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How to watch TV online

How to watch TV online

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Last updated: 12 January 2022

A lot of people don’t have access to a TV, or simply choose not to use one, particularly if you don’t want to pay for a Sky package or cannot afford to. Nowadays you can watch your favourite TV show or catch your sports team’s next game without having access to a TV. In this guide we will outline every single way that you can watch live TV online. 

What you will need to watch TV online

To watch TV online several things are required. First of all you will need a broadband connection, to get specific, a minimum speed of between 2Mbps-3Mbps will do. This will let you stream TV online in standard definition. But if you want to avoid the dreaded buffering screen, we suggest getting yourself fibre broadband; this connection will let you stream some TV in HD. You can even watch TV online on a mobile device, but before doing so make sure that you have a data plan with a high allowance as it is very taxing (unless you can always use Wi-Fi).

You will also need a compatible device to watch TV or live TV online. Luckily, so many devices are capable of streaming this includes:

  • Laptops
  • Desktop PCs
  • Tablets
  • Smartphones
  • iPods
  • Smart TVs

Most of these devices will require an app download and a login to a streaming service or provider. Since 2016 it is now illegal to watch BBC iPlayer without having a TV license. Fines of up to £1,000 plus court costs can be enforced for those who use the service without a TV license.

Watch TV online by streaming through provider apps

Provider apps let you have the same experience of watching your service on the TV, but on your elected compatible device. The provider apps listed below will need a subscription to enjoy the services online and their respective apps will require the details of said subscriptions in order to be able to watch TV online.

Sky

Sky’s streaming app is called Sky Go and is available to Sky TV subscribers. With it you will be able to watch all the content of your TV subscription but online and on the go. You can also stream concurrently on up to two devices and with Sky Go Extra it is up to four devices.

BT

Similarly to Sky Go, BT’s TV app is available to subscribed customers who want to stream live TV and content on compatible devices. BT TV is particularly good for catching the Champions League or Premier League games.

Virgin Media

Virgin TV Anywhere is Virgin’s version of the two above. With the same process as above, subscribers to Virgin Media TV can get access to live TV and content online.

NOW TV

NOW TV is owned by Sky and provides premium streaming content without a Sky dish. NOW TV subscriptions are called passes and you can buy a pass for the genre of content you want. You can watch on-demand and live TV, the latter of which will require a TV license.

Watch TV online by streaming Freeview channels

With the following Freeview channels it is possible to watch TV online. They all use an associated player or platform dedicated to providing live TV and selected on-demand, original content created by the respective channel.

BBC iPlayer

First of all, BBC iPlayer requires a TV license to watch live TV online, so ensure you have one before watching as the fines can be pretty severe. iPlayer allows you to watch all BBC channels live and with their original content on-demand too. It also contains the now defunct BBC Three which is solely available on BBC iPlayer.

ITV Hub

With ITV Hub you can live stream all six ITV channels across their network from the website or from their app. It operates similarly to BBC iPlayer, except you do not need a TV license.

All4

All4 is Channel 4’s online streaming platform. Formerly known as 4oD, it provides users the ability to watch all six of Channel 4’s channels either live or on-demand. All4 provides a large amount of box sets, including many popular comedy shows.

Streaming sports online

The two principle ways to watch sport online are through a BT Sport and Sky Sports subscription. Through these two services you can then download their respective apps, as listed above, and watch them online. Other ways to watch live sports online include NOW TV which allows you to purchase a Day Pass for the fee of £9.99, letting you watch Sky Sports and catch your favourite team in action.

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Danny Lord

Author: Danny Lord

Danny is our Editor-in-Chief, and has been writing news and guides for comparison sites for the last five years.