Virgin Media offers two basic TV packages: Mix TV (without broadband) and the Player TV bundle (TV and 100Mbps broadband).
Player TV is basically Freeview with a fancy box bundled together with broadband and a phone line. Mix TV offers more channels and is offered as a standalone TV package or as part of the next bundle up. Mix TV comes with a 500GB Tivo box while all broadband and TV bundles, including the Player Bundle, come with the 1TB Virgin TV V6 box.
Mix TV is the package you get if you just sign up for Virgin Media TV. So no phone line, no broadband, just telly. All this arrives via the Virgin TiVo box, which allows you to pause, rewind and record. It comes with a 500GB hard drive. There’s also the option to pay extra for Virgin’s bigger, better V6 box.
You also get the Virgin TV Go app which allows you to stream your favourite shows to your mobile or tablet, at home or on the go, wherever there’s wi-fi, 3G or 4G in the UK.
At the time of writing (April 2018) you get about 232 channels including roughly 86 free-to-air Freeview channels. You also get all the free-to-air catch-up players including BBC iPlayer, All4, YouTube, Vevo and Sky On Demand. If you subscribe to Netflix and Hayu, you can watch these on your TV too.
Why are we being so vague about the exact number of channels you get? Well, because Virgin is vague about it too. You’ll notice its website never gives the exact number of channels you get with any package. You’ll see a lot of “over XX” channels and “up to XX” channels. This is because channel line-ups are subject to regional variations. For example, ITV HD is not available where STV HD or UTV HD is available.
Anyway, back to Mix TV. As well as Freeview and catch-up, there are 16 entertainment channels, two lifestyle channels, six factual channels, four kids channels, five music channels, three movies and six sports. It sounds a lot but, as with Freeview, many channels are HD or +1 versions of other channels.
The entertainment channels include Sky One, Sky Two, Sky Living, Real Lives, Comedy Central and Fox. Sports channels include Sky Sports News, Sky Sports Mix, Eurosport 1 and 2, Bike, and At The Races.
If you want to be more educated, factual channels include Animal Channel, Discovery and Love Nature. If you need your TV to babysit your kids, you can keep them occupied with Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Baby TV, and Tiddlers TV.
Music fans can tune into Kiss, Magic, MTV, The Box and MTV Music, and film fanatics will appreciate Film 4, Movies 24 and TCM. However if you want to watch recent blockbusters, you’ll either need to upgrade to a more pricey package, add Sky Cinema, or pay-per-film on Virgin Movies On Demand.
One downside of all Virgin Media TV packages is that you can’t get Sky Atlantic – so you’ll miss the final season of Game Of Thrones as well as shows like Westworld, True Detective, and Billions. Sky seems to be keeping this channel for its own customers, making it a bit of a unique selling point.
Mix TV is the most basic package if you just have Virgin TV but if you also take broadband from Virgin, you can get Player TV as part of a bundle. Player TV is more basic than Mix TV – you just get all the Freeview channels and catch-up players, but that’s about it.
Freeview includes the main channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5, plus numerous entertainment and lifestyle favourites. You can use our interactive tool to see exactly what you get.
Opting for the Player bundle means only one sports channel (At The Races), and you don’t get Sky One, Sky Two or Sky Living.
Basically, Player TV is for people whose primary reason for picking Virgin Media is the speedy broadband and who don’t watch much TV. Why would you opt for the Player bundle over just buying a Freeview box down the high street? Well, firstly because bundles make it easy to keep everything in the same place and, secondly, because you get 100Mbps broadband and the Virgin TV V6 box.
Virgin’s pretty proud of its latest TV box, and quite rightly so. The V6 is basically a pumped-up TiVo box. It allows you to record six channels at the same time, while watching content you recorded at some point previously. The V6 comes with a whopping 1TB of storage, meaning you can record up to 500 hours of shows in SD, or 100 in HD.
When you sign up with Virgin you rent the V6, rather than buy it. This means you’ll have to give it back once your contract is up. On the plus side, Virgin will fix it if it breaks down.
You’ll need an HD TV for the V6 to work and the box connects to your TV using an HDMI cable (which Virgin will send you). But if your TV isn’t an HD or 'HD Ready' TV, it won't have an HDMI port and you won't be able to connect the box. You can either self-install your V6 box using the QuickStart option or pay for an engineer to do it for you (we did it ourselves and rate it 'easy to medium' with occasional swearing but no full-on meltdown).
Unlike the Sky Q box, which doesn’t allow you to watch any third-party streaming services, Virgin enables you to watch Netflix through its box, so no more hooking your laptop up to the telly or watching Netflix on a computer screen.
With catch-up there’s no reason to miss an epic TV moment ever again. To see shows that will be available on catch-up, look through your TV Guide for shows with the catch-up symbol (the letter “c” surrounded by a semi-circle with an arrow).
To find shows on catch-up, press 'home' on your remote and choose 'catch up' from the menu. These programmes aren’t stored on the V6 so you’ll need to be connected to the internet to watch them.
The V6 offers lots of extra features to make your life easier. The search facility is easy to use, enabling you to find shows on catch-up or those you’ve saved. You can also customise your channel guide just to include your favourites (no reality channels for me, please).
Like the TiVo, Virgin’s V6 box will make recommendations to you based on your viewing habits and will save shows it thinks you’ll love to your My Shows folder. Virgin TV’s Series Link+ collects every episode of your favourite shows in one place.
The 'clear' button allows you to delete anything from a single show to a whole folder; and if you delete things by mistake, the 'undelete' feature enables you to rescue them.
Parental controls can stop younger family members viewing inappropriate content – just don’t forget your PIN or you can’t watch it either. Your PIN is also needed to purchase on-demand content.
If you lose your remote (heaven forbid) press and hold the 'channel up' button on your Virgin TV V6 box and your remote will bleep from down the side of the sofa or wherever it’s hidden.
The V6’s WishList allows you to record shows, actors and even directors, every time they’re on TV. So you’ll never miss a programme with Tom Hardy/Margot Robbie (whoever floats your boat) in it ever again.
In a word, yes. The Virgin TV Go app means you can watch a range of box sets and up to 110 live TV channels on your mobile or tablet, anywhere with wi-fi, 3G or 4G, as long as you’re in the UK. You can also watch stuff you’ve recorded on your box on your phone or tablet.
Exactly what content is available to view depends on the TV package and you might find you can’t get all the channels or content from your TV package on your phone or tablet.
Enjoying Virgin TV and want to share the love? You can get £50 by referring a friend who then signs up – they also get £50 off their first bill. Both of you will need to be on contracts of 12 months or more.
The best bit? You can make up to 25 referrals a month which means many people could pretty much zero their bill by referring just one friend a month (you’ve got friends, right?).
You can add all the Sky Sports channels, including HD channels and F1, and BT Sport to any Virgin TV deal, including its most basic packages. You can add sports just for a month at a time – perfect if you just want to see a particular sports tournament or match.
If you’re not a sports fan, or even if you are, you can add Sky Cinema too. Virgin requires 30 days’ notice to remove premium channels/packs so if you just want a channel for a month, you’ll need to give notice to cancel it as soon as you get it.
Virgin Movies On Demand are pay-by-title. Once rented, content is available for 48 hours. There are hundreds of films to choose from, many in HD. However, as you’re paying per film, big film fans will be better off subscribing to Sky Cinema or Netflix.