Netflix on Sky, Virgin Media and BT: How does it work?

Dan Howdle | September 15th, 2023

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Sky Stream is slowly eating into the decades-long dominance of satellite as the primary means to receive Sky TV. Receiving Sky TV over the internet is just less fuss, less mess, far easier to install, will take up less space wherever you watch TV, and you won't need a (some would say) ugly satellite dish on the side of your home.

But Sky being Sky, it is less than clear about exactly what you get with Sky Stream. The channels you get, the channels you don't get and what, if anything, is missing when compared alongside Sky TV via a satellite dish (Sky Q). The truth is, Sky Stream is the future, and it does a heck of a lot very well and maybe one or two things not too well. Let's take a closer look at what you get.

Overview

As of fairly recently, providers who offer both broadband and TV have started bundling Netflix into their packages as an additional sweetener to the deal. You could argue whether this is a good or bad thing with equal justification. Yes, you get something extra, but it's still a far cry from a more ideal situation where you can bundle up the biggest streaming services (Netflix, Disney+, Paramount+, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video) for a reduced/reasonable price.

That will happen eventually, but for now we have Netflix thrown in with your TV subscription with Sky, Virgin Media or BT. And that's great. However, the problem comes when you're already subscribed to Netflix and you want to sign up with Sky, say. What happens to that free subscription? Is it of benefit? Will you need a new account? Will it count as money off you're existing Netflix subscription?

These are questions these providers do a surprisingly poor job of answering through the normal process of signing up. So, without further ado, here's how Netflix works with each of these TV providers.

Netflix subscription tiers: Which one will I get?

Here's one of the big sticking points a lot of people face when trying to figure out how Netflix works on Sky, BT or Virgin Media: Which tier of Netflix subscription do you actually get? And we wish the answer were simpler, but it's actually an entirely new tier that you can't subscribe to directly from Netflix called Netflix Basic.

Netflix itself offers three subscription tiers: Standard with ads, Standard, and Premium. Here's a full breakdown of all of those tiers, with the Sky, BT or Virgin Media bundle-exclusive Netflix Basic alongside them for comparison:

Netflix Basic

  • Watch on one device only
  • Full HD, but no 4K
  • Exclusive to Sky and BT TV bundles

Netflix Standard (with adverts)

  • Advert-supported, some movies and TV shows unavailable, unlimited mobile games
  • Watch on 2 supported devices at a time
  • Watch in Full HD

Netflix Standard

  • Unlimited advert-free movies, TV shows, and mobile games
  • Watch on 2 supported devices at a time
  • Watch in Full HD
  • Download on 2 supported devices at a time
  • Option to add 1 extra member who doesn't live with you
  • This tier comes free with Virgin Media TV, and BT VIP bundles

Netflix Premium

  • Unlimited advert-free movies, TV shows, and mobile games
  • Watch on 4 supported devices at a time
  • Watch in Ultra HD
  • Download on 6 supported devices at a time
  • Option to add up to 2 extra members who don't live with you
  • Netflix spatial audio

Netflix on Sky: How it works

The Netflix package included with Sky TV packages is Netflix Basic (see above). Remember, if you already subscribe to Netflix, you will still be able to take good advantage of Sky's bundled Netflix subscription. Here's how it works:

  • Choose your desired Sky package. Netflix is included with all of them, so take your pick
  • During the checkout process, you will have the option to up grade the included Netflix Basic to a higher tier of package
  • You can either choose a higher tier, or choose the tier that matches your existing Netflix subscription. If you already subscribe to Premium, say, which is £15.99 per month direct from Netflix, you will pay just £8 per month for it here – a big saving
  • You can also sign up as is, without upgrading, and upgrading after signing up, but you will need to match your current Netflix subscription tier via Sky if you want the same service level
  • After you're signed up to your Sky TV bundle, Sky will guide you through the process of linking your existing Netflix account if you have one
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Netflix on Virgin Media: How it works

The Netflix package included with Sky TV packages is Netflix Standard (see table above), but you won't get Netflix included with just any old Virgin TV bundle. Actually, only the highest-tier Virgin Media TV bundles offer it – I.E. the Biggest Bundles and Ultimate Volt Bundles. If you already subscribe to Netflix, you will still be able to take good advantage of Virgin Media's bundled Netflix subscription. Here's how it works:

  • Choose your desired Virgin Media package, and bear in mind only the high-end bundles include a Netflix subscription
  • Netflix Standard is the only tier available during the checkout process. But worry not. If you have or need a higher tier, Virgin Media has you covered
  • After you're signed up to your Virgin Media TV bundle, Virgin Media will guide you through the process of linking your existing Netflix account if you have one
  • It is during this part of the process you will be asked if you want to apply your current tier. So, for example, if you currently subscribe to Premium, you can tick this option during the linking process and you will get a large chunk off of your monthly Netflix bill in lieu of your new, bundled, Standard subscription
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Netflix on BT: How it works

BT does things differently to both the other providers. The Netflix subscription you'll get with Entertainment or Big Entertainment is Netflix Basic, and for VIP bundles it's Netflix Standard. The same story applies in essence beyond that, though. If you're already subscribed to Netflix you'll be able to match your current tier during the account linking process, or upgrade and pay less per month for the higher tier. Clear as mud, right?

  • Choose your desired BT package, and bear in mind your choice will have a bearing on which tier of Netflix subscription you get. Basic for Entertainment and Big Entertainment, Standard for VIP
  • If you're already subscribed to Netflix Premium, don't worry. You will be able to keep that and save money each month with these bundles
  • After you've signed up to your BT bundle of choice, you will be taken through an account-linking process
  • It is during this part of the process you will be asked if you want to apply your current tier. So, for example, if you currently subscribe to Premium, you can tick this option during the linking process and you will get a large chunk off of your monthly Netflix bill in lieu of your new, bundled, Standard subscription

Closing comments

Beyond what we've outlined in this guide we do have a few more things to say that you should be made aware of.

Be wary of phoney content numbers

Since striking a deal with Netflix, some of these TV providers are including all Netflix content when counting the number of streamable TV shows on their service. Naming no names, but when you see something along the lines of '30,000 TV shows!', take it with a pinch of salt as they're including the entirety of Netflix in that number.

You don't have to watch Netflix on their set-top box

Yes, you can subscribe to one of these bundles and watch Netflix on whatever set-top box they provide, but you don't have to. You can still watch your Netflix shows on whatever device or devices you prefer, be that a tablet, laptop, other streaming device or multimedia player, or whatever you're used to.

A bundled Netflix subscription will save you money, but…

But only if you genuinely want everything else being offered by the TV bundle. It's not going to save you money if you subscribe to the bundle just to get either free or cheaper Netflix obviously. So just be sure that bundle is something you want for you and your household.

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