Due to the cost of living, many people are considering switching phone, broadband and TV providers to reduce their monthly bills. Switching providers is a handy way to keep costs down and allows you to explore what different suppliers have to offer.
Whether your contract has come to an end or your current provider’s prices are too high, it’s important to think about what you want from your TV package and what you’re willing to pay. While cheaper prices are always enticing, you could be downgrading to channels and connections that aren’t good enough for you and your viewing habits.
In the UK, there are three main TV providers that constantly battle for top spot: Sky TV, BT TV and Virgin Media. All three companies provide TV, broadband and mobile services across the UK and their TV packages are incredibly varied, feature-packed and vastly different from one another.
While Sky, BT and Virgin Media also offer broadband and mobile packages, I’ll just be focusing on their TV services in this post. To help you decide which TV provider is the best choice for you, I’ve looked into what Sky TV, BT TV and Virgin Media have to offer in terms of channels, equipment and packages, and which is the best value for money.
Sky TV is probably the most popular provider in terms of its TV packages and prices. Sky TV already distinguishes itself from BT and Virgin Media as it’s the only one which offers TV without broadband, which is one of the main reasons it’s so attractive to customers. In this new world of binge watching and streaming, Sky TV also sets itself apart as it has an incredible amount of channels, series, films and sports to watch.
Sky TV offers six packages (all with Netflix as standard) to choose from which are: Sky Q, Sky TV & Netflix / Sky Q, Sky TV, Netflix & Sky Sports / Sky Q, Sky TV, Netflix & Cinema / Sky Q, Sky Sports & BT Sports / Sky Q, Sky TV, Netflix & Kids and Make it your own. All packages are full of Sky channels like Sky Atlantic, Sky Crime and Sky Max, and prices start from as little as £26 and go up to £67. All are on an 18 month contract and come with a £20 one-off setup fee. I’ve gone into more detail on what each package has to offer in my guide to which Sky TV package offers the most value?. In terms of streaming, sports and movies, Sky TV has lots to offer and access to loads of popular apps, like Peacock, YouTube and paid-for platforms like Disney+, Prime Video and Apple TV+.
Now you know what you can watch, how can you watch it? When you sign up to Sky TV, you’ll be sent a Sky Q box and remote which an engineer will come and install it for you. Another option is to sign up to Sky Glass which is a TV with Sky built-in so you can stream every app and channel over WiFi with no need for a dish or box, as detailed in our Sky Glass review. As I mentioned previously, you don’t need to sign up to Sky broadband to use Sky TV but you can find deals on Sky TV and Broadband bundles.
Speaking of deals, the most popular Sky TV offers are on bundle packages, including cheap prices for TV add-ons. If you’re signing up to Sky TV and broadband, you can find big price cuts on specific packages, for example, the Sky Q, Sky TV, Netflix and Superfast Broadband package is offering free broadband for 6 months to new customers. See the best Sky deals for this month for more.
As a Sky user, I might be a bit biased but I really enjoy what Sky TV has to offer. The amount of channels are amazing, it’s easy to flip between live TV and streaming services, and I’m always kept up to date with what’s new on Sky. One negative is that the setup wasn’t the best but once it got sorted, I haven’t had problems since. I also think some of the package options aren’t needed which can definitely help you save extra money. Find out how to save money on Sky TV to cut down on your monthly bills.
BT TV is another TV provider which has a multitude of package options, low prices and an extensive catalogue of live and on-demand channels and apps. All BT TV packages come with a phone line and broadband connection as standard, otherwise you can’t use it. This is different from Sky but you can often find much cheaper options with BT TV that include TV, broadband and mobile services.
Similar to Sky TV, there are five BT TV packages to choose from: Entertainment, Sport, Big Entertainment, Big Sport and VIP. Prices start from as little as £16 (which is the cheapest you’ll find on this list) and go up to £74. A one-off fee of £39.99 is to set-up your BT TV service and all packages are on a 24 month contract. All packages include Netflix, Sky, NOW TV and BT Sport as well as other popular channels. I’ve gone into more detail about BT TV package options in my guide to how to save money on BT TV.
What attracts people to BT TV is its Sport channels. BT Sport is increasingly popular and has access to BT Sport 1, 2, 3, ESPN and Box Nation and you can also sign up for Sky Sports channels (see Sky Sports vs BT Sport for more) and Eurosport 1 and 2. This is a great and cheap way to sign up to Sky if you only want sports and you’re trying to keep your TV bill down. You can also watch BT Sport without a contract if you sign up with BT Sport Monthly Pass. This gives you access to all BT Sports channels for 30 days for just £25. It doesn’t lock you into a contract and you can watch via the BT Sport app or web player so you don’t need a TV or BT broadband!
To watch BT TV, there are multiple TV boxes to choose from including standard and recordable options and the newer BT TV Box Pro. BT TV Box Pro connects wirelessly to your BT Smart Hub using the WiFi and allows you to record and access your favourite shows and channels. In our BT TV Box Pro review, we commented that it’s a “super alternative to Sky Q and far better equipped than Virgin, plus there’s access to content that not even the premier streaming services can offer.” You’ll have to pay for the box, broadband and TV package so prices start from as little as £43.99 a month but can get quite expensive, depending on the plan you choose.
The BT TV deals you can find will depend on your line speed, but you can expect to find bundle discounts, credits and gift cards, plus free apps within your TV package. For example, you can currently get 6 months of BritBox for free when you sign up for BT TV. BT TV is the cheapest option on the market but still promises a huge amount and delivers. The BT Monthly Sport Pass is what excites me the most and is definitely worth considering if you’re on a budget.
Virgin Media TV
Last but not least, Virgin Media has a lot to offer in terms of its prices and packages. When you sign up to Virgin Media TV, you’ll get access to thousands of live and on-demand channels, films, series, sports and apps. Similar to BT TV, you’ll need to sign up to TV and broadband for Virgin Media TV but you’re getting a full broadband, mobile and TV setup for an affordable price.
Virgin Media has three TV package options to choose from: Big Bundle, Bigger Bundle and Ultimate Volt Bundle. All packages are 18 months long, have a £35 set-up fee and come with the Virgin TV 360 box. With Virgin Media TV, you get basic cable channels, access to streaming apps and you can watch new releases via the Virgin Media Store and sign up to Sky and BT channels. You can also access catch up services and built-in apps including BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Vevo. For the type of broadband you can get on each package, read my guide on how to save money on Virgin Media TV for more.
In terms of equipment, all packages come with the Virgin TV 360 box or you can sign up to Virgin Stream. Virgin Stream is a streaming TV service that lets you mix and match your entertainment each month. The Stream box plugs into your TV and gives access to everything within your package. With Stream, you can change which package you use each month to keep prices down and to watch specific things at specific times. In terms of prices, you pay a one-off price of £35 for the box and set-up and then your TV package fee from then on. For more details, check out our Virgin Stream review.
With Virgin Media, you can find deals for new and existing customers. This includes discounted prices on bundles for a certain number of months, gift vouchers and money off your bill. In my opinion, the best part of Virgin Media TV is the ability to switch up your packages and is a great way to save money as you only pay for what you watch.
Verdict: Which TV provider offers the most value?
After looking at what all three TV providers have to offer, I’m going to have to give it to Sky TV. Sky TV is already a step above the rest as you don’t need to sign up to broadband to watch it, but if you do, you can find super cheap prices. The amount of content, channels and apps available are staggering and overall, it offers the best value for money.
For me, BT TV comes in at a narrow second. While it might not offer the same amount as Sky TV and of course, you need to sign up to its broadband package, it is the cheapest option on the market and is definitely worth looking into if the cost of living is really affecting you. It’s also worth mentioning that NOW TV has access to Sky and Virgin channels at low monthly costs.
As I mentioned above, BT and Virgin Media do rival Sky in terms of their broadband and mobile offers and you can read which broadband provider should I choose for more details.