Compare digital TV packages
Trawling through digital TV packages can be confusing. Here’s our guide to making sure you get the most suitable deal.
What is digital TV?
Digital TV means that you’re receiving your TV signal in a digital format, rather than in analogue format. All TV in the UK is now digital. There are lots of advantages to this, including:
- better picture and sound quality
- more channels
- on-demand services
- more interactivity and internet access
There is, however, more than one type of digital television service:
This form of digital TV, known in the UK as Freeview, is typically for people who are upgrading from analogue TV to digital services. The upgrade is very straightforward, as digital TV is received via your existing TV aerial, via an additional set-top box that can be bought for as little as £15 for older TVs. Newer TVs are already set up to receive Freeview via the aerial.
Digital satellite TV
This approach refers to TV that’s received via a satellite dish. Freesat offers a competitive satellite product. However, with the increasing delivery of fast broadband wired directly into the home via a phone line, the use of satellite dishes is decreasing, in favour of broadband-delivered digital TV.
Digital TV via broadband
Digital TV packages served via broadband are delivered via a network of high-speed fibre optic cables, directly to your door. This is increasingly the preferred delivery method for digital TV, with the largest choice of content providers.
What should I think about when comparing TV deals?
If you’re planning on getting a TV package, there are a few things to think about, such as:
Which TV services can you receive?
Most homes in the UK can get at least one digital TV service. Satellite TV from Sky or Freesat can be accessed in around 99% of UK homes, while Virgin's cable service goes to around 50% of homes. Our comparison tool will ask you for your postcode, so you’ll be able to see the deals you can actually get where you live.See what you can get now
How much are the set-up costs?
Set-up costs can vary between £0 and £35 – sometimes more – so it's something to watch out for when weighing up the total cost over the year. Our comparison tool helps here by showing this, as well as the monthly figure.
Which channels do you really want to watch?
You don’t want to pay for live sports or dedicated movie channels if you’re not going to watch them. Check which channels screen your favourite shows and stick to those.
It may make sense for you to buy a package from Virgin or Sky, or you could find that’s expensive. Decide your budget first, otherwise it’s easy to find yourself paying for extra channels you might not need.
You may just want to stick with streaming services, like Netflix and Amazon, in which case you’ll want to make sure you have fast enough broadband to use them.
Other questions to ask yourself include:
- Do you want Ultra HD (Ultra high definition) or HD (which has around four times less resolution)?
- Do you want a deal that allows you to pause, record and rewind TV shows?
- Do you want on-demand TV, or TV on the go?
- Do you want to access digital TV in different rooms or on different devices?
- How long are you happy to sign up for?
While many contracts are just for 12 months, some TV providers might want you to sign up for 18 months or maybe longer for some deals. You'll need to decide if you’re happy with a longer contract.
Which TV providers do we compare?
We compare great TV and broadband packages from these providers:
Get all the action from BT Sport, plus Freeview channels, AMC drama and the option to bolt on premium channels. Sky Sports and Sky Cinema packages are available with superfast broadband. See more on BT.
Watch web-based streaming apps including YouTube and BBC iPlayer using EE’s Apple TV set-top box. There’s also the option to add BT Sport Ultimate.
Choose from a range of Sky TV packages with Now TV’s Entertainment and Sports Pass. Options include Sky Cinema, Sky Sports and Sky Atlantic, plus other premium channels.
Add YouView TV to your Plusnet Unlimited Fibre broadband package and get 20 premium channels, 70 Freeview channels and BT Sport Lite. See more on Plusnet.
Enjoy the latest movies and sporting action, with up to 159 TV Freeview and premium channels, and Sky Sports, Cinema and Entertainment bundles to choose from. See more on Sky.
Get over 100 premium and Freeview channels with TalkTalk’s Entertainment Boost package. Bundles for sports and movies are also available. See more on TalkTalk.
Be spoilt for small screen entertainment choice with a huge range of channels – 265 in the biggest bundle, plus premium sports and movies packages to choose from. See more on Virgin Media.
Get your favourite streaming apps up on the bigger screen with Vodafone’s Apple TV set-top box.
Which TV providers have multiroom?
Most big providers, including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk offer multiroom TV, but if this is what you want, it’s always best to check. You might need extra set-top boxes too, so check prices.
Which is the cheapest TV provider?
The cheapest TV offering depends on what you want. The more premium channels and features you add, the more expensive your TV package is likely to be. Of course, providers can offer cut-price deals at any time, so you might be able to get the right TV package to suit you, for less. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to compare.
Frequently asked questions
Should I get my TV package with broadband and phone?
If you haven’t switched suppliers in the past two years, you could likely save money by doing so. And you could save even more by combining your digital TV package with your broadband and phone. Certainly, you should find there’s room to negotiate.
Combining your TV with your broadband and phone is also easier as it means you’ve only got one supplier, one contract and one bill. But it may leave you locked into a long contract, so check the small print.
Where can I compare digital TV packages?
We can help – compare deals from a range of providers and find the one that works for you.
What is internet TV?
Internet TV or IPTV (internet protocol television) is TV delivered via a broadband connection rather than a TV aerial or a cable. On-demand streaming services like the BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Apple TV and Sky Q are all examples of internet TV. You can watch internet TV on a television set, as well as your digital devices, but you’ll need a smart TV or set-top box.
Do I need a TV licence to watch digital TV?
If you watch or record live TV programmes on any channel, or watch or download any BBC programmes, you must have a TV licence.
Do I need a satellite dish for digital TV?
You’ll need a dish for Freesat – the free service backed by the BBC and ITV. You’ll also need one for Sky, although a dish-free service is in the pipeline. A dish is required if you want to get TV channels from a country outside the UK.
Do TV packages include streaming?
Most of the major TV providers, including TalkTalk, EE and Virgin Media, offer on-demand streaming from the likes of BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Check the package you’re interested in for details of exactly what it offers.
Can I watch digital TV on my laptop?
Watching TV doesn’t have to be about sitting in front of a TV set. Many TV providers offer apps and websites, making TV packages accessible from tablets, laptops and mobiles. Services include Sky Go, BT TV, TalkTalk TV and Virgin TV Anywhere. Check the package you’re interested in for details of the devices you can access it on.
Can I record TV and movies?
You can record your favourite TV shows with a personal video recorder (PVR) or set-top boxes with a hard drive, including the TalkTalk TV Plus Box, the BT TV box and Sky Q.