Which TV Provider is the best?
When comparing different TV packages, you need to think about more than just what you want to watch. Different TV providers offer different services, each with their own pros and cons.
When finding a new TV provider, often you'll think first about the price. You want the best value for money, understandably so. NOW TV offers some of the most competitively priced TV packages, when compared to BT TV, Sky TV and Virgin Media. However, it might not offer all the kinds of services you and your family are after.
While you might be tempted to go with whatever the lowest monthly cost is, one of the most important things to be aware of is the contract length, and whether or not there are any early termination fees. For example if you're in student accommodation, it makes no sense to get a 18 month contract or a 24 month contract, unless you plan to stay put. NOW TV is one of the only TV providers offering a rolling 30-day or 12 month contract, which give you a great deal more flexibility.
Some TV providers will reel you in with promise of access to on-demand TV apps such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer and 4oD. However, if you've got a smart TV, then you can already access these services automatically. Failing that, you can always plug your computer into your TV with an HDMI cable, though this can be a bit inconvenient.
However, when it comes to accessing the widest selection of channels, nothing beats Sky TV. Sky’s most basic TV package comes with 300+ channels, including Sky Atlantic, Sky One,National Geographic and Comedy Central. Higher-tier packages include access to Sky Sport, Sky Cinema and Sky box sets. There's even the option to buy temporary access passes, opening yourself up to premium HD quality channels and box sets with lower overall cost. For example, you could buy a Sky Sports Pass to watch the NFL, WWE or UEFA Champions League.
Sky's multi-room function, which does cost extra per month, allows you to watch different Sky channels simultaneously throughout the house. The inclusive 1TB set top box also allows you to pause and rewind live as well as record TV and movies. For a small fee you can upgrade to the 2TB Sky Box that stores 1000 hours of premium quality TV.
While the benefits of a Sky box can't be understated, BT Sport offers one of the most competitive and popular sports TV packages on the market. BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, BT Sport Europe and ESPN channels provide coverage of major events such as the Premier League, the Ashes and the UFC. The BT On Demand store also hosts a wide variety of films and TV shows at the click of a button, and allows you to download Sky Cinema and Sky Sports.
It's worth noting that some of these features, including BT Sport, Sky Sports, Sky Atlantic and Sky Cinema, are available as additional paid extras with other digital TV packages, for example Virgin Media.
Compare TV packages in your area
When looking for a new provider, it's important to know what kind of TV and broadband is actually available in your area. BT uses the Openreach network to provide its customers with TV and internet, which is available in around 99% of homes. To get Sky TV, you need a satellite dish, which means you need to live somewhere where there aren't too many obstructions. Virgin Media uses its own network of fibre optic cables, which is great in terms of speeds, but means it's not readily available across the country.
Use our postcode checker to see what infrastructure has already been laid in your area, so you ensure you find the best deals for your needs.Start comparing TV deals
What should I think about when comparing TV deals?
Before you tackle the seemingly endless world of comparing TV deals, remember that we've got your back. The first step is to take a look at your household's TV viewing habits.
Once you’ve got an idea of what it is you're looking for, you're ready for step two: "the search". Here are some things to think about when you’re comparing different tv packages:
It's obvious, but make sure you're realistic about your budget. If you decide you can't afford to continue with payments and decide to leave a contract early, then you may face a sizeable fine. Also be aware that many providers reel in new customers with the promise of cheap monthly fees, only to ramp up the price halfway through.
Only choose an 18 or 24 month contract if you're sure you'll be staying all the way through! It might be better to go for a 12-month or rolling 30-day subscription, especially if you're in student accommodation or are generally quite prone to moving.
You'll know from your soul searching questionnaire whether or not your likely to want on demand streaming, or to use specific cultural services like Welsh-language TV or Asian channels. Bear in mind that you can't stream Netflix from Sky set top boxes but you can from BT YouView, Virgin Q, and TalkTalk TV. However, Sky has a number of Asian channels.
Selection of channels
If you're a household that likes to have the world of entertainment at your fingertips, then Sky is probably your best bet purely because of the range of choice.
Size of household
Customers looking to be able to watch TV on a number of screens and devices simultaneously need to narrow their search to Sky, Virgin Media and BT. These providers all offer multi-room services, but they do come at a cost.
Which is the best TV package in UK?
As always, that totally depends on what you're looking for... A large family with young kids is going to need something quite different from a smaller household of film-nuts. You've got to work out what it is you want from your TV provider first.
We've had a look at what's out there to give you a comprehensive view of the best tv packages money can buy.
Best TV package for flexibility
Making sure you choose a deal with a suitable contract length is super important, and often overlooked. If you're planning to stay in your property long term, then an 18 month or 24 month contract will suit you just fine, and you can find these with BT TV, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk TV, etc. If you know you'll only be staying put for a year, then it's best to go with either a 12 month contract or rolling 30-day subscription with NOW TV.
Best TV provider for channel selection
If you want the widest selection of channels, Sky is probably the way to go. With over 300 channels on their most basic package and the option to ability to add Sky Cinema, Sky Sports and so on, you won't be starved of choice! You will need a satellite dish installed, though.
Best TV deal for large households
For those in large families or shared housing who need a multi-room TV viewing solution, you need only look at BT, Virgin Media and Sky. With Virgin TV, you'll be charged £7.50 extra per month as well as £49.95 per additional set top box. Or you can use Virgin TV Go to cast your TV show to another screen in the house (for free).
The Sky Q Mini allows Sky customers to watch different shows simultaneously around the house. The first box costs £12, then £99 per box after that.
BT offers the Extra Box service, which costs £5 extra per month as well as £49 per box, or £99 for a YouView+ Box that lets you record TV and movies.
Which TV provider is cheapest?
You'll find some of the cheapest TV deals from NOW TV, which uses an internet connection to bring you a small but significant selection of Sky channels, on a flexible month by month basis. For just £9.99 per month you'll get access to 11 Sky TV channels, including Sky Atlantic, Sky One, Comedy Central and FOX. For a one-off £11.99 payment you'll also get a 30-day TV entertainment pass for Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, Entertainment, Hayu or Sports and Kids. You also won't need a set top box to get going; just the app. So you'll need to make sure you have a Smart TV that can download from an App Store.
How to find your ideal TV package
Finding the right TV packages can be tricky. Providers often entice new customers with promises of low monthly costs, but then secretly ramp them up after, or try to sell you 300 channels when you really only want 20. We've put together a list of questions to ask yourself to make the decision a bit simpler
What are my favourite shows to watch, and which channels are they on?
Most providers have a few different base options which you can customise with add-ons for movies, entertainment, or sports, for example.
Do I need to access streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime?
If you only need access to streaming services, you might even be better off just getting a fibre broadand deal on its own, and paying for your subscriptions separately.
Do I prefer to watch TV in bed or in the living room?
Most TV providers offer limited on-demand services in addition to standard channels, but NOW TV focuses just on streaming – perfect if you watch most of your tv on your laptop.
How many people in my household watch TV at the same time?
Have a look at our guide on multi-room TV deals if you need a package that will cope with many people watching different things at once.
What channels are available?
All TV packages, except for NOW TV, come with your standard Freeview channels, including BBC 1, 2, 3 and 4, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Dave, E4, Film4, History, and so on.
Depending on which provider you choose, you're going to get access to different channels. The best selection comes from Sky, but TalkTalk and Virgin Media also offer the more significant Sky channels, such as Sky Atlantic, home to Game of Thrones, True Detective and Westworld (although sometimes at an extra cost).
What movie channels are available?
With Freeview TV, you often have a great selection of films to watch on dedicated movie channels like Film 4. You can also sign up for dedicated subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime or Mubi to get instant access to some of the best films ever made.
But when it comes to movies on demand from your TV, look no further than Sky Cinema, who have 1,000+ films to choose from (in both SD and HD), either on demand or on their dedicated film channels. Movie channel add-ons are available from pretty much every TV provider as well, at varying costs.
What sports channels are available?
BT Sport channels:
With this subscription you'll get BT Sport 1 and 2, BT Sport Europe and ESPN channels provide coverage of major events such as the Premier League, Ashes and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The BT On Demand store also hosts a wide variety of films and TV shows at the click of a button - and allows you to download Sky Cinema and Sky Sports programming.
Sky Sports channels:
Sky Sport's 10 dedicated channels cover the latest football (including the Premier League), golf, cricket, Formula 1, Rugby Union, Rugby League, boxing, darts, NFL, tennis and more. There’s also of course the option to add Sky Cinema, to enjoy some of the best and latest cinematic releases.
Both of these services are available as add-ons with other TV providers, for example Virgin Media and NOW TV, helping you make a decision that's tailored just to your needs.
Frequently asked questions
Can I watch Netflix on Virgin Media, Sky, BT or TalkTalk?
Mostly yes - it's only Sky's set top box that doesn't let you stream via Netflix.
Can I watch digital TV on my laptop?
Certainly! You can download the NOW TV App or visit the website to start streaming today.
Do I need a broadband connection to watch digital TV?
Yes; you need to make sure you have a strong and healthy internet connection in order to watch digital TV.
Do I still need a TV license to watch digital TV?
Not necessarily. The TV license only applies to the BBC, so if you're catching up on something via BBC iPlayer then yes you'll need to make sure you've paid the license.
Last reviewed: 08 June 2021
Next review: 08 July 2021