Sky is a large TV platform that offers many different bundles and services. They boast of their millions of customers and premium services. However, their basic tier for watching TV–Sky TV may not be the best option on the market, not even within Sky’s own products.
Despite the minimal competition in the UK cable industry, there are many alternatives to Sky. You can break it down to services within Sky, other TV companies, free TV platforms, and streaming online. Whether you want to stay in the cable system or become a cable cutter yourself, you can find new ways to enjoy your favourite shows.
Is Sky TV Worth It?
Switching to another company begins with the question: is it worth it? There is no simple answer. It depends on whether you enjoy the basic subscription or not. If you love everything it has to offer, it is worth it. However, if you keep getting add-on services, it might not be for you.
What Do You Get With Sky TV?
The basic plan for Sky TV is £25 per month excluding the setup fees. There are many available channels. They have free channels like BBC One and Channel 4 and their in-house channels Sky Documentaries, Sky Atlantic, Sky History, and Sky Nature.
They also have deals with paid channels like Pick, Fox, Comedy Central, TLC, Syfy, Sky Sports News, Zee TV, MTV, etc. Your Sky subscription has 2,500 series available, which is around 27,000 hours of entertainment.
Now, these may seem great, but to enjoy the ultimate TV experience that Sky offers, you need to add to your plan. The Ultimate TV adds on is another £6 per month. If you are an avid sports fan, you may need to purchase the sports channels individually, or through their complete sports pack, that’s an additional £18-£30.
Even with SkyGo as a free service, their ultimate experience is far beyond the first £25. Your Sky subscription can go up to £80. With more upgrades, you are essentially switching to Sky Q. Sky Q starts at the same price but with £20 for installation and £14 for multi-room features.
What Are The Common Issues With Sky?
The common issue with Sky is that while TV viewing experiences develop, they do little to upgrade their primary offerings. Your Sky subscription can reach £99 per month with all the upgrades. For most people, Ultimate TV might be a bit too expensive. If you are ready to switch, check below for other options.
What Are The Sky TV Alternatives?
Yes! There are many alternatives to Sky TV. However, there is no clear answer about the best one. It depends on what you are willing to do and how much you are ready to spend. The sky alternatives are other TV companies, free TV platforms, and online streaming.
All of these three can deliver quality entertainment at an affordable budget. However, if you want to expand your experience, you can always opt to subscribe to a better plan or find exclusive deals. Let’s go through your free options first.
What Are My Free TV Platform Options?
Never forget the kings of TV: Freeview and Freesat channels. They continue to be a popular way to view shows and movies. Both require some form of installation, but they are quite affordable and accessible.
Freeview is the leading platform for free TV channels using an indoor or outdoor aerial. Your aerials pick up the signals from TV transmitters nearby. While these have a vast collection of free shows to watch, the availability of the channels depends on the area. You can check out what’s available by going to their TV guide for more details.
No matter where you are there should be a good mix of live TV, radio, and entertainment channels for you to enjoy. If you live in the city or the countryside, your aerial can pick up major channels. You can still watch Channel 4, ITV, and BBC One.
The main cons about Freeview are that you don’t get everything they have and aerials may be a little temperamental. However, the main pros are that there are no monthly fees and very minimal upkeep. If you live near TV transmitters, like the city, it can be an excellent investment.
Freesat channels are similar to Freeview with their free channels. However, instead of aerials, you need a satellite dish. There are little to no indoor dishes available. Not all alternatives to Sky need professional instalment, but that extra help goes a long way.
Outdoor aerials and satellite dishes can be dangerous to install on your own as they are typically on the side of your house or on the roof. Companies like Aerialforce can do the installments for you.
What makes Freesat so great? A Satellite dish is a popular choice among cable cutters because of how much they can receive. If you have a motorised one, you can enjoy a whole range of shows just by slightly adjusting the angle. You can also continue to use your old sky box even though you are not using their services.
You can also catch-up with shows from different entertainment channels on their apps like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, and Demand 5. But what if you do not have broadband connection? With a TV box, you can also record these shows instead of watching online. There is a way to catch up to your favourite entertainment channels.
Besides UK channels, you can pick up international channels from other countries. For this to happen, you need to check out what satellites are near you. The satellite dish has a lot of range, so it is popular in the countryside where TV transmitters are few and far between. Aerial and cable connection are not always available, but the dishes are.
Other TV Companies Besides Sky?
There are three household names for TV providers in the UK: Sky, Virgin, and BT. If you are looking for an alternative to Sky TV, then Virgin and BT are the next in line. Let’s take a closer look at these pay-TV options.
Virgin Media and Sky have a rocky relationship, but that’s competition for you. Virgin Media is a cable company with a select service area since they do not use aerials or dishes. They have five main tiers for your TV subscription:
- Big with 114 channels
- Big + Drama with 147 channels
- Bigger with 222 channels
- Bigger + Movies with 245 channels
- Ultimate Oomph with 261 channels
These plans and numbers can change in the future. They also have a broadband setup and extra channels for an additional fee.
Pro Tip: For families with children, popular channels for kids like Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Boomerang, and their junior versions are only available in the Ultimate Oomph plan.
Its setup price is quite steep when you compare it to aerial and satellite dish installations — £35 for new customers. For families who want more than one V6 box, there is a £49.95 V6 activation fee, but these vary depending on the package. It is hard to gauge the total monthly payments of Virgin TV since you can customise it to your liking.
But these premium prices have their benefits as well. Their TV box and cable connection are what makes it so expensive, but it is also how you can get premium channels and catch up TV players on your smart TV with BBC iPlayer, All4, and Sky On Demand. Virgin TV is less like Sky TV and more like Sky Q. They also have better reception all-around.
In summary, Virgin TV might not be the best choice if you want something cheaper than Sky TV. It is still a top-tier service that can get pretty expensive. It is a good change of pace for people who are tired of poor connections.
BT TV strengths do not lie in expansive TV channels like Sky or Virgin. Two main things make BT TV interesting. The first is that BT TV comes with its broadband and fibre connections. The second is its sports channels. Unlike Sky and Virgin, BT Sports owns the exclusive rights for most of the Champions League matches including Europa League. For these sports series, you can enjoy live TV and experience the game with everybody else. From cricket to WWE, they have a collection made for avid sports enthusiasts, especially football fans.
Another critical thing to note is that BT TV does not use satellites like Sky or cable-like Virgin. BT TV uses TV, aerials and broadbands. The TV aerial gets regular shows that are a part of Freeview, and the broadband gets the premium channels.
BT TV has three main TV subscriptions, all of these come with a 24-month contract and a £9.99 delivery fee:
- Entertainment at £5 for the first 6 months then £10 every month afterwards
- Big Entertainment at £20 per month
- VIP at £60 per month
They all have Freeview channels available. Big Entertainment has Sky channels like Sky Atlantic and Sky Nature, and Now TV channels as well. VIP has everything from the previous packages, including the sports package and HD channels. Now, these rates and packages may change in the future.
Wild Card: Now TV
While we are discussing alternatives to Sky TV, it does not have to mean leaving Sky completely. If you dislike the other TV companies, you can opt to stay under Now TV. Now TV is a streaming subscription under Sky. Think Netflix, but with your TV company.
You can have any kind of fibre or broadband connection and enjoy. If you do not have an existing internet plan, Now TV also has fibre plans that you can easily bundle.
Now TV has flexible plans, so you can pay for the shows you watch. There are different TV passes. All you have to do is select the ones you like. You can change these every month, here are some TV passes and their rates:
- Entertainment Pass at £8.99 a month
- Sky Cinema Pass at £11.99 a month
- Sky Sports Pass at £5.99 a month
- Kids Pass at £3.99 a month
- Hayu Pass at £3.99 a month
All of these passes have a free 7-day trial. You can cancel them at any time. If you struggle with Sky’s rates for the shows you want, Now TV might be a great alternative. Select the ones you really watch like the entertainment pass and the kids pass and save money by avoiding the ones you never watch. You can get premium shows at a more affordable price.
What Is The Best TV Package In The UK?
Now that we have gone through the list of different TV companies in the UK, which one is the best? It is difficult to say. Not only are people’s viewing habits different, but promotions also come and go. The best deal today might not be the same tomorrow.
The top three most affordable packages without skimping on the content are: Virgin Media Big Bundle at £29.99 per month, NOW Brilliant Broadband and Entertainment at £22.99 per month, and NOW Brilliant Broadband and Sky Cinema at £23.99. If we are looking at other companies as well, BT Entertainment with Fibre 1 at £32.99 per month and TalkTalk Fast Broadband with TV and Entertainment Boost at £33.50 would be the next contenders.
Can Online Streaming Services Replace Sky?
The TV viewing experience is a nostalgic one. The many pitfalls of TV are now endearing qualities. With TV, you never really know what you are going to catch. The compromise could lead to wonderful discoveries. Flipping through the channels has a distinct feeling that online streaming cannot replicate. There is also the option of live TV that can be rare for movie streaming services.
However, just because it has a strong nostalgic element does not mean it is the best choice for everyone. Streaming online is for people who like to watch their shows deliberately. It is also an excellent option for people who want to catch up on TV in their own time.
Online streaming services are so flexible. They work on most devices from your smartphone to your smart TVs. If you have a great TV setup, you can continue to enjoy your movie nights the same way you would with a cable.
There are many streaming websites and apps on the market. While their prices are within the same range, they can offer different shows. Here are four options you can consider:
Who hasn’t heard of Netflix and their original movies and series? Netflix is an American streaming app where you can download your shows and watch offline. They have a good selection of films and series from around the world, though like most services the availability varies on your location. You always have to consider who owns the rights in your country.
However, even without the big names, you can have a pleasurable experience with their in-house content. If the kids in your home want to watch Klaus, Hilda, and Carmen Sandiego, Netflix has a list for children of all ages. Netflix continually creates its movies and series for different countries. Unlike their other material, these are available in all locations.
Netflix plans vary depending on how many screens you want. The monthly payments are £5.99 for one screen, £8.99 for two screens, and £11.99 for four screens. The standard plan comes with an HD option and the premium service, an Ultra HD option.
Amazon Prime Video
If you love online shopping, you most likely have an Amazon Prime membership. Even the occasional online splurge and rack up points like crazy. One of the benefits of being a Prime member is their streaming service. You can be a Prime member for £7.99 per month and enjoy the benefits of Prime Video. You can also opt to get a Prime Video membership on its own for £5.99 per month. Since the monthly fees are so close sometimes it is easier to be an Amazon Prime member from the get go.
Prime Video has a collection of Amazon originals. You can watch shows like Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, The Man in the High Castle, The Expanse, Good Omens, and The Boys. They also have TV series and movies that vary depending on your location.
If particular series or movies are not available, you can easily get them since the streaming platform connects to Amazon Prime. Digital copies are not for everyone, you can opt to get physical copies. Buy the box sets of your favourite series on Amazon Prime. Having the CD/ DVD in your hands is a different experience and there are people who crave that.
MUBI is not a common choice, but it is an excellent option for film lovers who are tired of seeing the same things. MUBI is a streaming service that focuses on award-winning films and indie selections from around the world. They advertise it as films that would not fill a theatre in a week but have an audience when you expand the range. If you want to watch Buffet Froid, Kansas City Confidential, Meshes of the Afternoon, or The Night I Swam along with other international pieces MUBI is for you.
They have a free, monthly, and yearly plan. The free plan is just access to MUBI’s forums and reviews. You do not have to watch from MUBI to experience the community. However, if you want to stream the shows, it is $10.99, which is roughly £ 8.65 per month. You can opt for their yearly plan at $95.88, which is around £75.45.
They also have MUBI Go which is a movie pass for smaller productions. It is only available in the UK at the moment and is relatively new.
YouTube, Google Play, and iTunes
If you want to stay away from the TV subscription altogether, you can purchase the movies and series you like one by one. YouTube has a rent/ pay per view or purchase option for films on its platform. You can opt to pay online or through your mobile bill. Google Play and iTunes also have the same opportunities, and the payment plan is similar to purchasing apps or getting credit. You can pay via card, or buy a point/gift card.
It may be a little bit pricey since you are purchasing the shows individually. It is not the way to go for most people. If you know what you like, it can be an alternative to SkyTV experience in general. Unlike purchasing CDs and DVDs, it is more flexible, and you can watch on your different devices.
Netflix and Amazon are common choices for people who make the online switch. However, if you choose to stay with your TV company, you can also get accounts in these services. It will link to your cable bill and it simplifies your monthly payments.
Should You Make The Switch?
There is an alternative for every type of viewer. Whether you want to stick with Sky under a different plan or become a true cable cutter, entertainment is not limited to the TV screen. You can enjoy the same quality, if not better, with other services.
Try to assess what you have and how much you are willing to spend. Take note of what your household members watch and look into plans that cater to them. Most of the online streaming services come with a free trial period. Test the waters and see if you like that experience better or if it’s TV all the way. There is no doubt that you will find an alternative the whole family can enjoy.