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Virgin Media TV review

By Dan Howdle
Thursday, February 13th 2020
4/5

In 2020, Virgin TV rivals Sky's TV service both in terms of quality and quantity of content, with the added bonus that you won't need a satellite dish. But is Virgin TV actually any good? Let's take a look.

Overview

Number of channels Up to 270+
Technology Cable
Can bundle with broadband? Yes
Set-top box Virgin V6
Prices from £53 per month

Channels

Depending on how much you're willing to spend, you can expect anything from 110 to over 400 channels when you include premium add-ons. Bear in mind, though that this impressive number consists of a lot of duplicate time-shifted (+1) and HD versions of the same channels. Clear as mud really, which is why we've highlighed the best channels in our Virgin Media TV channels guide.

Set-top box

Virgin V6

Virgin's V6 box is, in short, unmatched. We're not going to say unrivalled, because Sky's 2TB Sky Q box can match it blow-for-blow, and has twice as much storage space, but then the V6 comes free with every Virgin Media TV and broadband bundle deal, whereas Sky's 2TB box will cost you an extra £200, paid upfront. Because of that, there's really no contest. V6 wins.

Virgin Media V6 Box

The V6 has a slightly stumpier profile than the Sky Q – it wants you to know it's there. It allows you to record six channels while you watch a seventh (seriously, who's ever going to do this?). And it's even capable of putting out 4K content, if you have access to it and a 4K TV. It also allows you to install apps on it like Netflix and Amazon Prime (unlike Sky), which means it'll happily become the only TV box you need.

Add-ons

Sky Sports

Just because Virgin isn't Sky doesn't mean you can't pinch some of Sky's best features – for an additional cost, of course. You can add Sky Sports to any of Virgin's TV packages or broadband and TV bundles. With the Bigger Bundle or Ultimate Oomph Bundle it comes as standard.

Sky Cinema

Same goes for Sky's movie service: Sky Cinema. Not quite as expensive as Sky Sports (nothing is as expensive as Sky Sports), Sky Cinema gives you access to over 1,500 films at any given time, spread over 11 channels, with most available to watch any time you like on catch-up. It's a hell of a lot of movies, and well worth the money, but if you already subscribe to Netflix and/or Amazon Prime, perhaps somewhat less so.

BT Sport

BT Sport has the rights to quite a lot of essential sporting events, including but my no means limited to Premier League and Champions League football. You can add it on to any Virgin TV package or bundle, but if you plump for Bigger Bundle or better, you're going to get it thrown in for free. Well, in the sense that you won't pay for it separately, since these packages are more expensive off the bat.

Premium channels

Just like Sky there are a host of premium channels you can subscribe to individually for those with special interests. Channels like MUTV (Manchester United's own channel), Liverpool FC TV, BoxNation (boxing), as well as a host of specialist international and foreign language channels.

STARZPLAY

The most recent addition to Virgin TV is US subscription service STARZPLAY, based around the STARZ range of American TV channels. For under a fiver a month you'll be able to watch shows such as Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King’s Castle Rock, The Royals and The White Princess to name but a few, as well as a broad array of movies.

Multiroom TV

It'll cost you more, but you're free to add on multiroom functionality to any Virgin TV package if you want to watch on a second TV somewhere else in your home. Just sign up and request it at the checkout. Alternatively, you can sign up to the capacious (and expensive) Ultimate Oomph Bundle, which comes with two V6 boxes as standard.

Packages and bundles

Bundles with broadband

'Bundle' should really apply more to how much you save than it does how much is in it. Opting for a Virgin bundle is far and away the most sensible decision you're likely to make when it comes to your home services. As alluded to further up, if you start with TV-only from the outset, then add broadband later, it's going to be a lot more expensive than if you just opted for a bundle in the first place. Virgin Media bundles come in four flavours.

  • The Big Bundle – It consists mostly of Freeview channels. And before you get too impressed with the Player Bundle's vaunted 110+ channel count, remember that many of those are either HD or timeshifted (+1) versions of other channels. It will be enough for households that just want basic TV delivered via a high-quality set-top box/recorder. It comes with 54Mbps broadband, which is enough for most households
  • The Bigger Bundle – Here you get everything in the Big Bundle, except broadband speed is now at 108Mbps (already getting a bit silly, to be fair), and likewise the 110+ channels of the Big Bundle now become 220+ channels in the Bigger Bundle. The Bigger Bundle adds on Sky One, Sky Two, MTV, Syfy, Fox, Cartoon Network and a load of others
  • The Bigger Bundle +Sports – The Bigger Bundle +Sports contains everything in all the previous bundles, plus Sky Sports HD and BT Sport
  • The Ultimate Oomph Bundle – If you just want everything – all the TV, Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, BT Sport – literally everything, coupled with the fastest broadband in the country (a totally insane 516Mbps) and not one, but two Virgin V6 set-top boxes, well, then this is it. Although the Ultimate Oomph Bundle looks expensive, it's actually a bargain compared to the cost of having all that separately. You pay about half, actually

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Our final verdict

The good

  • As good as Sky in most respects
  • Best free set-top box
  • Amazing broadband bundles

The bad

  • No Sky Atlantic
  • Expensive movies and sport
  • Indian/Asian channels aren't free

It really wasn't that long ago (early 2017-ish?) that we would have said, hands-down, that if you want the very best TV packages, you're better off with Sky. But Virgin Media has not only gained a lot of ground, but in some ways now exceeds the offering of its number one TV competitor. (BT TV and TalkTalk TV both still have a long way to go to compete at this level).

If you're going to get Virgin TV, just make sure you do it in the form of a bundle. The savings amount to free broadband in many cases, so it really is less beneficial to get TV on its own. Finally, you won't get Sky Atlantic on Virgin TV – perhaps its one Achilles heel. Still, that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to stream it and with the last season of Game Of Thrones been and gone, we're running out of reasons to care.

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