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18 Mar 2022

5 easy ways you can cut the cost of watching TV

We've rounded up some tips and tricks to save money on your TV habits, including using old devices you might already own
family watching tv

Have you found yourself spending a lot more on watching TV than you'd like to? With some smart TVs costing more than £1,000, and what feels like an unlimited amount of online TV content at our fingertips, it's tempting to spend more and more on our TV viewing.

Big TV packages from the likes of Sky, Virgin and BT are usually the most expensive way to watch TV. But there are ways to reduce the cost of your contract, and there are plenty of cheaper online subscription services you can consider switching to.

Even before you think about taking out a TV subscription, the price of smart TVs can be eye-watering, especially if you want to upgrade more than one TV. But there are devices you can use to watch online or digital content without needing a smart TV - some of which you might already find gathering dust in your home.

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1. Be smart with your TV subscriptions

tv apps streaming

New TV subscription deals and bundles continue to flood the market and it can be tricky to figure out whether or not you're getting a good deal. If you're looking to save some money on your monthly outgoings, look at changing your subscriptions.

Many monthly TV providers, including Virgin, Sky and BT, tie you into a contract and often only offer you that tempting introductory price for the first year or two, after which it can increase. If you want to stay with your current TV provider, you could reduce your monthly costs by cutting any subscriptions to channels you don't watch much.

For example, if you have Sky to mostly watch Sky Sports, you could look into cancelling Sky Cinema and watch films on a cheaper subscription service. You may have to wait until the end of your current contract to do this, but some - like BT's flexible TV packages - offer some opportunities to switch channels.

Some TV providers also offer bundle deals for TV, broadband and phone, which might help reduce your overall monthly costs.

Video: collectively save £1,000 by sharing subscriptions

You could also share subscriptions with your friends or family. If you team up with three others, you could save £1,000 per year. Find out more in the video below.

2. Haggling can save you £128

When coming to the end of your current contract, haggling with providers for a better deal will usually save you the most money. Some of us dread haggling over the phone, but most companies now have live online chat you can use to speak directly to a representative. This gives you a bit longer to think and type your next message.

It's certainly worth it - our most recent research found that the average saving on broadband and TV was £128.

Find out more: save on mobile, broadband and TV packages.

3. Switching can save you even more

Outside the main TV providers, there are plenty of online subscription services that give you the flexibility to cancel at any time. In comparison with Sky's cheapest introductory offer of £26 a month, there are big savings to be made by switching.

The most popular online subscription services cost less than £10 a month to watch content across multiple devices. Flexible online subscriptions services aren't short of content either - Amazon Prime has more than 41,000 hours, Netflix has more than 38,000 hours, and Disney+ has around 8,000 hours.

You can get extra perks with Amazon Prime too, including next-day delivery and Amazon Music. If you know you're not going to watch your flexible subscription in the next month, you can cancel your flexible contract and re-subscribe later to save even more. However, bear in mind that you will need a good internet connection to avoid issues with streaming online TV content on a subscription service.

Curious about which TV service is for you? Read more advice about the best TV providers and subscription services from our experts.

4. Use old tech to make your TV smart

remote tv

A smart TV allows you to connect to the internet via wi-fi to watch TV content online. However, you might be able to watch online content on your non-smart TV for as little as £5.

If you have a laptop, tablet or smartphone and an internet connection at home, you can connect your TV to your device using an HDMI cable and the TV will mirror the screen. You can then navigate and watch online content from websites using your smart device as normal, instead of using your TV remote. This can be the cheapest way to watch online content if you already have a smart device, because you can buy an HDMI cable for less than £5.

Some smart devices will need an extra adaptor, but these are readily available for around £15. For example, Android smartphones will require a USB-C to HDMI adaptor, and iPhones and iPads will need a Lightning adaptor. Most Apple laptops will need a Mini DisplayPort adaptor.

Some TV boxes allow you to connect a non-smart TV to the internet - these start at around £100. This is a bigger investment, but you can navigate it with your TV remote, and many offer accessibility features such as audio description or subtitles.

Want to watch streaming services?

If you want to watch TV on streaming services and already have a Blu-ray player, it's worth checking if it can connect to wi-fi. If it does, simply connect the Blu-ray player to your TV and to your wi-fi network to start watching online content.

If you have a selection of Blu-rays or DVDs, it could be worth investing in a new Blu-ray player that has a wi-fi connection to watch both your discs and online content for years to come.

If you don't have any of these devices at home, you could invest in a streaming device such as the Amazon Fire Stick or the Google Chromecast to watch online TV. These both start at around £30. You plug the streaming device into your TV and a power adaptor and follow the instructions to connect it to the internet. You can connect some devices to Alexa or Google Assistant to control it with your voice, too.

Interested in some old-school tech? Check out our Blu-ray player reviews, TV box reviews and TV streamer reviews.

5. Use older tech to watch free-to-air TV

tv internal aerial

If you're not interested in watching much online content and you don't want to be tied into a subscription, there are simple devices you can use to watch Freeview or Freesat.

All modern TVs have a digital tuner built in that will let you access free TV channels via Freeview. All you'll need to do is connect it to a working aerial. If you have an older TV, you'll need a separate digital TV box to pick up Freeview. Freeview gives you access to more than 70 free live TV channels including BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

An outdoor aerial usually gives the best reception, but it requires professional installation. Indoor aerials are cheaper, don't require professional installation and will also suit you better if you live in a building where you can't install an external one - such as a block of flats.

You can't watch streaming services with an aerial, because they can't hook up to an internet connection. But if you don't have a great internet connection at home, an aerial might give you the best TV quality possible.

You might need or want to use a TV box - like a set-top box or PVR - to access Freeview. These can vary hugely in price from around £35 to over £150, but you don't need a brand new one. An old one that you might have sitting at the back of the cupboard should work fine. PVRs are generally more expensive than set-top boxes, but you can use them to record live TV and connect to the internet.

What is Freesat and why might you want it?

Freesat is free digital TV delivered via satellite, and it has around 100 more free channels than Freeview.

If you don't already have a satellite dish, it will need to be installed by a professional. Read more about which service might suit you best - see our guide to Freeview vs Freesat.

Find out more about these underrated devices in our guides to finding the best indoor aerials, and the best PVRs and set-top boxes.