Cable TV, satellite TV and digital TV packages Sky, Virgin and BT compared
Types of digital TV package
When choosing a digital TV service, there are lots of things to consider. Free TV services from Freeview or Freesat don't require you to pay a monthly fee or be tied into a contract. However, if you want a wider selection of channels, you’ll probably want to consider a digital TV package from the likes of Sky, Virgin Media, BT or Top Up TV Anytime.
These paid-for digital TV services have a monthly subscription fee, but enable you to access premium channels. You can also choose to bundle your TV service with your home phone or broadband connection with Sky, BT and Virgin.
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How do TV package providers match up?
Sky and Virgin Media offer the widest range of TV channels. Both allow you to bundle phone and broadband services with TV. Virgin’s TV service is available through cable, while Sky's TV service will require a satellite dish.
Sky and Virgin also offer high-definition (HD) channels, although with Sky's service you need to pay an extra monthly fee. Freesat and Freeview HD offer a small number of free HD channels.
BT offers TV bundled with broadband and phone services as standard, including on-demand content for additional monthly fees, or on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Top Up TV Anytime offers Freeview TV with additional on-demand content, as well as sport and movie services from ESPN and Picture Box. The additional content is offered on one-month rolling contracts, so you aren’t tied in if you decide you don't like the service.
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The equipment and setup needs vary by provider, but the minimum you'll require is a set-top box or an integrated digital TV.
Each TV package provider has its own equipment. Basic set-top boxes allow you to view TV only, whereas personal video recorders, known as PVRs, allow you to record and store programmes to play another time.
Some boxes also allow you to view and record TV programmes in HD, but you may have to pay more for a more advanced set-top box. The table below shows equipment provided and equipment costs for each TV service:
|Set-top boxes and PVRs|
|Equipment||Initial cost||Monthly cost||Equipment functionality|
|Equipment included in basic packages|
|Top Up TV Anytime||£39.99a||None||PVR view, record, pause and play back up to 120 hours of content|
|BT Vision+||£90b||None||HD-ready PVR view, record, pause and play back up to 80 hours of content|
|Sky+||£49c||None||PVR view, record, pause and play back up to 185 hours of TV|
|Virgin HD||Free||None||HD-ready set-top box view TV|
|Premium equipment options|
|Top Up TV Anytime||£69.99||None||PVR view, record, pause and play back up to 320 hours of content|
|BT Vision+||No premium option||No premium option||No premium option|
|Sky+HD||Freed||£10d||HD-ready PVR view, record, pause and play back up to 185 hours of TV (or 60 hours in HD)|
|Virgin V+ HD||Free||£5e||HD-ready PVR view, record, pause and play back up to 80 hours of TV (or 20 hours in HD)|
Initial costs additional set up costs may apply. Free = equipment provided.
Monthly costs separate monthly fees apply for the TV service but will depend on which package you take. None = no monthly charge.
- Price for its most basic reconditioned PVR.
- Without a viewing pack subscription or free if you subscribe to a 12-month contract Value pack deal.
- Free if you take a Sky broadband and calls package.
- Free if you sign up for the £10 a month HD pack on a 12 month contract.
- No monthly cost if purchased with XL TV package