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BT TV vs Virgin Media TV

By Marc Shoffman | Friday, May 26th 2023

BT and Virgin are among the heavyweights in the battle for pay TV customers, offering premium channels, TV shows and films. But there are some differences between the two, from contract lengths to technology.

Pay TV customers are a demanding bunch and BT and Virgin cater for much of their needs with the usual catch-up, streaming and recording services but their offerings start to differ when you look more closely at the channels and extras on offer. We’ve laid out the key differences for you.


BT TV channels

The starting point for BT TV packages is that you have to have BT broadband in order to get BT TV – it is not available as a standalone TV service. All BT packages come with the BT TV Box Pro which you can use to pause, rewind and record programmes. BT TV and broadband contracts are all for 24 months.

BT offers five packages, all of which come with free-to-air channels and a Netflix Basic subscription. All packages come with some sort of NOW TV Membership, from Entertainment to Sport, and, even better, if you decide you want to change aspects of your package from month to month, you can.

Note however, that these five packages are only available to customers with fibre broadband of some sort. Customers that cannot get fibre broadband at all will be offered the basic Classic Entertainment package and will not be able to add NOW TV memberships.

BT TV Entertainment

BT’s TV Entertainment pack comes with free-to-air channels and also NOW TV Entertainment, meaning customers can watch the best Sky TV shows on the best Sky channels, including Sky Atlantic and Sky Max. Customers can also watch AMC, a channel exclusive to BT, and home of hit series Fear The Walking Dead.

BT Big Entertainment

The Big Entertainment bundle offers even more, with free-to-air channels, AMC, NOW TV Entertainment and also NOW TV Cinema all included.

BT TV Sport

BT’s Sport pack is the way to go for sports lovers. With all four BT Sport channels and BoxNation, Sport allows access to coverage of the Premier League, the UEFA Champions League, Premiership rugby and much more. It also comes with AMC and free-to-air channels.

BT TV Big Sport

Big Sport is the ultimate option for sport fans, coming with all BT Sport channels and NOW TV Sport, as well as Eurosport 1 and 2. This gets you all 11 Sky Sports channels, including F1 and Premier League, Golf and Cricket, as well as major sporting events on Sky Main Event.


The VIP package is for customers wanting the whole shebang. With free-to-air channels, AMC, NOW TV Entertainment, NOW TV Cinema, NOW TV Sport and BT Sport, it covers everything possible. VIP customers also get a Netflix Standard subscription, meaning they can watch Netflix on two devices. Plus, for optimum picture quality, it also comes with access to Full HD and UHD BT channels.

Optional bolt-ons with BT

For those TV packs that do not include it already, you can also add any of the NOW TV Memberships, with a choice of Entertainment, Cinema and Sport on a rolling monthly basis, as well as Amazon Prime TV, Netflix Standard or Premium, NOW HayU, Asian Mix and BT Sport. You can also choose to bolt on NOW TV Boost and BT HD, to get access to full HD – subject to having a sufficiently fast broadband speed.

Compare BT TV deals

BT TV review

Virgin TV

Virgin Media TV channels

Like BT, Virgin no longer lets you purchase its TV packages without also taking Virgin Media broadband. Virgin also offers five TV packages, starting with the Big bundle package and ranging up to the Biggest TV bundle. Virgin Media’s broadband and TV minimum term contracts are for 18 months.

Customers looking for faster speeds with their TV than those offered in the bundles below can choose to either upgrade to a faster option.

The Big bundle

This basic, entry-level package comes with over 100 free-to-air TV channels, including entertainment, films, drama and news. It comes with a download speed of 264Mbps as standard (M250) but you can choose to change this if you wish.

The Bigger bundle

This bundle comes with 190 channels, including free-to-air channels, the top Sky channels (although not Sky Atlantic) and BT Sport. The Bigger bundle also comes with a 264Mbps (M250) download speed as standard.

The Bigger bundle + Sport

This bundle is a step up from the Bigger Bundle and gets a bit more interesting, giving you 195 channels, including more premium stations such as Sky Max, Sky Showcase, Sky Arts, Gold and Comedy Central. It also comes with all Sky Sports and BT Sport channels, and a standard download speed of 516Mbps (M500).

The Bigger Bundle + Movies

More channels are included in the Bigger Bundle, with over 200 channels available in total. As the name suggests, the Bigger Bundle + Movies is everything included in the Bigger bundle with all the Sky Cinema channels in HD added on top. The accompanying broadband speed is 132Mbps (M125).

The Biggest TV bundle

For those who can’t be without anything, the Biggest TV bundle has it all, with over 210 channels in total, including Sky Cinema, Sky Sports and BT Sport. Plus, you get a Netflix Standard subscription thrown in for good measure, meaning you can watch Netflix on two screens at once. This bundle comes with a download speed of 132Mbps (M125).

Optional bolt-ons with Virgin Media

Virgin’s TV packages also provide access to apps and streaming services such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer and subscription services Netflix and Prime Video. If you take one of the cheaper packages, you can purchase extra channels such as BT Sport or Sky Cinema on a rolling monthly basis. Plus, if you want to upgrade to a faster download speed with one of the cheaper packages, you can.

Compare Virgin Media TV deals

Virgin Media TV review

Technology and equipment

All BT’s TV packages come with its latest BT TV Box Pro that lets you pause and rewind live TV and record up to 600 hours of shows. The BT TV Pro Box box lets you record two live channels at the same time. But 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. The BT TV Pro Box is UHD and Dolby Atmos ready.

virgin v6

All Virgin Media users get its latest TV 360 box that comes with a whopping 1TB of storage. You can do the usual pausing and rewinding of live TV, plus it gives you up to 500 hours of recording space, while you can record six shows at once and watch a seventh at the same time (should you ever need to). The 360 box is also 4K ready for Ultra High definition and offers voice-activated search functionality.

Customer service

It’s all very well having lots of decent channels, but you also want to know you will be valued as a customer and that any issues will be resolved quickly and adequately.

Both BT and Virgin Media’s TV services have a few issues with customer complaints. The latest Ofcom data from 2022 shows Virgin Media had the most complaints per 100,000 customers with 78, whereas BT only had 42, against a sector average of 49. In terms of satisfaction with service overall, BT hugely outstripped Virgin Media, with 88 per cent of customers happy with their service, whereas Virgin sat at the bottom with ust 78 pr cent of satisfied customers.

Only 31 per cent of complaints to Virgin Media were resolved on first contact with the provider, against a far better 43 per cent for BT.

If issues do arise, both have pretty long customer service hours. BT is available to hear concerns seven days a week over the phone from 8am to 9pm (8pm on weekends) and offers live chat online between 7am and 11pm daily.

Virgin Media customers can call to raise a complaint between 8am and 9pm Monday to Friday, or between 8am and 6pm on weekends.

Both providers also have active social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook where you can get in touch as well.


Customers of both BT and Virgin get pretty similar extras. Each offers seven days of catch-up TV on apps such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Channel 4 and Channel 5 and they will also let you access YouTube, Netflix and Prime Video. Virgin also offers Disney+ and Britbox, neither of which are available on BT TV, and neither provider offers Apple TV+. Both BT and Virgin offer movies to rent on demand however, and have their own apps that let you stream content on the go – namely the BT TV app and Virgin TV Go.

Virgin Media goes slightly further for households where people may want to watch different programmes at the same time. BT will provide just one extra BT TV Pro box for an added subscription. In contrast, Virgin will provide up to two 360 Mini boxes for an extra monthly fee.

Both providers offer a range of broadband speeds to go with your chosen TV bundle, with BT now offering full fibre speeds up to 900Mbps in areas where it has been rolled out, offering some strong competition to Virgin Media’s 1130Mbps with its Gig1 service.


If you can tolerate the odd customer service issue, both BT and Virgin Media provide some excellent channels and technology, and are closely matched in most other areas.

BT has recently revamped its TV offering and now includes NOW TV as standard in many of its packages, in effect giving you the best of Sky TV without the need to actually subscribe to Sky. Virgin is slightly more old-school, in that it includes a range of Freeview and premium channels to which you can choose to bolt on Sky Cinema or Sky Sports if they aren’t already included in the bundle.

Virgin has the edge over BT when it comes to technology in that its Virgin 360 box can record up to seven channels (should you ever find the need to do so), plus you can choose to have an extra two Virgin Mini 360 boxes against BT’s offering of just one additional BT TV Pro box when it comes to multiscreen options.

One thing Virgin still lacks however is access to Sky Atlantic. Sky is not yet ready to hand over this gem to its leading competitor, nor does Virgin support the NOW TV app on its 360 TV box. If this is a deal breaker for you, then BT TV is the way to go.

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