What's the best TV package?

Dan Howdle | December 6th, 2023

Sky Stream

If you're looking for a TV subscription that incorporates live channels, premium add-on channels like movies and sports, and apps like Netflix and Disney+, your options have become increasingly limited over the past several years.

TV package overview

Before we get started it'd be a good idea to look at the TV packages we'll be including in this battle, along with their basic stats. Stats on which they will be judged in each category throughout this guide. Please note that BT TV is being rebranded EE TV within a day or two of this guide being created and so will be referred to as such throughout this guide, albeit sometimes with the explainer 'formerly BT TV'. There are five contenders:

Package Channels Apps Delivery method Available solo? Installation time Priced from
Virgin TV Big Bundle 100+ 22 Cable No 2 weeks £31.99 per month
Stream from Virgin Media 40+ 22 Internet No 2 weeks Free (£35 up-front)
Sky Stream 150+ 25 Internet Yes 24 hours £19 per month
Sky Q 200+ 25 Satellite No 2 weeks £33 per month
EE TV (formerly BT TV) Entertainment 110+ 18 Internet No 2 weeks £20 per month

Prices correct at time of writing but may vary over time. To see most up to date pricing please refer to our TV package comparison, which is updated daily

Value for money

In this category we'll be looking at the cost of entry first and foremost, but taking into account what you get for your money. A simple 'Which is cheapest?' test doesn't really say a lot, because in each of the included packages you'll be getting a different set of channels and features.

Here are those packages from best to worst when it comes to value for money:

  • 1st place: Sky Stream – With its vast channel count and low, low monthly price, nothing else really comes close to what Sky Stream currently offers. Over 150 channels including all Sky entertainment channels (Sky Max, Sky Atlantic and so on) and access to Sky Box Sets (over 500 on-demand TV shows) as standard, it's the clear, unchallenged winner
  • 2nd place: Virgin TV Big Bundle – Sure, you won't get Sky Atlantic in this bundle, and you'll have to have Virgin Media Broadband in your bundle to get it, making it innately more expensive than Sky Stream because you can't get it on its own. But, you do get fantastically fast broadband in that cover price, and the range of channels on offer is huge
  • 3rd place: Sky Q – Sky's satellite service is now only available with tis broadband. It still offers the largest channel count of any subscription TV service, though. It's just that it's delivered via tech that's on its way out. And if you're going to buy into Sky here in 2023, you're simply better off doing so via Sky Stream
  • 4th place: Stream from Virgin Media – How can something that's 'free' come fourth in a value for money contest? Well, two reasons. First it's not truly free since to get it you need a Virgin Media Broadband deal. And second its range of basic channels (before you add anything premium like sports of movies, say) is vanishingly small when compared to the others in this list
  • 5th place: EE TV (formerly BT TV) Entertainment – BT Broadband with EE TV is expensive. We'd love to be able to equivocate on that and say 'but you get a lot for your money' but we can't. You do get a lot, but no more in practice than you get from Virgin Media, say – a provider which has cheaper TV and broadband bundles with more channels and much faster broadband. BT/EE needs to do a lot better on pricing

Compare Sky Stream bundles

Channels and content

This is a simple channel-count showdown, but this category also takes into account access to on-demand content. On-demand content includes back-catalogue services like Sky Box Sets, and also the ease with which you can watch catch-up TV and indeed for how long after the programme was broadcast you can do so.

Here are those packages from best to worst when it comes to channels and content:

  • 1st place: Sky Q – It won't win in terms of convenience, installation or indeed value for money, but it's the undisputed champion when it comes to raw channel count. What's more, its ability ot record hundreds of hours of programmes onto its local storage (hard drive) makes the catch-up longevity question a non-issue
  • 2nd place: Sky Stream – It has most of the channels you'll get on Sky Q, and most of those that are missing consist of +1 time-shifted channels you don't need on a pure digital stream service where you can rewind live TV as you please and watch content that was streamed days ago on command. But it does have fewer channels than Sky Q so second place it is
  • 3rd place: EE TV (formerly BT TV) Entertainment – There are a surprising number of Freeview channels available via BT/EE's box, but it still ranks third when it comes to this tier list – especially since you won't get access to the amazing Sky Box Sets back catalogue
  • 4th place: Virgin TV Big Bundle – Virgin TV's 360 set-top box is a very capable device, which has the ability to record and rewind live TV as you please. But we cannot put it higher in this list since it has the second-lowest channel count overall in the basic 'Big Bundle' package, and doesn't have access to Sky Box Sets
  • 5th place: Stream from Virgin Media – It's free. You can get it with your Virgin Media Broadband package on request and it gives you access to 48 (give or take) Freeview channels. Really though, it's a means to allow you to subscribe to sports and movies and other premium content via Virgin Media, since the basic channel here don't really add much, while you also won't get access to Sky Box Sets

Compare TV packages

Installation and technology

All of these services are delivered by differing technologies. And that matters from a point of convenience, installation time and difficulty, and how much equipment and cabling you'll have to welcome into your home. The winners and losers in this category will be as a result of the convenience and capability of the technology itself, as well as how easy and quickly you can get it installed in your home.

  • 1st place: Sky Stream – And easy win for Sky Stream. It's a tiny box you can comfortably slip behind a wall-mounted telly, you can get it without a Sky Broadband deal, you don't need a satellite dish, and you can be up and running the day after signing up – it doesn't require an engineer visit. Little else in this category comes close
  • 2nd place: Stream from Virgin Media – Sure, it's very basic and really just acts as an axis by which you can get Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and TNT Sports into your home via Virgin Media without a full-blown TV package, but… as a conveniently sized little streaming box, installation is fast, with no engineer visit necessary provided you're already a Virgin Media Broadband customer
  • 3rd place: Virgin Media Big Bundle – We're splitting hairs between third and fourth place here arguably, since both Virgin TV and Sky Q are full-sized set-top boxes with built-in storage for recording. However, you don't need a satellite dish on your home to get Virgin Media, just a cable you can easily hide. And that's very important to many, so Virgin just about snags third place here
  • 4th place: EE TV (formerly BT TV) Entertainment – You're going to need a BT Broadband deal to get this, but it'll all be done on the day you get your broadband installed, and you don't need a satellite dish
  • 5th place: Sky Q – It's a very capable box, but the need for a satellite dish makes installation more complicated, that you'll usually have to wait a bit longer for your installation date than some of the other packages being compared here, and the fact you'll need Sky Broadband all play a role in putting Sky Q last in this category


This may sound like a bit of a wishy-washy category, so we need to define it. Some of the packages in this round-up are harder than others to upgrade, downgrade, add or remove premium channel subscriptions or indeed to back out of should you no longer wish to keep your subscription. Something like Sky Q, for example requires a satellite dish on your house, a lot of cabling and so on. Sky won't let you back out after a couple of months because you don't like it. Sky Stream on the other hand? You get the idea. Let's take a look.

  • 1st place: Sky Stream – Sky Stream wins again with ease. Adding or subtracting premium channel subscriptions, app subscriptions and so on couldn't be easier, but the single greatest aspect of it for this category is that you can take out Sky Stream on a one-month rolling contract basis. You'll pay a few quid more a month for the privilege, but for many it's going to totally be worth it
  • 2nd place: Stream from Virgin Media – This free box you can add onto your Virgin Media Broadband subscription may not offer a lot of channels, but it is convenient to back out of should you so desire. You can just give it back to Virgin Media. Premium channel subscriptions by comparison will vary their contract terms so be aware of that if you bundle anything extra on top
  • 3rd place: Virgin TV Big Bundle – You do need a Virgin Media Broadband subscription, but once you have one (or when you get one) adding a TV box is an easy, straightforward process that won't always require an engineer visit
  • 4th place: Sky Q – You can only get it with an 18-month contract and backing out early isn't possible beyond the statutory cancellation period. What's more the need for a satellite dish means it's more hassle than most packages here to get the equipment removed if and when you want to back out
  • 5th place: EE TV (formerly BT TV) Entertainment – BT/EE comes last again because you can't get any EE TV subscription service by any means except with BT Broadband and on an excruciatingly long 24-month contract

Compare Sky Stream bundles

Overall winner: Sky Stream

When it comes to convenience, price, installation, value, the technology, the channels and the content, Sky Stream either wins the category by a mile, or is up amongst the top tier. With flexible one-month contracts available on request, and access to all of Sky's premium content either included or bolted on, it's not even a close race anymore.

It used to be quite a close race between Sky and Virgin Media when it came to subscription TV, with BT offering an increasingly competitive third alternative as its service matured. But the introduction of Sky Stream, which as a service is already thriving, has really turned this into a one-horse race for the time being. Virgin Media's somewhat paltry 'Stream' service currently just doesn't offer the content or flexibility that Sky Stream does. It's a non-contender.

As is BT/EE. Now called EE TV (from 6 December 2023), it's expensive, can only be bought with BT Broadband, and comes on an excruciatingly long 24-month contract. As things stand at the time of writing, in fact, we don't currently recommend BT Broadband of (EE) TV to anyone. BT simply needs to do a lot better.

See also