Sky is not the limit

Ten steps to trouble-free TV

1. There are three types of telly: subscription services such as Sky, streaming services such as Netflix and free-to-view options such as FreeSat.

2. All three need special bits of equipment. For a subscription, you will need a satellite dish or cable. You’ll need an internet connection for streaming and potentially a “stick” like a dongle to wedge into your TV if it isn’t smart. Even the free channels need a set-top box or a TV with a digital tuner.

3. A subscription service is the most expensive but it has the best choice of channels. Sky, for example, charges £20 a month (£25 after 18 months) and set up costs for its basic package of almost 100 channels. You can pay up to £68 a month for its top-end movie premiere and sports channels.

4. Rivals BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have similar offerings with a range of prices.

5. Too expensive? You can reduce the cost by picking your own choice of channels. Deselecting sports channels, for example, can significantly bring prices down.

6. Streaming services are cheaper and can be watched on your phone and computer as well. They offer TV shows and films mainly. You can also download programmes and save them for later. The basic package from Netflix is £5.99 a month. Sky now offers a streaming facility through the NOW TV Smart Stick.

7. Amazon’s streaming service is different as it forms part of its Prime deal. For a more costly £79 a year, you can get more content than Netflix, deals on books in its Kindle store and free next-day delivery on most of its online shopping.

8. Free-to-view options such as Freeview, Freesat, YouView and Freetime provide all the main UK terrestrial channels (BBC, ITV etc) and a good deal of others. Set-top boxes for getting catch-up, programme guides and recording start from £20 each.

9. You still need a TV licence to watch TV live or record it. You don’t need a licence if you only watch content after it's aired unless it's on BBC iPlayer.

10. Save costs by bundling your TV fees into a special deals which usually include broadband, your landline phone and possibly your mobile too.


More stuff:

  • Find a clear explanation of digital TV options here
  • Compare subscription prices at uSwitch here.
  • Everything you need to know about TV licences is here


Last updated 7 February 2019.