Most providers are taking note of this trend and offering more scaled-back packages, but there are still some differences from plan to plan. Here are the basic options each provider offers.
If you’re only after Freeview TV — which includes over 70 free-to-air channels plus 15 HD channels — you have a few options.
Most new smart TVs give you access to Freeview channels, all you need to do is connect it to an aerial and you're good to go. If you're using an older TV, you can watch Freeview channels with a Freeview box or Freeview recorder.
With TalkTalk’s basic TV package, TV with Fast Broadband, you get Freeview channels and ADSL broadband with average speeds of 11Mbps, although you can swap this for fibre broadband that offers higher speeds.
Sign up for this plan and you’ll get TalkTalk’s TV box, powered by Netgem, which will let you pause and rewind live TV and watch on-demand apps.
If you want more channels than basic Freeview but don’t need a lot of options, most providers offer mid-range packages for a little extra.
BT TV offers a basic package which includes Freeview channels as well as several additional channels, including Comedy Central, Nat Geo Wild, Eurosport and Discovery. You then have the option to add services like TNT Sports, BT Kids, Netflix and Amazon Prime on a month-by-month basis.
This package comes with a standard YouView box that lets you pause and rewind live TV and is bundled together with any of BT’s broadband deals.
The Virgin Media Big bundle includes Freeview channels as standard, but you’ll also get access to over 100 other channels, including Sky One, FOX, Cartoon Network and Syfy. This package comes with cable broadband offering average speeds of 108Mbps, and you also get Virgin's V6 set-top box.
If you're mostly happy with just Freeview channels, but on occasion would enjoy watching some more films, TV shows or live sport, NOW TV passes are a great, flexible, affordable option.NOW offers five themed TV memberships: Entertainment, Sky Cinema, Kids, Sky Sports and hayu.
You can pick and mix TV passes as you like to customise your package. You can access NOW TV passes via an increasing number of devices including:
Amazon Fire TV stick
Roku & most other streaming sticks
Unfortunately, EE TV is being discontinued as of March 2021 and is currently no longer available to new customers. Current EE TV subscribers are able to access Freeview TV and can use their set-top boxes to pause and rewind live TV.
In contrast, new EE broadband customers can instead choose a broadband package that comes with a free Apple TV 4K. You can then watch Freeview channels via the Freeview app. You can also access on-demand content via other streaming apps such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub.
Although most providers offer options for customisation and add-ons to their basic packages — including premium sports content or dedicated movie channels — opting into these individually can add up.
Chances are if you’re subscribing to one or more monthly add-ons, you might actually be able to save money by switching to a mid-range or top-tier package with these channels already included.
Although calling a bundle that includes over 300 channels ‘basic’ sounds strange, Sky’s most basic option is comparably priced to those from other providers.
Sky Signature includes Freeview channels plus pay TV channels like Comedy Central, FOX, Discovery and Sky’s own channels: Sky Max, Sky Showcase, Sky Witness, Sky Arts and, most importantly, Sky Atlantic.
All of Sky’s packages come with the Sky Q set-top box, which lets you pause, rewind and record live TV.
Sky Signature can be combined with any of Sky’s broadband options, and you can even add on a Netflix subscription at a later date if you find yourself wanting even more TV.
All this combined often costs around £25 for Sky TV & Netflix, which could easily work out to be cheaper than subscribing to an ever-growing list of basic TV packages.