Not too long ago many people got by with just five terrestrial TV channels. Fast forward a decade and the UK TV landscape has been transformed.
With oodles of choice, dedicated sports and movie channels, amazing movie-quality drama from the US and on-demand options that free you from TV schedules once and for all, there’s now more reasons than ever to stay in.
Things to consider when comparing TV packages
Can I combine my TV with other services?
As with other household bills, combining your TV with other services from the same provider — such as broadband, mobile phone and home phone — can result in some huge savings. With these amounting to potentially hundreds of pounds per year, it’s always worth seeing if you can get your TV from the same provider.
Do I want to be able to watch pay-TV channels on a mobile device?
Most providers — including Sky, Virgin Media and Now TV — offer apps that enable you watch their channels on phones, tablets and computers. If this is a primary consideration for you, it might be worth choosing one of these over their rivals.
How much storage do I need?
The set-top boxes that pay-TV providers offer differ greatly — not least in storage, with some offering as much one Terrabyte of capacity, which is roughly 500 hours of standard television recordings.
If you think you’re going to want to store entire series of your favourite programmes, it might be worth opting for the larger storage models.
These also enable you to store more HD content, which takes up more of a set-top box’s capacity.
Choosing a TV package
Other than how much you want to spend, the first and most obvious thing you need to ask yourself when choosing a TV package is what programming you most enjoy.
Viewing figures reveal the biggest draws for pay-TV packages are sports, kids programmes and movies. So it’s not surprising that all the major providers offer oodles of sports, children’s TV and movie-focussed packages and channels, all competing for your monthly TV spend.
But the great thing about pay-TV is that mainstream programming is only a part of the story. Channels now available include niche interests such as the Syfy channel, the fan-focussed Liverpool FC, Manchester United and Chelsea channels, and the brilliant Sky Atlantic, which bags the very best HBO drama and comedy.
Comparing sports TV deals
The titans of UK pay-TV sports programming are BT and Sky, both of whom offer a mix of crown-jewels sports events and minority sports.
With seven dedicated sports channels, however, Sky is most people’s choice of the UK’s leading sports broadcaster, not least thanks to its dedicated Formula One channel, Sky F1, that covers every race of the season in full.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a Sky customer to get Sky’s sports channels. Virgin Media and BT customers can add them to their package for an extra monthly charge, and TalkTalk and Now TV also offer upgrades that include these channels.
Comparing movies TV packages
Premieres come as standard with pay-TV movies channels, whether Hollywood blockbusters or indie cinema.
Sky once again leads the field with 11 movie channels, all of which can be enjoyed at home or on mobile devices courtesy of the Sky Go app. But as with Sky Sports channels, customers of BT, TalkTalk or Virgin Media are required to pay extra and add Sky Cinema channels to their bundle.
TalkTalk, Virgin Media and BT also all offer on-demand movies services, accessed via their respective set-top boxes.
Kids TV packages compared
The likes of the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon have everything to keep the kids entertained, from live TV shows to cartoons and films.
All of these are part of the four main pay-TV providers’ kids TV offering. Here’s a taste of the channels that are available:
Disney Channel On Demand
Disney Junior On Demand
Disney XD On Demand
CN On Demand
Boomerang On Demand