5 cheaper alternatives to Sky

Sky TV customers who have been subscribers for less than 12 months as of today (September 1), or who sign up from now onwards, are set to be hit with a range of price hikes – which kick in immediately.

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Sports fans will face the biggest hikes as Sky Sports packages jump from £22 a month to £24.50 – marking hike of more than 11%.

Sky says the rises are to help fund £600m investment in ‘great British TV’ during 2014. But we don’t really care about that.

The fact is, you don’t HAVE to stick with Sky. And to prove it, we’ve rounded up 5 cheaper options:

1. Netflix: £6.99 a month

The online streaming service now has more than 50million subscribers worldwide, and continues to produce original series while expanding its already-decent library of film and television titles.

Sign up for £6.99 a month (cancellable at any time) and you’ll be able to watch the popular TV shows like Breaking Bad, 24 and American Horror Story, new and classic films, such as The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, as well as original series like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and BoJack Horseman.

Disney-owned Marvel Studios, the people behind so many superhero films over the last few years, is also going ahead with plans to expand its cinematic universe with original Netflix series based on some of its characters, such as Daredevil.

Everything’s stream-able in ‘Super HD’ (1080p) and, as a long-time subscriber I can tell you, runs seamlessly. But there’s nothing for sports fans, as Netflix has no live programming.

2. Amazon Prime Instant Video: £5.99 a month

Amazon’s Netflix-alike streaming service has a similarly large, HD library of television programmes like Vikings, Arrow and Community, as well as plenty of new and classic films, including the likes of The Impossible, The Bling Ring and Stand By Me.

Though it is slightly cheaper and has an arguably slicker interface than Netflix, I’ve found streaming a little more troublesome on Prime Instant Video, with buffering and errors interrupting my viewing on occasion.

The fact is, you don't HAVE to stick with Sky. And to prove it, we've rounded up 5 cheaper options

Like Netflix, Amazon can’t compete with Sky for sport – as there isn’t any.

3. Blinkbox: titles start at 99p

Tesco’s video-on-demand service, Blinkbox, is a bit different to Netflix and Amazon’s, because you pay per title, rather than a monthly subscription, and choose to either rent or buy.

If you’re after newer movies, Blinkbox just edges out Netflix and Amazon, and pretty much matches Sky’s £16.50-a-month movies package. At the time of writing, I found the likes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Divergent and Locke.

Pricing varies from title to title. For example you can rent Captain America for £3.49 (£4.49 in HD) or buy it for £9.99 (£13.99 in HD). Liberal Arts (one of my favourites) costs just £6.99 to buy and download. Movie Mondays sees selected rental titles discounted to 99p once a week.

In TV, Blinkbox features the likes of Game of Thrones, True Detective and Breaking Bad – but titles are only available to buy.

If you were to buy all six series of Breaking Bad in HD, you’d currently pay £110.94. Meanwhile, you could watch the same content via Netflix or Amazon for considerably less.

And again, there’s no sport.

4. NOW TV: £9.99 for a box, then from £4.99 a month

This is actually Sky’s no-contract video-on-demand service. £9.99 buys you the NOW TV box, and then you sign up for a ‘pass’ for movies (£8.99 per month), entertainment (£4.99 per month), sports (£6.99 for a day pass, £10.99 for a week pass) or all of the above.

The movies pass offers 16 new premieres every month and 800 on-demand films. The entertainment pass lets you watch 12 Pay TV channels live, including the likes of Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, MTV and the Disney Channel. Finally, the sports pass lets you watch all Sky Sports channels live, either for a day or an entire week.

5. Chromecast dongle: one-off cost of £30

A very different proposition, this one. The Google Chromecast dongle lets you stream whatever you can find to watch on the internet via your laptop, phone or tablet, to your TV – wirelessly.

Plug the dongle into your TV’s HDMI port and it essentially turns the old, internet-less device into a smart TV.

The obvious uses are services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix, but as many channels have catch-up services on their websites, you can cast all manner of content to your TV.

And with a bit of technical jiggery-pokery (Google is your friend here); it’s possible to cast and watch content from the websites of overseas networks way before it’s screened in the UK.

What about Virgin Media and BT?

The absolute cheapest bundle available from Sky costs £16 a month (for 12 months), plus a £10 set-up cost. That’s £202 for the first year and buys you 35 entertainment channels, hundreds of free-to-view channels.

It’s very difficult to compare pay-TV subscription packages like-for-like, but the cheapest TV package from Virgin Media costs £16 a month (plus a one-off installation charge of £49.95) and gets you a 500GB TiVo box for recording, live pausing and rewinding, and 70+ channels (including 10 in HD).

While Sky’s cheapest deal is £16 a month for now (it’s normally £21.50), it means Virgin Media is more expensive at £241.95 in year one.

Meanwhile, the absolute cheapest deal BT will give costs £10 a month for the first six months, then £22.45 for the next six months – along with line rental at £15.99 a month, plus £49 in activation fees. All in all, that’s £435.58 for the first year.

For that you get 70 Freeview channels, 20 premium channels, catch-up TV and a YouView + box. It’s bundled with broadband at speeds of up to 38Mb and with a 20GB usage limit.

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

 

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