26th July 2021
Gone are the days when four channels was enough. There are now hundreds to browse through on any of a number of premium packages, but which is best for you?
Most of us watch TV through a free service, typically Freeview or Freesat. These services don't require a contract or subscription and let you watch dozens of different channels.
However an increasing number of people are now choosing to take out pay TV packages, either as a standalone deal or combined with a broadband service.
These pay TV deals give you a far greater choice of shows, often including exclusive sports events, exclusive drama series and the latest movies - though prices can be eye-wateringly high. You might be left weighing up whether it's worth investing in Sky or Virgin Media, or just signing up to Netflix or Amazon Prime instead.
If you'd like to expand your available viewing options but are unsure where to start then read on to get top tips from the Which? experts. If you'd like to find out more about how the big suppliers compare, head straight to our round up of the , based on our in-depth customer survey.
Here are five quick questions to ask yourself before being too drawn in by the marketing of the many different services on offer:
The majority of the UK can receive at least one digital TV service. Either or is available to around 99% of the UK, while Virgin's cable TV service is only available to more than 50% of homes in the UK.
However, while there are more providers than ever, some will only offer a TV service if you also get a broadband deal from them. For example, if you want TalkTalk TV then you'll need to sign up for a TalkTalk combined bundle. Exceptions to this are the standalone TV services offered by Sky and Virgin.
If you want it all, the obvious choice for many is either or . These providers have the widest range of inclusive TV channels but all providers offer a huge number of TV channels and TV on-demand services.
But if 70 channels is enough for you, you may be happy to stick with Freeview with the added ability to pause, rewind and record TV. Providers like and offer the free channels and allow you to add in extra channels. You can also pay to add in extra channels - usually you'll be able to add and remove them month-to-month.
If you're a sports buff you're likely to want access to Sky Sports or BT Sport, but both are also available from other providers. If you're not sure which option is best - or the best way to access it - use our comparison of to weigh up your options.
While it's possible to access many of the premium channels with a range of suppliers, it's best to check that any specific channel you really want is definitely available from your preferred provider because there are some exceptions to the rule. For example, Sky Atlantic is only available to Sky customers. And keep in mind that the more content you have access to, the more your deal is likely to cost.
As well as broadcasting your favourite shows, each provider offers further perks in an attempt to win your custom. These include:
Costs vary both between packages and between providers - and they can quickly start to soar as you add extras. Sit down and work out exactly what you want - it can be great to have loads of choice but it makes no sense to pay for channels you'll never watch.
Direct comparison of package deals can be tricky, but whether you're after multi-channel TV, or even a broadband with a certain speed, try to match up what you want with what's on offer from providers.
While the majority of TV deals require a 12-month contract, some providers require you to sign-up to lengthy 18-month contracts if you take TV in a package with broadband and home telephone - you can find out further details in our TV package pages.