Top TV packages for winter

The nights are drawing in – the clocks go back on October 27 – and the long, dark evenings mean it’s peak telly-watching season. So now’s the time to make sure you’re on the best-value subscription TV package.

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Here, we take a look at who’s offering what in the paid-for TV world and consider different ways to watch the programmes you want, when you want…

The UK’s top TV providers

Long gone are the days of four (or even three!) TV channels and a midnight shut down, complete with the national anthem. We can now watch television 24-hours a day, across hundreds of channels. Weirdly, though, there are just four main subscription providers…

Sky

Sky is the UK’s most popular provider of subscription television services, with upwards of 11million customers using the combination of a satellite dish and a SKY+ box to watch and record digital television. It offers inclusive sports, movie and entertainment packages and also comes with a range of on-demand services, such as Sky Go, which enables you to watch on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Sky has also introduced NowTV. For a payment of £9.99 you will receive an additional set top box that turns your TV into a ‘smart TV’, meaning you can access live and catch-up TV channels, download apps and even stream Sky Sport and Sky Movies, though this comes at an extra daily cost.

Sky’s latest offering is On Demand, which comes loaded with TV series box sets and also offers catch-up services and access to a selection of movies. This comes included in all bundles for new customers or existing customers can add it to their current package for £5 per month.

If you want to lump in broadband and telephone subscriptions along with your television subscription – buying them as a bundle often works out more cost-effective – then you will find a full range of Sky subscription services on our Sky Digital channel.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media uses cable technology to stream its services into homes and, although its UK network is extensive, it’s by no means comprehensive and so isn’t yet available to everyone. To check whether you can get Virgin Media in your area, simply use this postcode checker.

Virgin Media offers a selection of multi-channel services while its TiVo digital video recorder gives you the option to watch and record digital and on-demand TV (you can record up to three programmes simultaneously).

As far as bundles go, Virgin offers a range of TV, telephone and broadband packages, with speeds of up to 30Mb on even the most basic offering. Furthermore, nailing your colours to Virgin’s mast doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all of Sky’s offerings as Virgin customers can still subscribe to certain Sky packages, including Sky sports and Sky Movies.

For a breakdown of Virgin Media bundles and the costs involved (we give you the monthly cost and the true annual cost, including line rental), visit our Virgin Media channel.

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BT

BT upped its game in the summer by taking over where US sports channel, ESPN, left off and showing a host of live, exclusive FA Premier League games on its new BT Sport channels.

This means all BT TV and broadband customers get access to BT Sport 1 and BT Sport 2 services – so this is a good option for those who want Premier League football but don’t want to pay through the nose for it. However, although cheaper, BT Sport does not show as many games as Sky Sports.

Football aside, a BT Vision + box will give you access to over 70 digital TV and radio channels, access to over 12,000 on-demand shows, a 7-day catch-up service across all channels and you can also use the box as a recorder to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

For an extra cost, you can also add more channels including Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2.

To check out what TV, telephone and broadband bundles are on offer, try our BT channel, here.

TalkTalk

Arguably the forgotten man of TV subscription services, TalkTalk offers pretty much the same as BT – that is, a YouView set top box that connects over broadband to access over 70 Freeview channels – but it seems to have fallen behind considerably since BT bagged the football.

However, TalkTalk does still offer a competitive TV, telephone and broadband bundle. Its YouView box allows you to record for over 200 hours, and all its broadband deals come with unlimited downloads.

For a full run down of bundles and costs, click on our TalkTalk channel.

TalkTalk viewers also get access to more channels, including as Sky 1, Sky Sports, and Sky Movies, as well as a range of music and kids’ channels, by adding on TV Boosts. These come at an extra monthly cost and are only available to customers with a download speed of 5Mb or more using a Huawei YouView Box supplied by TalkTalk.

Why Sky’s not the limit

In addition to the services above, there’s a range of streaming services that can add even more variety to those cosy nights in in front of the box…

Netflix is an online television streaming service which has really taken off in the UK over the last year or so and scored a massive coup in securing the final season of cult TV show Breaking Bad. It allows subscribers to stream a whole host of films, TV programmes, kids’ programmes and documentaries over any number of devices, including games consoles, smartphones and tablets, at any one time.

Netflix is available for £5.99 a month and can be streamed through your telly by hooking it up to your PC or laptop using an HDMI cable or via a PS3, Xbox360, Wii or Wii U console. And because there’s no limit on the number of devices you can stream on, you can watch your favourite show on the big telly while the kids watch theirs on a tablet. Or vice versa, of course.

And although it’s not an alternative to any of the above options, it could be a great way to while away those long, cold winter nights.

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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