infinity fibre. It’s cost effective to a point, since the free version of BT TV offers only a rather naff YouView box, which doesn’t even have a record function. To get that, you’ll have to upgrade the package, thereby upgrading the box, at which point prices do less to distinguish themselves from Sky or Virgin.

The real downside of going the BT route for sports fans, however, is that the Sky Sports add-on on BT TV only offers Sky Sports 1 and 2 – fine if you like football, but simply not enough if you’re the type who embraces sports of all kinds.

Sport via BT TV is the only place where you get the option to get BT’s 4K UHD box. If bleeding edge tech is a big consideration for you (and you have a 4K TV), it may be well worth considering, since currently there is no Sky Sports content being shown in 4K.

BT Sport on BT TV will cost you nothing. However, to upgrade the box to something you can record on will cost you extra, and to upgrade the package all the way to the 4K box will cost you a whole lot more. Sky Sports 1 and 2 will currently cost you an additional £22 on top of your existing monthly subscription.

  • BT TV Starter + Unlimited Broadband + Calls

    BT
    • Over 80 TV channels, free BT Sport Pack
    • Up to 17Mbps unlimited broadband
    • 100GB BT Cloud, free weekend calls
    Free £50 BT Reward Card, £13 p/m off broadband for 12 months & Free BT Sport
    £5
    £18 after 12 mths See Deal
  • BT TV Entertainment Plus + Unlimited Infinity 1 + Calls

    BT
    • Over 100 TV channels, free BT Sport Pack
    • Up to 52Mbps unlimited fibre broadband
    • 100GB BT Cloud, weekend calls
    £14 p/m off broadband for 12 months & Free £100 BT Reward Card
    £18
    £32 after 12 mths See Deal

TalkTalk TV allows you to add Sky Sports, but you cannot get BT Sport at all

Sorry TalkTalk, but once again you offer the worst possible option, this time specifically for sport. Since TalkTalk does not offer any sport natively beyond the stuff you can watch on Freeview channels (BBC, ITV etc.), you’ll have to add on services similarly to Virgin TV. Unlike Virgin TV, however, you cannot get BT Sport on TalkTalk TV at all!

Sky Sports will cost you £11 to add onto your existing TalkTalk TV subscription – more expensive than it is on Sky (at the time of writing). Honestly, though – why would you when literally everyone else has a better sport offering.

  • TalkTalk Essentials TV + Unlimited Broadband + Calls

    TalkTalk
    • YouView digital TV set top box
    • Seven day catch up TV plus on-demand
    • Totally unlimited broadband & calls
    25% off TV for 18 months, £75 Love2Shop Voucher - online only, Free YouView Box & Free connection
    £7.50
    £10 after 18 mths See Deal

Which TV provider has the best package for Movies?

This isn’t as hard to understand as the dazzling array of unique circumstances faced when asking about sport (or should that be ‘a question of sport’? Hah!). Sky Movies – now called Sky Cinema, just because – is where it’s at, and you can get it on Sky, BT TV, Virgin TV and TalkTalk TV.

Across the board, Sky Cinema is cheaper than the sport offerings. At the time of writing, it’s a lot cheaper if you get it from TalkTalk, but that means signing up to TalkTalk broadband and TalkTalk TV, and we would recommend neither. There are other considerations, too. For instance, if you don’t have a games console or other device that plugs into your TV and want to augment your Sky Cinema service with Netflix, you may do so with Virgin’s TiVo box or TalkTalk or BT’s YouView boxes, but you can’t with any of Sky’s.

Sky Movies (now called Sky Cinema) is the most complete movie offering

Though Sky Cinema is the best movies offering out there beyond digital-only services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video – and arguably even better than either of those – it’s not available exclusively from Sky. You can get it from just about anyone who offers TV. However, there are some strong incentives to get it from Sky.

For one, all Sky Cinema subscribers get access to all movies currently showing via Sky’s on demand services, collectively known as Sky Box Sets. This means there will always be movies you want to watch available exactly when you want to watch them. Sky Box Sets are not limited to movies either – you’ll also have access to over 300 TV series (that’s every season, every episode). It’s kind of the jewel in Sky’s crown and a major reason to consider Sky first.

Sky Cinema currently costs from £38 as a complete bundle for new customers. If you’re already a Sky customer and want to add it on, you can do so for £12 per month on top of the cost of your existing package.

  • Sky Cinema Bundle

    Sky
    • 11 great movie channels
    • 35+ entertainment channels, 11 HD channels
    • 250+ free-to-air channels
    Free laptop, 32” LG TV or £100 voucher & Free Sky+HD Box
    £38
    per month See Deal
  • Sky HD Complete - includes Sports & Cinema

    Sky
    • 7 HD sports channels, 11 HD movie channels
    • 75+ entertainment channels, 56 HD channels
    • 250+ free-to-air channels, 1900+ kids' shows
    Free laptop, 32” LG TV or £100 voucher & Free Sky+HD Box
    £80
    per month See Deal

Virgin TV offers Freeview movie channels and the option to add Sky Cinema

Some movie channels are available right out of the box on some, but not all, of Virgin TV’s packages. At the time of writing, you get no movie channels with Virgin’s TV M package, 4 channels with TV M+, 5 with TV L and 6 with TV XL. Before you get too excited, however, bear in mind that these are Freeview channels, so forget about watching the latest Star Wars and prepare instead for infinite re-runs of Gone With The Wind.

The best way to enjoy movies on Virgin TV is to borrow Sky’s. You can add Sky’s complete set of movie channels (Sky Cinema) for a not-inconsiderable £21 per month on top of the cost of your existing Virgin package. You may be able to save a bob or two on that by keeping your eyes peeled for new-customer offers. Sorry we can’t be more specific about that, but they come and go.

  • Virgin The Player Bundle + Sky Cinema

    Virgin
    • Full Sky Cinema Collection
    • 70+ TV channels + TiVo
    • Up to 50Mb fibre broadband & calls
    Free Virgin Wines or wireless speaker & Save £168 over 12 months
    £33
    £47 after 12 mths See Deal
  • Virgin The Full House Movies Bundle

    Virgin
    • 245+ channels, all 11 Sky Cinema channels
    • 50+ HD channels inc BT Sport & ESPN
    • Unlimited 200Mb fibre broadband & calls
    Save £384 over 12 months & Free Virgin Wines or wireless speaker
    £45
    £77 after 12 mths See Deal

BT TV offers Freeview movie channels, but you can add Sky Movies

There is one, yes ONE native movie channel on BT TV – Movies 24. Let’s have a look-see… okay, at the time of writing, today’s line-up on said channel is Teleshopping, Teleshopping, ‘Love’s Enduring Promise’, ‘Mom’s Away Day’, ‘Love’s Kitchen’, ‘Just The Way You Are’, ’The Hot Flushes’… and we’re not making this up.

Basically, it’s wall to wall slush, sandwiched between excruciating bouts of ‘Teleshopping’. However, you can add Sky Cinema to BT TV, and that will make it all okay again. Sky Cinema costs £13.50 per month on top of whatever you currently pay – if anything – for your BT TV service.

  • BT TV Starter + Unlimited Broadband + Calls

    BT
    • Over 80 TV channels, free BT Sport Pack
    • Up to 17Mbps unlimited broadband
    • 100GB BT Cloud, free weekend calls
    Free £50 BT Reward Card, £13 p/m off broadband for 12 months & Free BT Sport
    £5
    £18 after 12 mths See Deal
  • BT Total Entertainment + Unlimited Infinity 1 + Calls

    BT
    • Over 80 TV channels, 4K BT Sport Ultra HD
    • 47 Premium Channels inc 9 Kids TV channels
    • Unlimited 52Mbps fibre broadband
    £13 p/m off broadband for 12 months & Free £100 BT Reward Card
    £23
    £36 after 12 mths See Deal

TalkTalk TV offers Freeview movies, but you can add Sky Movies

Everything we just said about BT TV, ditto for TalkTalk TV. Adding Sky Cinema, however, at the time of writing, is frighteningly cheap. Props to TalkTalk for a change! After TalkTalk’s data breach at the end of 2015 – high profile in the news, but if you didn’t hear hackers made off with a load of TalkTalk customer details – TalkTalk massively cut the price of Sky Cinema via TalkTalk TV.

At the time of writing, this is still the case – you can watch Sky Cinema on TalkTalk TV for the minuscule sum of £7.50 per month.

TalkTalk recently bought Blinkbox, previously a movies-on-demand service owned and operated by Tesco, and has since renamed it the TalkTalk TV Store. It offers the ability to buy and stream movies and TV. Although nothing is free or included in your subscription, it offers a good selection and you can watch the latest releases, albeit on a pay-per-view basis.

We will add, though, that from this writer’s perspective, you may be better off with similar services from Amazon Instant Video or even Netflix. Blinkbox was a service we used in the past and came away with a rather dim view of it. Transfers were often so poor they were hard to watch and, if you care about such things, the sound was universally in stereo (as in no surround sound). This may have been fixed, but forewarned is forearmed.

  • TalkTalk Essentials TV + Unlimited Broadband + Calls

    TalkTalk
    • YouView digital TV set top box
    • Seven day catch up TV plus on-demand
    • Totally unlimited broadband & calls
    25% off TV for 18 months, £75 Love2Shop Voucher - online only, Free YouView Box & Free connection
    £7.50
    £10 after 18 mths See Deal
  • TalkTalk Plus TV, Sky Cinema + Unlimited Broadband + Calls

    TalkTalk
    • Full Sky Cinema Pack plus Sky On Demand
    • 7 day catch up, on-demand shows & films
    • Unlimited broadband & anytime calls
    Free mobile SIM worth £90, £75 Love2Shop Voucher - online only, Half price Sky Cinema for 18 months, Free YouView+ Box & Free connection
    £27.50
    £35 after 18 mths See Deal

Which TV provider has the best package for Kids?

This is one area where that ‘twice as many channels as anyone else’ thing Sky goes on about really matters. It matters for two important reasons: 1) Sky has a lot of kids channels compared to its nearest rival (Virgin TV) and 2) Unlike movies and sports, you cannot simply bolt on Sky’s impressive kids lineup. Sky has it… and to some extent no one else can or does.

But hold your horses. That’s not to say no one else does kids TV. In fact, Virgin TV, and even the Freeview channels available on BT TV and TalkTalk TV may turn out to be plenty. Freeview offerings encompass CBBC, CBeebies, CITV, Pop, and Tiny Pop, while Virgin TV’s top package (TV XL) adds Boomerang, four Nickelodeon channels, Cartoon Network, Cartoonio and three Disney channels. That’s one hell of a lot of kids telly. Sky offers largely the same selection, in fact, but adds HD versions of many.

Sky wins – more channels, more on-demand, higher quality

Not only does Sky have the most base kids channels (check out our Sky channel checker somewhere up the page to see exactly which ones), it also offers many of these channels in high definition. But there are actually three main factors that set Sky’s kids TV offering apart from its rivals:

  1. It has more channels – yeah, we said that already
  2. Dozens upon dozens of Kids TV shows and movies are available on demand via Sky Box Sets (for free)
  3. Virgin is much stingier with its kids TV, offering something comparable to Sky’s range only in its top packages

With Sky you only need to go one step up from the most basic package to get an amazing selection of kids telly both via the channels themselves and via Sky’s Box Sets. With Virgin TV, well, you’re going to have to aim for the top, and that’s going to be pricey.

  • Sky TV Original

    Sky
    • 35+ entertainment channels, 11 HD channels
    • 250+ free-to-air channels
    • Pause, rewind & record live TV
    Free laptop, 32” LG TV or £100 voucher & Free Sky+HD Box
    £20
    per month See Deal
  • Sky TV Variety

    Sky
    • 75+ entertainment channels, 11 HD channels
    • 250+ free-to-air channels
    • 1900+ episodes of kids' shows
    Free laptop, 32” LG TV or £100 voucher & Free Sky+HD Box
    £32
    per month See Deal

Virgin TV’s kids programming is competent, but in the shadow of Sky

Virgin TV shouldn’t really be in Sky’s shadow when it comes to kids TV, but thanks to some baffling choices when it comes to what to include in each package, sadly, it is.

That’s primarily because you'll need to go with Virgin’s TV XL to get the best selection. XL offers 12 kids channels. Step down just one package level, though (TV L) and that number drops to just five. Like we say…baffling. TV XL will set you back a wallet-worrying £39.50 per month when bought on its own. The Sky Variety Bundle, with almost identical kids channels, by contrast, costs just £32 per month and includes broadband and a landline. Seriously… why would you choose anything else?

Even Sky’s most comprehensive bundle (that doesn’t include Sky Sports or Sky Cinema), Sky Family Bundle, is only £38 plus line rental and that has 17 non-Freeview kids channels, plus broadband and home phone.

  • Virgin Full House TV

    Virgin
    • 245+ digital TV channels + TiVo
    • 50+ HD channels inc BT Sport & ESPN
    • No phone line required
    Free set up worth £40
    £41.50
    per month See Deal

BT TV offers very few kids channels, and you can’t add any on

Down to the dregs now. Sorry BT TV, but when it comes to kids TV, you (and TalkTalk TV) really are the dregs. Fine, you get all the Freeview kids channels offered by the BBC, ITV and so on, but really BT TV has nothing special to offer.

Unlike Sky Cinema and Sky Sports, there’s no option to add Sky or Virgin’s comparatively stellar kids TV line-up. Hopefully, in future, BT will look into righting this wrong, but in the meantime, we simply cannot recommend BT TV if children’s programming is one of – or the – most important item on your TV wish list.

  • BT Total Entertainment + Unlimited Infinity 1 + Calls

    BT
    • Over 80 TV channels, 4K BT Sport Ultra HD
    • 47 Premium Channels inc 9 Kids TV channels
    • Unlimited 52Mbps fibre broadband
    £13 p/m off broadband for 12 months & Free £100 BT Reward Card
    £23
    £36 after 12 mths See Deal

TalkTalk TV’s offering is similar to BT’s

Read BT TV’s write-up (directly above). Exactly ditto.

Which TV provider has the best set-top box?

The actual technology you use to watch TV and movies can play a huge part in both your enjoyment and even your ability to get what you want. A provider with no multiroom box, and therefore no multiroom options, for example, is no good to you if you want to watch in the bedroom and kitchen as well as in the living room.

It’s really the set-top-boxes themselves that allow you to do (or not do) a lot of the things you may want, and so offer another point of differentiation from which to choose a provider. Here, then, as briefly as we can without getting fully on the bus to Nerdville, are the advantages, disadvantages and quirks of the boxes from each of the four main TV providers in the UK.

Sky offers a wide range of boxes aimed at meeting every need

As populated as it is befuddling, Sky offers no less than six set-top boxes. Happily, though, there are few cases in which you have to choose one yourself – the package you choose should define which box or boxes you get.

The most common Sky box is the one that comes as standard with all Sky TV packages and bundles, the ubiquitous Sky+ HD box. You do get to choose between this and a second model – which is essentially the same model but with a lot more storage space to keep your recorded programs. The upgraded model (Sky+ HD 2TB) will increase your initial outlay, but not your ongoing costs, and should be chosen if you tend to want to record and keep a lot of stuff.

Then there’s the Sky multiroom box. You’ll get one of these miniaturised boxes for every room you want to add to your set-up. It should be noted, however, that the multiroom box does not have a record function. You can add additional Sky+ HD boxes instead, but at that point, things start to get crazy expensive.

That’s why Sky Q exists. Sky Q comes in two versions: Sky Q 1TB and Sky Q 2TB and Sky Q Mini. The Sky Q box acts like a central hub, while the optional and additional Sky Q Mini boxes serve as multiroom boxes, connecting to the main box via wi-fi.

This means you can record and play back content from the main Sky Q box in the lounge to any room with a Sky Q Mini. It’s confusing, yes, so in conclusion we’ll just add that Sky Q 2TB is the same as Sky Q 1TB, only it has more storage space and can play back content in 4K UHD. However, since Sky currently offers no 4K content, there is currently no point.

You cannot watch Netflix on any Sky box. Worth adding since we get asked about it all the time.

  • Sky Box Sets

    Sky
    • 75+ entertainment channels, 56 HD channels
    • 250+ free-to-air channels, 1900+ kids' shows
    • Sky Box Sets and 3D entertainment
    Free laptop, 32” LG TV or £100 voucher & Free Sky+HD Box
    £38
    per month See Deal

Virgin Media offers two TiVo boxes with differing amounts of storage

Virgin’s TiVo box was once king of the pile. It was ahead of its time. It still is in some ways. For one, it uses the programmes you watch to try and guess at the things you’re going to like, then records them for you without your input. The potential problems with such a feature are obvious…

You’ve no doubt already seen the bizarreness Amazon and its ilk throw at you when you try to buy anything: Users who bought this 8 metre telegraphic flagpole also bought this Flintstones cycle helmet. Not exactly helpful. And this is exactly like that at the best of times. God forbid you have more than one person in your house. When it’s trying to guess the taste of a family of four or five, its logic crumbles down to something approaching ‘record any old crap and hope for the best’.

It’s a decent box, though, the TiVo. It comes in two varieties: the standard 500GB version and a 2TB version (four times more storage). Our only other complaint is that it has the habit of being terrifically slow at times, which is often a sign the hardware itself cannot cope very well with its existing software. Software inside one of these boxes (known as firmware) updates automatically over time, and the more features that get added, the more likely it’s going to be asked to stretch beyond the boundaries of what it was designed for.

  • Virgin VIP Bundle

    Virgin
    • 280+ TV channels, 66 in HD, 1TB TiVo box
    • BT Sports, ESPN, Sky Sports, Sky Cinema
    • Up to 200Mb fibre broadband, anytime calls
    Save £390 over 12 months & Free Virgin Wines or wireless speaker
    £68.50
    £101 after 12 mths See Deal

BT offers a two YouView boxes and an Ultra HD (4K) box

BT TV offers bottom and top models that are arguably the most technologically distant from one another. At the bottom end, the basic YouView box: It doesn’t record, is quite slow and so on. While at the top we have BT’s 4K ultra-high-definition (UHD) capable box which, somewhat bizarrely, has no official name.

On it, you can watch BT Sport Europe in 4K. If you have a 4K TV. Which most of us don’t. Only one channel in 4K? Yep, but before you scoff, remember that Sky has no channels in 4K, despite offering a 4K box in the form of the Sky Q 2TB. 4K is just incredibly hard to do, especially via a satellite dish. Expect Sky to catch up later in 2016.

BT TV’s midrange box, the YouView+, can record up to 300 hours of TV and is somewhat more capable (and bigger) than the standard YouView. Still, neither compares favourably to either the Sky+ HD box or Virgin’s TiVo.

BT TV offers multiroom via its ‘extra box’ feature, which you’ll need to specify when you sign up.

  • BT TV Starter + Unlimited Broadband + Calls

    BT
    • Over 80 TV channels, free BT Sport Pack
    • Up to 17Mbps unlimited broadband
    • 100GB BT Cloud, free weekend calls
    Free £50 BT Reward Card, £13 p/m off broadband for 12 months & Free BT Sport
    £5
    £18 after 12 mths See Deal
  • BT TV Entertainment Plus + Unlimited Infinity 1 + Calls

    BT
    • Over 100 TV channels, free BT Sport Pack
    • Up to 52Mbps unlimited fibre broadband
    • 100GB BT Cloud, weekend calls
    £14 p/m off broadband for 12 months & Free £100 BT Reward Card
    £18
    £32 after 12 mths See Deal

TalkTalk offers just the two flavours of YouView box

Same as BT’s offering: The unimpressive YouView and YouView+ boxes are the only ones available (see above). If your budget can stretch a little – and bear in mind new customer offers often mean it won’t have to – avoid these boxes altogether and take out a package with Sky or Virgin Media.

TalkTalk TV offers no multiroom option whatsoever.

Frequently asked questions

Here’s all the bits left behind. You don’t really need to know the answers to most of the following questions in order to choose a TV provider and package – we have all the important stuff covered further up – but just in case, here are some finer points we’re sometimes quizzed on…

Can I watch Amazon Prime Instant video on Virgin TV, Sky, BT TV or TalkTalk TV?

No. Amazon Prime Instant Video does not currently offer an app that can be accessed via any set-top box offered by the four main UK TV providers. The best way to watch Amazon Prime Instant Video on your TV is via a device such as a games console, Apple TV, Firestick, Roku or Google Chromecast.

Can I watch Netflix on Virgin TV, Sky, BT TV or TalkTalk TV?

You can watch Netflix on all subscription TV set-top boxes except those from Sky. Netflix is available in the ‘On Demand’ menu on YouView and YouView+ (BT TV or TalkTalk TV) and on channel 204 on Virgin’s TiVo box. You will need an additional Netflix subscription to watch it in all cases.

Can I watch my subscription TV service on my mobile or tablet?

Sky offers both Sky Go and Sky Go Extra apps, the former free, the latter for a small additional charge. With Sky Go you can’t download content in advance and watch it later (useful to save on mobile data), with Sky Go Extra you can. Sky Go Extra is also free if you subscribe to Sky Multiroom.

BT TV offers the BT TV app, but to us it you’ll have to subscribe to at least the Entertainment Plus package (one step up from the one you get for free). On it you can watch anything you could watch on your BT TV subscription, including BT Sport.

Virgin Media offers its Virgin TV Anywhere app. It provides access instantly, anywhere, to all content you subscribe to. Virgin TV Anywhere, however, does not allow you to download content in advance in order to watch it later, so could prove very costly if you have a restrictive data tariff on your device.

TalkTalk TV Store has an app. Remember this is pay-per-view content only and does not allow you to watch channels offered in your TalkTalk TV contract. It does, however, allow you to download over wi-fi and watch while on the move – probably the most important feature there is.

Can I watch digital TV on my laptop?

Absolutely. If it has an app, it’ll be available on Windows or Apple operating systems. For which apps do what with what provider, check out the question and answer directly above this one.

Do I need a satellite dish to get Sky, Virgin, BT and TalkTalk TV?

Only Sky requires a satellite dish. Services from BT TV, TalkTalk TV and Virgin TV require only the set-top box supplied when you sign up and an internet connection to deliver up everything they have to offer.

Do I need a broadband connection to watch digital TV?

Not necessarily. With Sky and Virgin you can get ‘TV-only’ packages (without broadband or home phone). However, you won’t get the full benefit without a broadband connection since on-demand programming tends to rely on it.

With TalkTalk TV and BT TV, you do need an internet connection, though not because the boxes themselves require it, but because in both cases you cannot sign up to these services without being a BT or TalkTalk broadband customer.

Can I get Sky, Virgin TV, BT TV or TalkTalk TV without a subscription?

No. You can access a lot of Sky’s content through Now TV if you have access to the internet and a device such as a smart TV or games console onto which to download the app and play the content. Now TV is cheap and quite an effective means to access Sky content if you don’t want to go the whole hog and subscribe. You cannot access Virgin TV, BT TV or TalkTalk TV without a subscription. At all.

Can I record TV and movies on Sky, Virgin, BT or TalkTalk TV?

Yes in all cases. However, BT and TalkTalk’s most basic packages come with the basic YouView box, which doesn’t offer recording. So you’ll have to get the next package up in both cases.

Do I still need a TV license to watch digital TV?

If it’s live, then yes, you do. There is a loophole, however. If you only watch TV on catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer, or on subscription online-only services such as Now TV, Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video you do not need a TV license. The UK government is currently looking into closing this loophole, however, so do keep your eyes and ears peeled for the latest law on this.

TV channel explorer

The tool below will show you what channels are available from each provider. At this point in time they only show all the channels by provider, rather than what exactly comes in each package. This is a flaw, we know that, so don't worry – we're working on it. In the meantime, it's still pretty useful – just bear in mind you'll have to get the top package from each provider in order to get all the channels shown.

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