Emma Lunn | November 1st, 2022
If you want to take advantage of Virgin Media's latest tech – in the form of their next-gen TV 360 set-top box – then you'll have to plump for a broadband and TV bundle. That new set-top tech needs to be connected, and that means it'll need a Virgin Media broadband connection. And the most basic TV and broadband combination Virgin offers is the Big Bundle.
The Big Bundle basically includes Virgin's M200 broadband, a landline with inclusive weekend landline calls and all Freeview channels – delivered via a Virgin TV 360 set-top box.
The Big Bundle is essentially the 'gateway package' for Virgin Media TV and broadband. It's simply the cheapest way to access Virgin Media TV, broadband and phone services all packaged together. You'll get M200 broadband, which with an average download speed of 213Mbps is ideal for most average homes and naturally comes with unlimited downloads. But to concentrate on the TV side of things, you'll get over 100 Freeview channels, plus catch-up services and a host of apps.
You can also choose to 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 wifi, 3G, 4G or 5G in the UK.
And on top of everything, you can even make free calls to UK landlines, Virgin Mobiles and 0870 numbers all weekend long.
At the time of writing, you get about 100 Freeview channels. You also get all the free-to-air catch-up players including BBC iPlayer, All4, YouTube and Vevo. If you subscribe to Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, you can watch these on your TV too.
Why are we being a little vague about the exact number of channels you get? Well, because Virgin is a little 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.
The TV offering includes around 60 entertainment channels, 14 factual and lifestyle channels, five kids channels, four music channels, six movies and two sports. You also get six international channels and nine news channels. It sounds a lot but many channels are HD or +1 versions of other channels.
The entertainment channels include Sky Arts, Challenge, Pick and CBS Reality. The two Sports channels are Sky Sports Racing and Freesports HD.
If you want to be more educated rather than just entertained, factual channels include PBS America and The Food Network. And if you need your TV to babysit your kids, you can keep them occupied with CBBC and CBeebies, CITV, Pop and Tiny Pop.
Music fans can tune into 4Music, Clubland TV, NOW 80s or NOW 90s, and film fanatics will appreciate Film 4, Sony Movies Classics and Action channels, and Talking Pictures. 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 next season of Succession 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.
Virgin’s pretty proud of its latest TV box, and quite rightly so – it's their fastest and slickest set-top box yet and comes with a fresh and completely new interface. Virgin likes to think of its new Guide as a 'sofa sherpa', helping you find your way around and, most importantly, saving your time. And the interface is exactly the same, whether you're viewing on your TV or using Virgin TV Go on your mobile or tablet. Plus, the new remote is now fully voice operable, so, in theory at least, you should just be able to say it, and then see it.
Naturally, the TV 360 is ready for Ultra HD viewing and it'll even let you set up profiles for each member of the family – meaning everyone can jump right into their own channels or simply pick up where they left off. It'll offer you up to a month’s worth of catch up – plus it's easy to add 4K-ready 360 mini boxes, meaning you can enjoy your Virgin TV subscription anywhere in your home.
When you sign up with Virgin, you are loaned the TV 360, rather than having to buy it. This means you’ll have to give it back once your contract is up. But on the plus side, Virgin will fix it if it breaks down.
You’ll need an HD TV for the TV 360 to work, and the box connects to your TV using an HDMI cable (which Virgin will send you). But if your TV isn’t HD or 'HD Ready', it won't have an HDMI port and you won't be able to connect the box. You can either self-install your TV 360 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).
Virgin also enables you to watch streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video through its box – assuming you subscribe – 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 TV 360 so you’ll need to be connected to the internet to watch them.
The TV 360 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.
Like the TiVo, Virgin’s TV 360 box will make recommendations to you based on your profile viewing habits and will save shows it thinks you’ll enjoy. 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 mislay your remote (heaven forbid), press and hold the 'channel up' button on your Virgin TV 360 box and your remote will bleep from down the side of the sofa or wherever it’s hidden.
The TV 360 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. /p>
In a word, yes. The Virgin TV Go app means you can watch a range of box sets and up to 100 live TV channels on your mobile or tablet, anywhere with wi-fi, 3G, 4G or 5G, 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.
You can add all the Sky Sports channels, including HD channels and F1, and BT Sport to any Virgin TV deal, including to 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.