Cable TV explained
By Cable.co.uk | Friday, February 2nd 2018
In this guide
Can I get cable in my area?
As the availability of cable TV can vary greatly across the country the best place to find out who offers cable in your area is with our cable TV postcode checker.
When you enter your postcode and click “Check” we’ll be able to tell you immediately if cable is available in your area, which cable TV provider or providers can supply it to you and we’ll also show you a list of all of the cable TV packages and bundles that you have to choose from.
Cable TV providers
Cable TV has yet to reach the levels of ubiquity in the UK that it has in the USA, although UK cable providers do have a lot to offer including over 300+ digital TV channels, 75 HD channels plus access to a vast library of on-demand content – and all without the need for a satellite dish on the outside of your home.
Currently there are only a handful of cable TV providers in the UK with their degree of availability being one of the main differences between them.
UK cable TV providers
UK cable TV networks are not nearly as widespread as those in other parts of the world. It is also quite a small market in terms of competition with only three genuine cable TV companies existing:
Virgin Media is far and away number one amongst UK cable TV providers. Roughly half of all UK homes fall within the catchment area of Virgin’s fibre optic network and this figure is set to rise continually as a result of Virgin Media’s ongoing cable rollout programme. Virgin Media cable TV packages can be taken on their own or in bundles with broadband and phone services.
Small World is a regional cable TV, broadband and phone provider which has a small fibre optic network localised to parts of south-western Scotland, the Borders, Cumbria and Lancashire.
WightCable is a cable TV, broadband and phone provider with a fibre optic network that serves customers on the Isle of Wight.
BT TV isn’t a cable TV provider in the strictest sense of the term although all of BT Vision’s on-demand content is delivered into consumers’ homes via their broadband connection so this aspect is cable-related.
What if I can’t get cable TV in my area?
If our postcode checker tells you that you can’t get cable in your area right now it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to get it in the future.
The cable network is being extended every day with more towns and cities becoming cabled every week. So, if you really want cable TV then we recommend rechecking our cable TV postcode checker about once a month. Just as soon as your area becomes cabled we’ll have the details ready and waiting for you.
Virgin Media: the UK’s top cable TV provider
Virgin Media’s almost 3.5 million subscribers enjoy a high quality digital TV service that brings them up to 245+ digital television channels including Sky 1, ESPN, Discovery and FX along with the full range of Freeview channels. Sports fans can enjoy a great line-up that includes ESPN, British Eurosport and Sky Sports 1.
All Virgin Media set-top boxes are HD-ready as standard with the V+ box also being a digital TV recorder capable of recording two channels at a time as well as pausing and rewinding live TV. Virgin Media’s most advanced set-top box, the TiVo, can record three channels at a time and even record programmes that were missed during the previous week.
If you’re thinking of switching your TV provider, then it’s worth checking that you’re backing the right horse before putting your money down. Our comparison tables let you do just that, ensuring you get the important information so you can make the right choice.
Why choose cable TV?
There is such a range of great TV packages out there that will enhance your viewing experience. Here are three great reasons to pick up a cable TV deal.
A great variety of programing
Whatever your tastes, you should be able to find a TV package that ticks all your boxes as there’s such a huge amount of content out there. From the best UK and US entertainment and drama, an array of live sporting events or lists of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, you can’t fail to find something that’ll whet your appetite.
New ways to watch your content
The ceaseless march of technological advancement means a new and exciting way to watch your content is just around the corner. Be it HD, online players, 3D, multiroom services or via digital TV recorders, there are so many ways to keep up-to-date with your favourite shows. Most major TV providers offer these as paid-for or free extras, so you should factor that in when you’re making your decision.
Most TV deals can be bundled up with broadband and phone plans
Currently there are four major providers that give you the option of bundling up your TV package in a broadband and TV bundle. If you use these services, this is a fantastic way both to simplify your billing and reduce your monthly expenses. Companies like Sky and BT have very competitive TV prices, and offer both standard and fibre broadband, so you can match your speed with your needs.
Pros & cons
- A great variety of programming
- New ways to watch your content
- Bundles can cost less than buying separately
- Not all TV packages are available UK-wide
- Some deals require installation fees
- More expensive than a simple Freeview box
Which package is right for me?
There are some great packages out there, but finding the right one for you is key to getting the best value. Here are some of our favourites for three different levels of TV viewer.
BT TV Starter and BT Sport
This is one of the cheapest, widely available broadband, TV and phone bundles around. You get 70 Freeview TV and radio channels as well as BT Sport, and a weekend call plan. BT's TV packages are only available with BT broadband or fibre - you can choose which speed you want. You also get a YouView box and you can also add a range of on demand TV box sets.
Virgin Media’s Mix Bundle
This is a mid-level broadband, TV and phone bundle on offer from Virgin Media. It’s moderately priced and and you get over 150 channels including 11 HD channels, 10 Sky channels and a Virgin TV V6 box, so you can record, rewind and pause your content. You also get 100Mbps fibre optic broadband, perfect for those with families that spend a lot of time online, and an unlimited weekend call plan.
Sky TV offers the most extensive and varied range of TV currently on the market. Sky Entertainment is Sky's base TV package, although it is by no means basic, offering over 300 channels. You can choose to add a range of extras, including Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, Sky Kids Sky Box Sets and Sky HD. If you also want broadband you can choose from standard or fibre. Calls are pay-as-you-go as standard or you can pay for a calls package.
What will I need?
Check your postcode to see what you can get
Before you set your heart on a package, check whether it is available in your area. Virgin Media sends its TV signals through its own network of cables, and availability is not yet guaranteed everywhere. Sky, on the other hand, delivers its signal via satellite, and is available to almost everyone. Equally, BT and TalkTalk use the broadband and phone cables to supply their TV services, so if you have a phone line, you can most likely get the TV service too. You can use our postcode checker at the top of the page to see what you can get.
A good broadband connection will improve viewing options
By coupling your TV package with a broadband deal, you are giving yourself access to a greater range of additional features that will improve your viewing capabilities. Most providers have access to a streaming service that lets you watch TV or films on demand. Also, features such as Sky Go let you watch your content on wireless devices around your house. While not essential, having broadband is certainly preferable and will squeeze a bit more value from your package.
How do I switch?
Make sure you’re getting the right package
Before you make your decision, ensure you’ve been through the options thoroughly to confirm you’ve made the right choice. Most of these packages come with 18-month contracts, which is a long time to spend with a TV deal you don’t like, so consider it thoroughly before you commit.
The switching process is largely automatic
Generally, you don’t need to tell your old provider that you’re switching when you join a new cable TV provider. If you’re moving from BT to TalkTalk, for example, you won’t have to do anything after you’ve joined. However, if you’re joining or leaving Virgin Media, you will have to contact both providers to tell them you’re switching.