At one time, we didn’t have much in the way of choices when it came to TV – there were four channels, eventually five and you picked something from them. Then Sky came along, widening the scope of channels. Now we have a whole range of providers we can choose from, ranging from Freeview to BT and even online specialists. So how do you choose the right one for your needs?
The free option – Freeview
If you don’t want to pay money for your TV, then the place to start is Freeview. This is the system that took over from the old five channels set up when everything went digital a couple of years ago. These have been padded out to an impressive 70 standard and 15 HD channels that are available at no monthly fee through your TV aerial. You can also connect to Freeview Play on the internet and pick up on-demand shows from the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5 and UKTV Play.
Channels available include:
- BBC 1, 2 and 4, CBeebies
- ITV, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4
- Channel 4, 4+ More4
- Channel 5, 5USA
- BBC News and Sky News
Any TV that is around five years old or less will often have Freeview built in, meaning you don’t need to get a separate device to get the shows. Otherwise, you can get a Freeview box or a Freeview HD Recorder that lets you record shows to watch later. You can also receive the channels through an existing TV aerial.
Premium TV – Sky
Sky has been at the pay-TV business longer than anyone in the UK and theirs is often seen as the premium service with the most channels and quality shows as well as sports events and movies. Currently, Sky has three packages available for customers:
- Original & Sky Q
This includes over 290 channels such as Sky One, Sky Sports Mix and FOX as well as catch up TV if you have missed a show.
- Variety & Sky Q
This includes over 320 channels including kids shows, documentary channels and music channels. It is a great place for families as there are over 4500 children’s shows available through the Kids TV on demand service.
- Box Sets & Sky Q
This includes the Sky Box sets in addition to the channels, allowing you to binge watch a show whenever you want, without buying it on DVD. There are 55 HD channels in addition to standard ones.
You can then add to these the movies and sports elements. Sky Cinema offers over 1000 movies on demand as well as 11 channels and a new premiere every day. The Sky Sports package accesses 10 channels including Premier League football, cricket, golf and F1 motor racing.
If you have a Sky package, you can also change it whenever you want by calling the Sky existing customers contact number so if you want to add or remove elements, then you can do this at any time.
The newcomer – Virgin Media
Virgin Media is a slight newcomer to the pay TV market and already offer a range of packages to suit customer’s needs. You can visit their website and take a ‘Help Me Choose’ quiz that gets you a personalised recommendation based on the TV you watch.
Currently, there are several different packages available to pick between. These start with the basic Player TV which includes the old terrestrial channels as well as Sky and BBC News and CBeebies for the kids. The Mix TV option takes the channel numbers up to 35 and includes Sky One, MTV, Syfy and FOX.
Full House TV includes 58 channels adding documentary channels such as National Geographic and History to the package along with kid’s channels such as Nickelodeon. It also includes the BT Sports channels. Finally, the VIP package includes 96 channels including Sky Cinema channels, Sky Sports channels and the top entertainment channels.
You can opt for a self-service installation or have an engineer visit the property to do it for you.
The joy of the pay TV market currently is that these aren’t the only options – there are more companies offering different packages.
BT TV packages include the Freeview channels plus you can include BT Sports, Entertainment channels numbering around 110 and a top level package with 141 channels. The packages come with a YouView set-top box to pause, rewind and record TV if you take this option and you can watch your Netflix subscription shows through it.
TalkTalk also offers a similar service with basic Freeview channels supplemented with premium channels. There are themed monthly add-ons to choose the channels you want such as entertainment, kid’s programs and international TV series. You can also add Sky Sports, BT Sports and Sky Cinema if you want.
The other option is to move away from the traditional channel set up and move towards a streaming service that allows you to pick the programs you want to watch, when you want to watch them.
NOW TV offers daily, weekly and monthly bundles including a Sky Sports pass, Sky Cinema and entertainment channels. You can also watch live TV through your broadband connection.
Amazon Prime is like Netflix and is also beginning to offer their own original content. They also offer films and TV series while the membership includes a number of other, non-TV related benefits such as free one-day delivery on many items.
There are a lot of options available when choosing your TV package that means you can get the balance of shows you like while working with your budget. Don’t be afraid to shop around for deals or talk to the company if you have had a better offer as they are often able to do something on pricing or packages, especially for existing customers who are looking elsewhere.