Choosing the right satellite sports package can be a minefield, however, as the channels you receive and the cost can vary widely depending upon which provider you choose, so it is well worth shopping around to find the best package to suit your needs.
Here, we take a look at the various available options….
Sky is probably the UK’s best-known provider of televised sports and this is due in no small part to the high profile deals they always strike with the Premier League which gives them exclusive rights to certain fixtures.
Although football is their flagship sport, Sky Sports also cover rugby union, rugby league, cricket, boxing and darts as well as a host of other sports and sporting events from around the world.
It costs £19.50 per month for a basic Sky package and, if you get the News & Events pack then you will receive Sky Sports News, Eurosport, Eurosport 2, At the Races, ESPN Classics, Motors TV, Extreme Sports and Real Madrid TV as part of the deal.
Whilst there are a number of live sporting events on a few of these channels they do not show British football, rugby or cricket.
To watch any of these sports then you will have to upgrade to one of Sky’s Sports Packs, of which there are three.
The most comprehensive, and most expensive, package is the Sky Sports Pack + ESPN which gives you all four Sky Sports channels, Sky Sports News, ESPN and ESPN America and this costs an extra £29.95 per month on top of your basic package.
The cost for all of the Sky Sports packages without ESPN is £20.25 per month on top of your basic package or you can take ESPN as a standalone package for and extra £12 per month.
In addition, if you are a supporter of either Manchester United or Chelsea then you can get MUTV and Chelsea TV for an extra £6 per month.
If your main reason for subscribing is football then you will probably need to go for the Sky Sports Pack + ESPN as, in addition to Sky’s televised fixtures, ESPN will show 23 live Premier League games, 30 live SPL games as well as FA Cup and Europa League games.
The downside to this is that it will cost you, at the very least £49.45 per month once you factor in your basic package too, or £54.45 if you have the full Entertainment package.
Virgin Media offer three levels of basic package that vary in both price and the amount of channels they offer. For this comparison we will just concentrate on the sports channels each package offers.
The first package is M+ which, for £6.50 per month will give you Sky Sports News, Eurosport and Eurosport 2.
For £12.50 per month you can upgrade to L, which will give you these three channels as well as Extreme Sports.
The XL package is £24.50 per month which gives you all the sports channels on the L package as well as ESPN, ESPN America and ESPN Classic. This is actually a very cost effective way of getting all of the football that ESPN shows as well as a further 160 channels.
If you have the XL package but want a more comprehensive sports package then you will have to take out the Sky Sports Collection which will give you all four Sky Sports channels and will cost an extra £22.50 per month on top of your M+, L or XL subscription.
In addition, if you have the Sky Sports package then you can add ESPN to your M or L package for an extra £6 per month, which means that, you can get the most comprehensive sports package available for £35 per month, a saving of £14.45 per month.
If you opt for Virgin’s XL package with the Sky Sports Collection then this will set you back £47 per month, a saving of £7.45 per month on the most comprehensive Sky package.
Furthermore, Virgin are currently offering a 50 per cent discount on their M+, L and XL packages for six months.
There are cheaper sports packages available through other providers but they are not a comprehensive as those offered by either Sky or Virgin Media.
BT Vision is trying to make inroads into televised sport and is concentrating mainly on football in order to do this.
They have two basic entertainment packages; Essential which costs £4 per month and Unlimited which costs £12.50 per month
Both packages come with all of the Freeview channels as well as BBCi player and for 50p per month you can add Vision Sport to your Essential package but it does not show any football, not even archived matches.
The Unlimited package comes with Vision Sport (for what it’s worth) as well as a variety of other channels for that cover children’s television, music, lifestyle etc and also has ESPN included.
For an extra £12.30 per month you can add Sky Sports 1 or 2 or can add both channels for £17.40 per month. For £17.40 per month on top of your normal subscription you can add both channels.
Although you cannot get Sky Sports 3 and 4, most Premier League and Champions League football is shown on Sky Sports 1 and 2.
This means that you can get most of your football with BT Vision for £29.90 per month and, whilst not a comprehensive as either Sky or Virgin media, it represents a significant monthly saving on both!
The final contender is Freeview, which charges no basic monthly fee and offers a variety of sports packages.
ESPN can be added, with no contract, for £9.99 per month or can be viewed with a 12 month contract for £7.49 per month.
Sky Sports 1 can be added for £19.99 per month with no contract, Sky sports 1 and 2 will cost £32.99 per month whilst a more complete package of Sky Sports 1, 2 and ESPN will set you back £39.99 per month.
Again, as with the equivalent BT Vision package, this is not as comprehensive as Sky or Virgin Media but offers a more than adequate package if live football is the main reason for your subscription.
Freeview differs from the other three providers in that there is no monthly fee for the basic package, you simply need to by a Freeview set top box or a Freeview-ready television, all of which differ in price according to the model you buy.
Freesat is a service similar to Freeview but it does not have any scope for adding channels nor does it have any sports channels as standard.
So who’s best?
The answer to this depends largely upon what you want from a sports package but will also be determined by the area you live in. For example, not all areas are suitable for cable television (Virgin Media) and the quality of reception for Freeview can be dependant upon where you live.
Freeview is the option that is most likely to be readily available to most but BT Vision offer the cheapest sports package, particularly for football fans.
However, neither Freeview nor BT Vision offers the broad range of sports that are offer by both Sky and Virgin Media.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.