Multi-room TV allows you to watch your favourite shows in different rooms throughout the house, all on the same TV subscription. So you can watch the morning news while you're still in bed, keep the kids entertained in their bedroom, or watch a blockbuster in the living room all at the same time.
Virgin Media, Sky and BT all offer multi-room TV options, while TalkTalk is launching multi-room in the near future. We've taken a look at how multi-screen TV works with these providers, how much it costs, and alternatives.
You can get up to five additional set-top boxes with Virgin Media multi-room. These allow you to watch all the channels you have as part of your Virgin TV subscription, as well as on-demand shows and apps. The only caveat is your extra box and other telly must support your subscription – so you'll need a HD box and HD telly to watch HD channels.
Customers get a second Virgin TV V6 box for free. Those with the Full House, Mix and Player bundles can get an additional V6 box for £49.95 plus a £20 activation fee, plus a £7.50 a month subscription.
Virgin's V6 box can record six shows while you watch a seventh. With 1TB of storage, you can record up to 500 hours of shows in SD or 100 hours in HD. Customers who only take TV from Virgin Media (no phone line or broadband) get a 500GB Tivo box included with their package and can add another Tivo box for a £49.95 installation charge plus £7.50 a month subscription. The Tivo 500GB box allows customers to record up to three channels, while watching a fourth pre-recorded programme.
You'll need to either physically connect your additional boxes via an ethernet cable to your Virgin Hub router, or to one another. If this isn't possible, you may need a Powerline adapter which uses the electrical wiring in your home to carry a broadband signal throughout the house. This effectively, beyond the power cables, gives you a wireless multiroom solution.
The ability to watch your subscription TV channels on a multi-room basis is now a standard feature of Sky's latest service, Sky Q. Sky Multiscreen provides the same Sky TV channels as your main Sky TV subscription on another box for £12 a month.
You need a Sky Q Mini box for each extra TV. Your first Sky Q Mini box costs £20 but subsequent boxes are £99 each. You can connect up to four mini boxes. Sky Q Mini boxes are wireless so you can easily set them up around your house. Like Sky Q boxes, Sky Q Mini boxes remain the property of Sky and are loaned to you – you'll need to give them back if you leave Sky.
You can watch your main Sky Q box plus two Sky Q Mini boxes at the same time. Assuming your package and TV both support HD, you can watch shows in HD on a mini box, but not ultra HD.
A Sky Multiscreen subscription includes Sky Go, meaning you can download and watch your favourite TV when you are away from home. More people will have access to Sky either later this year or in 2019. It plans to offer TV services delivered via broadband, not by satellite dish. This will open up Sky services to people who don't want, or can't have, a Sky dish installed at their home.
BT's multi-room option is called Extra Box. Unlike Sky and Virgin Media, BT customers are limited to only adding one extra box. Customers need to take out a 12-month Extra Box subscription for £5 a month and buy an additional BT YouView+ box for £99 or YouView box for £49. YouView+ boxes can record TV, but YouView boxes don't.
The second box will come with the same channel subscriptions as the first, plus seven-day catch-up TV, pause, record and rewind. However, you won't be able to watch Sky Sports and Sky Cinema on your second box – bad news if you're banished to the basement to watch the football.
BT states that Extra Box customers need to have a broadband speed greater than 23Mbps – which means you'll need to be signed up to BT Superfast Fibre (previously BT Infinity). You'll also need a separate aerial connection for your second YouView+ or YouView box. BT can help if you need an aerial or additional connection points.
TalkTalk is currently trialling multi-room TV to selected customers with the date for the full launch not yet confirmed. Existing customers can discuss multi-room availability with a TalkTalk agent online. Currently, homes can have a maximum of two TalkTalk boxes (the same as BT but less than Sky and Virgin Media).
Like BT, TalkTalk multi-room will only be available to fibre broadband customers. You will need to have an aerial attached to both your primary box and multi-room box to access the full set of Freeview channels. When you opt into multi-room, TalkTalk will provide you with a set of Powerline adapters meaning you won't need to trail cables through the house.
Adding a Multi-room TV Lite box costs £25 plus a £25 engineer set-up fee. A Multi-room TV Plus Box costs £50 with no set-up fee. The Multi-room service is added as a "Boost" at £4 a month – you can add or cancel it on a monthly basis. The box will only operate as a second box during the months you're paying for the Boost.
You don't necessarily need to add multi-room TV to your TV subscription or telecoms bundle to allow you to watch different programs in different rooms. Netflix also does the job. A Basic Netflix subscription only allows you to watch shows on one device at a time, but its Standard membership option allows you to stream shows to two different devices at the same time. The Premium option lets you watch on up to four screens simultaneously.
If you've got Amazon Prime Video, you can stream up to three videos at the same time using the same Amazon account. However, the same video can only be streamed to two devices at a time. With NOW TV, you can register up to four devices on your account but you can only watch TV on two at the same time.
Possibly. The idea of multi-screen TV is that it stops family or housemates squabbling over what to watch. But although multi-room TV means you can access the content from your TV subscription on a TV in a different room, you might still be arguing over the most comfortable seats in the house – who wants to be banished to the bedroom to watch TV when the sofa's so nice?
It depends on your household and viewing habits. With Virgin Media, Sky, BT, and TalkTalk it will add an extra cost to you monthly TV bill. Many people will find that the apps provided by these providers (Virgin TV Go, Sky Go, BT TV and TalkTalk TV), which let you watch TV channels on tablets and mobiles, will be sufficient. Plus, as we said, there's always Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
If you just watch the free-to-air TV channels, you could just get a cheap Freeview box to go with a second TV in another room.
The TV market is very competitive so it's worth keeping an eye out for special offers – both for new and existing customers. Once you're out of contract with your provider it risks losing you – so try haggling for a new deal and see if you can get multi-screen thrown in for free – or a cheaper price. Worth a try.
It depends on which provider you're with and, with some providers, which box you choose as your second box. Different set-top boxes have different functions and storage capacities, so it's important to understand what you're signing up for.