BT TV vs Sky TV
By Marc Shoffman | Thursday, June 10th 2021
From sports to drama, BT and Sky often go head-to-head – both on and off the television. They regularly wrangle over broadcasting rights for football as well as when it comes to sharing each other’s content. So how do you choose between the two?
As well as looking at the channel choice and the various bolt-ons available, you also need to consider the technology on offer and even the service reputation of each. This can be somewhat confusing, so we have laid out the key differences for you here so you can decide who's ultimately best for your household – Sky or BT.
BT TV channels
Its TV Essential package offers up to 80 Freeview channels including Dave, Film 4 and E4. You also get a YouView+ Box that lets you pause and rewind live TV plus you can record up to 300 hours of your favourite shows.
The Classic Entertainment pack comes with Freeview channels but also includes more premium channels such as Eurosport (1 & 2), Comedy Central, GOLD, Discovery, National Geographic, MTV and BT’s exclusive drama channel, AMC.
BT’s new Entertainment pack comes with Freeview channels and access to the NOW TV Entertainment channels, including Sky Atlantic, Sky Witness, and Sky Comedy. A step up brings you to BT Big Entertainment, which includes NOW TV Cinema as well as NOW TV Entertainment.
BT is popular for its sports and sports lovers have a choice of two tailored packages. BT TV Sport comes with Freeview channels, AMC, BoxNation and all four BT Sports channels. To get the full works, BT TV Big Sport comes with BT Sport, BoxNation, Eurosport 1 and 2 and a NOW TV Sport Membership, giving you access to all 11 Sky Sports channels.
BT’s ultimate TV package is the VIP. A bundle of Big Sport and Big Entertainment wrapped up together, with the addition of BT Ultimate Sport, BT’s exclusive UHD channel (requiring a minimum broadband speed of 44Mbps) and also NOW TV Boost, which provides full HD access to all NOW TV channels.
Optional bolt-ons with BT
There are plenty of extras you can pay for to boost your service. For TV packs that don’t include it, you can add BT Sport, or you can choose to bolt on NOW TV Kids or BT Kids, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix can also be bolted onto whichever channel pack you choose. Plus, the BT TV Player, which comes with every BT TV bundle, allows you to buy or rent films, giving you even more viewing choice. For customers wanting a crystal sharp picture at every opportunity, HD and UHD can be bolted on for a fiver a month, or it is included free in the VIP pack.
Sky TV Channels
In the early days of Sky TV you would be offered an Original or Variety bundle. But now these have been merged into one base package quietly dubbed Sky Signature, but largely referred to as simply ‘Sky TV’ to which you then bolt on any extras you want. Unlike BT and Virgin Media, you can still choose to have Sky TV as a standalone service, without the need to sign up for Sky broadband as well. However, there are no real savings to be had and with Sky now offering one fast fibre speed of 59Mbps, it’s hard to see a reason as to why you wouldn’t choose to bundle up the two.
Sky TV now comes with a Netflix subscription as standard as well as free access to Sky Box Sets – previously a paid-for extra. You also get a whole wealth of top-notch entertainment channels, including Sky Atlantic, Sky One, Fox, Comedy Central, and MTV.
You get 15 great Asian channels and 15 documentary and nature channels including Discovery and National Geographic. A scattering of sports channels are thrown in for good measure, including Eurosport 1 and 2, Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports Racing, plus there are the usual free-to-air channels including BBC and Channel 4.
Optional bolt-ons with Sky
Customers can choose to bolt on a whole range of extras to their TV package. Sports fans can add Sky Sports and BT Sport, giving access to all eleven Sky Sports channels and all four BT channels in HD.
Film fans can choose to add Sky Cinema, which also comes with a 20% discount on any Sky Store film rentals. For additional family viewing, Disney+ is also available as an add-on with access to all the Marvel and Star Wars films and latest series exclusives, along with National Geographic and Star.
Parents can also keep their children occupied with Sky Kids featuring eight channels including Nick Jr, Cartoonito and Boomerang. There is also an app offering 5000 episodes on demand.
For those looking to watch TV in different rooms, Multiroom is available for an extra £15. This gives you one Sky Mini box and access to Sky Go Extra so you can stream your favourite shows on the go. A maximum of three Mini boxes can be added, at extra cost.
Customers can bolt on HD to get 40 live channels in HD as well as a free upgrade to watch Netflix on two devices, or choose to add Ultra HD as well and unlock Netflix Premium, whereby you can watch the streaming service on up to four separate devices.
Bear in mind that most bolt-ons come on a rolling monthly basis so can be cancelled or swapped easily, and others, namely Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and Multiscreen, require an 18-month commitment.
Technology & equipment
BT’s TV packages come with a YouView+ box as standard that lets you pause and rewind live TV and record up to 300 hours of your favourite shows. You also get seven days of catch-up TV on BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
The YouView box also lets you record two live channels at the same time, although you can only watch one live channel while another is recording. You could however still watch a recorded programme while two are recording in the background.
In comparison, Sky comes with a Sky Q box that, similar to YouView+, lets you pause, rewind and record TV. But it goes a bit further and lets you record three shows while watching a fourth and can store up to 500 hours of TV. It also comes with innovative Voice Control technology. The option to upgrade to a 2TB Sky Q box is no longer available.
Cost and channels are important factors in choosing between these two TV giants but customer satisfaction is equally important as you need assurance that any issues will be dealt with well.
The latest Ofcom data for 2020 shows that BT had the most complaints per 100,000 customers for pay TV at 8, compared with Sky which had the fewest with just one, considerably better than the industry average of 5, and better than Virgin Media, with 12.
The main issues with BT were complaints handling, followed by billing, pricing and charging, and faults, service and provision.
Neither provider offers HD channels as standard. With BT, HD and UHD are included as standard with the VIP package, or you can choose to bolt on HD for an extra fiver a month regardless of your TV package. Sky on the other hand, only offers HD and UHD as a bolt on. Choose from just HD for £7 per month, or HD and UHD for £11 per month.
Both also provide a solution for when people in the same house want to watch different programmes at the same time. BT will provide a maximum of one extra YouView+ box if you pay an extra subscription fee.
In contrast, for a bit extra each month, Sky offers the Sky Q Mini box. This connects wirelessly to the main box but can be put in a different room of the house. You can connect up to three Sky Q Mini boxes and watch on two TVs at the same time. But beware the cost; one Sky Q mini is just £15 per month extra, but for every extra box on top you will be charged more than this. There is also a Sky Q app that lets you download and watch programmes on the move.
You don’t necessarily need Multiscreen though if you are happy to watch on your mobile, tablet or computer through the BT TV App or via Sky Go. Alternatively, you can pay an extra fiver a month for either Sky Go Extra or BT TV Extra, which enables you to watch your TV channels on any screen at all, at home or away, without the need for a Multiscreen subscription.
Aside from extra channels and boxes, both have their own rental service. You can rent or buy movies and boxsets in the BT TV Store, while Sky Store will let you rent or buy and keep a movie on your devices.
BT has built a strong position in the market due to its sole rights to broadcast the Champions League until 2024. This means football fans, who are key buyers of digital TV services, may be more likely to favour BT Sport, where they can get both the Premiership and Champions League games, compared with just the matches you may get on Sky Sports.
But BT lets itself down when it comes to access. You can only get BT TV with one of its broadband packages, rather than using another provider as Sky will allow. This can be an issue if BT broadband is particularly slow in your area as that will also affect the quality you are receiving if streaming or watching through the BT TV app at home.
Sky TV, in comparison, is a separate product to broadband so you have more flexibility and can choose a different provider for broadband if you want.
If you are not a football fan then the choice between the two is much harder to make. BT offers NOW TV Entertainment and Cinema Memberships as part of its packages now, essentially offering the best of Sky TV, including Sky Atlantic.
Sky TV packages come with Netflix as standard and the option to bolt on Disney+, but you cannot watch Amazon Prime Video via Sky Q. On the other hand, BT’s YouView+ does not support Disney+ but you can add Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to your TV package.
Overall, BT is worth considering for sports fans and for the flexibility of NOW TV Memberships, but if you want an all-round package as well as the freedom of choosing your own broadband, then Sky is most probably the way to go.