Which is best for you largely depends, as each of the above offers various choices in packages to customize it to your needs, including bundles with telephone and internet as well. As you browse through the sites, ask yourself this: 1) How much TV do I want to watch? and 2) How much do I want to pay?
To start, allow me to interject with the fact that I know some expats who moved to London recently and didn’t desire to ship their TVs nor pay the UK TV tax. They don’t watch enough TV to warrant doing so, but have still managed to catch the shows they enjoy online on their computers. This could be a post unto itself, so I won’t expound further here except to say that this is an option.
Also, if you do want a TV and do pay the TV tax, then your least expensive service options are Freeview and Freesat, which offer subscription-free digital television—i.e., you pay a one-off cost for equipment/set-up, watch TV for free, and aren’t committed to any contracts. Freeview boxes go for £20 and offer up to 74 TV/radio channels. Freesat offers about 140 TV/radio channels, but is a digital satellite service, so its required products are costlier and sold through assorted retail channels, so prices will vary. Both offer HD.
Where subscription service providers go, Sky is the popular choice, as it offers the most TV and radio channels (I believe almost 700, over 50 of which are HD, the most in the UK) and is reputed to have the fastest broadband and most reliable service. They’re also known to have great deals at least a couple times a year that could slash your initial box and/or package prices substantially. It does require a landline, however, so if your flat isn’t already set up for one, you’ll have to set one up or have Sky do so for you.
- The standard box is £49, (+ £30 set-up fee) or free if you sign up for Sky TV Online (the HD box is as well if you sign onto Sky Online with the HD pack) or through a bundle.
- You can then purchase all the channel packs (entertainment + movies + sports) for £52 or pick-and-choose what you want among those three categories as well as within them (for example, the entertainment pack is £19.50 and offers five other add-ons for £1 apiece, and the movies pack is £16 total or a choice between two different £8 options).
- Sky TV + broadband + phone bundles start at £19.50 per month, but can be customized with whichever channels/features you want to add through their user-friendly site.
Virgin Media is what we use and have been happy with so far. The only reason my husband and I didn’t go for Sky is because our flat wasn’t set up for a landline, and we weren’t going to use one. In any case, we have access to a few Sky channels and could access even more through an upgrade, but we’ve enjoyed a good range of channels (with an increasing number becoming HD) and on-demand TV and film options.
- The standard box is £50.
- Package options range like clothing sizes, in M+, L, and XL:
- M+ (65 channels for £12.50/month)
- L (100 channels for £17.25/month)
- XL (160 channels for £29.50/month)
- Premium sports and/or movie channels can be added to the above for an additional £14.50/month.
- At the time of this post, they’re offering 6 months at half-price if bundled with a phone line and/or broadband (see link for details).
BT Vision is the least popular option in the UK, incorporating the aforementioned Freeview plus on-demand options. It’s available only through BT Total Broadband, so if you don’t have either, you’ll have to order a BT package of both.
- The standard box is £60 or free for a limited time if you go for their Bronze or Gold package.
- If your broadband is already set up, you could get a basic BT Vision package for an additional one-off price of £30 for a 12-month contract. The Bronze upgrade offers a discount of £7.50/month for the first three months, £15/month thereafter. The Gold offers £12.50/month for the first three months, £20/month thereafter.
- Otherwise, for the three tiers in TV + broadband + phone bundles, pay £18, £28, and £40/month, respectively.
Do I have your head spinning like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist? Hopefully not too badly, as this overview should prompt you to analyze your needs and perhaps already narrow down to a potential best-fit to research further before or after moving to London. It can be overwhelming to have so many options, and yet pretty awesome to have more choice.
Tip: If you’re super cost-conscious, consider your online and subscription-free TV options, and remember that your UK mobile and internet calling services like Skype can be used in lieu of a landline bundle.