Alternatives To Sky TV
Today, Sky is no longer the last word in home entertainment. As aerial installers in Wrexham I remember once upon a time when there was only a choice between 4 or 5 analogue channels, most of which were often snowy and grainy or had serious ghosting? Anyway, it was possible to improve the reception and picture on your TV with Sky Digital, plus a load more add-on TV channels. When you signed up as a new customer, you got a “free” satellite dish installation, which in most cases made a lot of sense than repairing or replacing a TV aerial that no longer worked correctly. The downside was that you gave up access to free TV.
Luckily, those days are long gone. Nowadays, you have a whole wealth of options for TV available. Some you have to pay for, and other you don’t need to. Some are accessed over the internet, others via satellite, and others via the TV aerial. This means Sky no longer has a monopoly on things like movies and sports, with options like Netflix and BT Vision now available.
We prepared this guide for people who are considering leaving Sky for another provider, but are not exactly sure how to go about it. Don’t forget that for TV of any kind in the UK, you need to have a TV licence, regardless of whether you only stream TV via the internet.
Alternatives to Sky TV: Cheaper Alternatives
We’ve decided to categorise the available options into two separate categories. These are how the TV content is broadcast and received at your home, and whether it free of charge or subscription based. We’ll also include some of the pros and cons for each of the listed services.
Premium Pay TV Similar to Sky TV
All of the platforms listed in this section require a recurrent subscription.
- Accessed via: Internet and TV Aerial
- Cost: Between £6 and £31 a month. Upfront fees might apply
- Pros: offers a good amount of sports content.
- Cons: It’s not ideal for areas with poor signal
BT vision is a form of TV provider equivalent to Sky TV. Lots of people who leave SKY often end up subscribing to BT Vision. It’s good to note that BT Vision is delivered and received through a TV aerial unlike Sky TV which uses a satellite dish. This is one of the things that the sales people are not always keen to point out.
Personally, I’ve seen many installations where the customers had no idea that they couldn’t be able to use their satellite dish with their new BT Vision. You should therefore have this in mind before leaving Sky for BT Vision, no matter what you have – a satellite dish, TV aerial or two, and whether they are in full working condition.
For those that don’t have a TV aerial already, remember to account for the cost of getting one when making your decision. Currently, a new standard TV aerial installation will cost you £185 (incl. VAT), though it’s good to check our full pricing guide on how much a TV aerial installation costs.
In order for the BT Vision to work correctly, you need to connect it to a broadband internet connection. Why? Well, their TV service works by combining the traditional Freeview that’s received through an aerial and subscription TV streaming such as movies, sports, etc. with on-demand content that’s only delivered through the internet.
BT Vision’s Youview platform essentially brings all the services together. So, if you’re not familiar with the Freeview channels, you won’t necessarily know what channels are only available over the internet and those that come via the TV aerial. All in all, it’s the paid subscription channels and services that are delivered online.
It’s also worth noting that we’re yet to come across a BT vision bot that’s WIFI compatible. As such, if you already have a Sky TV box and are currently connected to the internet via WIFI, you need to consider the cost and work needed to get you a wired connection in order to replicate the current setup.
- Accessed Via: Cable
- Costs: Between £26 and £52 per month. Initial setup fees may apply
- Pros: Offers similar amount of services to Sky TV, with no TV aerial or satellite dish required
- Cons: Not available in many parts of the country
Virgin is perhaps the main competitor to Sky TV in the UK, and provides a similar amount of premium content like movies and sports, though this largely depends on the area you live in, since cable TV is unavailable in many parts of the UK.
For instance, in Eastbourne, East Sussex, where we’re based, the vast majority of the country isn’t served by cable TV. You need to head over to around Brighton to have access to Virgin Media. However, a key benefit with cable TV is that when it’s available at your property, you no longer need to install a satellite dish or TV aerial to receive the TV service, though digging trenches to get you connected to the cable network might be necessary. Still, you may want to at least have a backup satellite or TV aerial for the extra rooms in your house. However, you’ll enjoy some of the fastest possible broadband speeds with cable.
- Accessed Via: Internet and Aerial
- Cost: Starts at £25.95 per month
- Pros: Provides good amount of sports content
- Cons: It’s not ideal for poor signal areas
Since it’s very similar to BT Vision, TalkTalk TV’s description will be brief. Both of these services use the Youview platform, which basically translates into simple user experience. TalkTalk TV uses a connection to the internet for its subscription based TV channels and on-demand content, and a TV aerial for live TV services. I’m yet to come across a TalkTalk TV box with WIFI capabilities, so for your internet connectivity you might have to install a powerline connector or an Ethernet cable.
- Access Via: Internet (Some TV boxes require an Aerial)
- Costs: From £7.99 per month
- Pros: Doesn’t require a satellite dish
- Cons: Needs a reliable internet connection
Now TV is a service provided by Sky that works over an internet connection. With the Now TV service, you can get the majority of Sky services like Sky movies and sports. There are quite a number of ways you can get Now TV. One of them is via apps installed on equipment like an Xbox. Alternatively, you can get a Now TV set top box that connects to your WIFI.
There are also a few purchase options; you can sign up for their monthly subscription, which is a 30-day rolling contract. Alternatively, you can purchase passes for a given period of time, such as a day, week, or month, to access the service. This option is ideal when you only want to watch a short-term event, such as a sports tournament final, and you want to avoid the burden of a monthly subscription. I actually do this myself for the darts games every year because I’m not interested in paying for Sky TV.
One of the main drawbacks to Now TV is that it lacks ITV, BBC, as well as Channel 4/5 streams, meaning you can’t watch terrestrial live TV on it. There’s actually a solution for this, but you have to purchase one of their set top boxes that supports a TV aerial input, so you can combine the Now TV service with the Freeview TV supplied via the TV aerial. This way, you can watch terrestrial TV channels and those provided on the Now TV service from the same TV box.
Alternatives to Sky: Free TV Platforms
All the TV platforms listed in this section are all available free of charge at the point of use. For those who haven’t already, I recommend you download our Ultimate Guide to Free TV, which is available at the right hand side of this page if you’re viewing this page on a PC. If you’re on a phone, the link is available near the bottom of the page. You only need to submit your name and email address, and click on the button, and it will be sent right in your inbox. The guide will help you if you’re unsure what service is best suited to your case.
- Accessed via: TV Aerial
- Cost: Free
- Pro: It’s built into almost all new TV’s
- Cons: They aren’t always available for weaker signal areas
Freeview is the main TV provider in the UK, where TV aerials are very popular and the majority of properties have access to Freeview. In order to get Freeview, all you need is a TV aerial along with a compatible set top box or digital TV. It’s quite difficult to find a digital TV that’s not compatible with Freeview, so you probably already have a compatible TV equipment in your home. In that case, you are set to go. If yours isn’t compatible, don’t fret. You can purchase an inexpensive set top box from most supermarkets.
- Accessed via: Internet and TV Aerial
- Cost: Free of Charge
- Pros: The user interface is easy to use
- Cons: Not always suitable for weak signal areas
This is the platform on which TalkTalk TV and BT Vision choose to deliver their TV content services. However, you can still enjoy using Yourview without a subscription. You obviously won’t access the premium subscription-based TV services available on TalkTalk TV and BT Vision, including sports and movies. However, you can still access free live TV and catch up on the free services in an all-in-one place.
The same TV guide lets you scroll back and even playback any programs that you might have missed and showcases 7 days’ programmes. Of course, you could achieve this by going to the individual applications like ITV Hub and BBC iPlayer, but Yourview makes the whole process a lot easier and convenient. The program was traditionally provided to homes through set top boxes that often feature internal storage, however, it is now being built into digital TVs.
- Accessed via: Internet and TV Aerial
- Cost: Free of Charge
- Pros: Records up to 4 programmes simultaneously
- Cons: Not good for weak signal areas
This is Freeview’s latest offering, which combines the conventional Freeview service that’s delivered to your TV via aerial, with its on-demand services being provided via the internet. For Freeview Play, you need to get a separate set top box that usually retails at about £200. With this, you can access the main benefit of this service – the ability to simultaneously record 4 programs while watching the fifth.
This ideally solves the issue of all the best TV programmes airing at the same time on prime TV. I’ve found myself in a situation where I didn’t want to watch anything all day and then my favourite programs started airing at around the same time. The Freeview Play would be such a welcome solution for this. I could have watched many of these programs through the catch up services offered by the set top box via the internet. As a bonus, if you record your programs, you can skip through the ads that many online services like All 4 and ITV hub make you watch during the programmes.
- Accessed via: Satellite Dish
- Cost: Free of charge
- Pros: Great for people leaving Sky and weak signal areas
- Cons: usually requires a separate set top box as it’s not built into most TVs
This is more of a Freeview of the satellite world, considering much of the channels are the same, though they’re available in different numbers. However, some variants, most notably Dave, are available on Freeview but not on Freesat, though Freesat does offer more channels.
To access Freesat, all you need to do is install a small unobtrusive satellite dish on the exterior of your home, along with a compatible set top box or a Freesat compatible TV. Since the signals are delivered to your home via satellites, it has a near 100% UK coverage, which makes it a great option for areas where Freeview signals are known to be poor. It’s also a perfect option for people leaving to leave Sky TV since you already have a satellite dish; all you’d need is a Freesat box. However, you’ll need to change the LNB on the satellite dish when leaving Sky Q for Freesat, since it’s not compatible with the service.
The main drawback of Freesat is that there has recently been a dispute between the BBC/ITV and Channel 4 over the carriage fees charged to join the Freesat platform. This caused Channel 4 to remove All 4 and Channel 4 HD from the Freesat platform. You can learn more about this by following the link above. It may take some time for the dispute to be resolved, and for the time being, users have to accept the fact that these services won’t be available on the platform.
- Accessed via: Internet and Satellite Dish
- Cost: Free of charge
- Pros: Ideal for people leaving Sky and weak signal areas
- Cons: Usually requires a set top box as it’s not built into most TVs
You can probably already see a recurrent theme here; Freeview Play and Youview are both offshoots and extensions of Freeview. Anyway, Freetime is satellite TV’s or Freesat’s equivalent. With it, you access live TV in your home through a satellite dish TV, while the catch-up services are provided via an internet connection.
Freetime comes with a feature similar to Youview’s where you can scroll back on its Electronic Programme Guide and access services that aired earlier on that you might have missed and need to catch up on. It works as Youview’s platform though it’s not quite as slick.
With Freetime, you also need to consider the fact that Channel 4 had a disagreement with Freesat on the carriage fees, since you’ll no longer be able to access the All $ catch up TV service. Of course this is rather disappointing, but we all hope that this will change soon.