Pay TV vs Free TV Pay TV or Free TV which do I need?
What to consider when choosing a digital TV service
- Channels Look at the options with each service to see which providers have the range of channels you are looking for.
- Premium channels Do you want premium sport or film content? If so, check which pay digital TV services offer what you want.
- Bundled service Are you interested in getting a TV service from the same provider as your phone line or broadband?
- Availability Not all digital TV services are available in all areas.
Free TV or Pay TV?
If you’re only interested in basic TV, a free-to-air TV service such as Freeview, Freeview HD or Freesat will probably suit your needs. These don't require you to pay a monthly fee or be tied to a contract.
Read the Which? guide to Freeview and Freesat TV.
If you would like access to premium services, such as Sky Sports, or a greater range of channels you should consider a pay digital TV service. If you’re interested in getting your broadband or phone service from the same provider, you’ll need to look at a pay TV service from Sky, Virgin Media or BT.
Equipment and setup needs vary by TV service provider. Nearly all recent TVs come come with Freeview or Freeview HD built-in so unless you'd like premium or a greater range of channels this may be all you need.
With a pay-monthly TV service, set-top boxes are generally included as part of the deal - and a satellite dish if you need one.
More advanced equipment will allow you to record, replay, and even pause live TV. These boxes are referred to as personal video recorders or PVRs.
Read our PVR reviews to see which are easiest to use.
High-definition (HD) TV brings you a much sharper, life-like image. If you'd like to watch TV programmes broadcast in HD, you'll need an HD-ready TV and access to an HD service.
Sky, Virgin Media, Freesat and Freeview all offer HD content. Sky offers the biggest range of TV channels but charges an extra monthly fee while Freeview HD and Freesat offer free HD content but channels are much more limited.