It’s time to cancel expensive Sky and Virgin TV subscriptions

If you’re still paying for premium pay-TV via satellite or cable you’re paying too much.

Switching away from Sky TV, Virgin Media, BT TV or TalkTalk TV to streaming alternatives can save you £100s of pounds – and you can still keep the exact same channels.

You’ll also get the added flexibility of choosing what you want to pay for and when. And you can even keep recording most channels if you want.

In this article I’ve shared why you shouldn’t be worried about ditching Sky, and how to watch the alternatives (such as NOW TV) on your TV.

How much Sky TV costs

Sky TV isn’t cheap. The Sky Ultimate package costs £27 a month for newbies and could go up to a massive £67 a month if you add in Sports and Cinema, coming in at £804 a year. You might even be paying another £25 a month if you add on things like Kids channels, HD viewing and multiroom. That’s potentially £92 a month and £1,104 a year.

These are prices before adding in broadband costs. And the amount could go higher still if you’re still on an old Sky package. Costs are similar with Virgin Media, and both BT TV and Talk Talk also let you add on extras such as sport and movies to whack up the cost.

Yes, being a savvy bunch you probably don’t pay full price. These companies are notoriously easy to haggle with and freebies are often thrown in – especially if you bundle your TV packages with your broadband and even your mobile phone.

But it’s possible to get all the channels you want to watch, alongside other services, for far less by ditching these subscriptions. On average, my total TV bill every month (including extras such as Netflix and Amazon) comes in at less than a tenner, saving me a fortune.

Ok, so I don’t have sports or cinema, and I manage to find all sorts of deals and offers to help me get that price. But even if you pay full price, and get all the different services, you’re still looking at paying no more than £65 a month, saving close to £400 a year.

Here’s why and how you can do it too.

Before you cancel

To leave Sky TV you need to give 31 days notice, so you’ll still pay for a month (and receive the channels) in that time.

Make sure you are out of contract. It could be that you have different dates for TV and other bundled packages such as broadband or phones. If so, make sure you know what the effect of cancelling your TV could have on the price of those services.

If you have any time left to run you’ll be charged an early exit fee, which will pretty much be all the money you owe until that contract is due to end. 

If you’re not out of contract for a while, make a note in your diary a month before it’s due to end to start the cancellation process in motion.

Why you don’t need TV from Sky or Virgin

You’re paying for more than you can possibly watch

There more than 300 entertainment channels and over 1,000 movies available with a full Sky or Virgin subscription. There is no way you are able to watch even a fraction of these. 

You can watch ALL the major Sky channels elsewhere

There are actually only a handful of channels not available to watch for free, and they’re mainly the Sky channels (eg One, Atlantic, Comedy, Crime etc) and a few others such as Fox, Gold, Discovery and Nat Geo. But even these can be watched without Sky or Virgin and at a far lower price.

NOW (formally NOW TV) is the main player here. It’s actually owned by Sky and allows you to watch the above channels and more via your broadband connection. There are also options for Sky Cinema, Kids, reality and Sports. I’ve written in more detail about NOW TV here, as well as shared the latest offers.

BT Sport is also available as a monthly pass at £25 a month. That might be more than what you pay for the channels elsewhere, but combining it with the other savings should bring the overall cost down.

The other major channel you might want to keep that isn’t on Freeview or NOW TV is The History Channel which is available as an Amazon channel for £3.99 a month (plus Prime) or via TV Player for £6.99 a month.

You don’t need to be tied into a contract

Something I hate about most bills is that when you sign up you’re committing to a 12, 18 or even 24-month contract. This means you’re locked in to keep paying the set price even if you change your mind or can’t afford it any more. You can even continue to be charged if you move house and can’t get the service at your new address.

But with all the alternatives below which charge, you are only signing up for a month, giving you the flexibility to watch what you want, when you want – and cutting down on your bill even more.

You don’t really need to record TV any more

You can watch pretty much any programme on-demand – i.e. on a catch-up service online. Most of my TV is watched this way. I reckon that most TV you record sits on the box and is rarely watched!

You can get multiroom for less

You can also watch these newer and cheaper services in more than one room and on more than one device without paying extra. You might need to get a streaming stick if your TV isn’t smart, but they’re the same cost if not less than getting things like extra Sky Q boxes.

You don’t need a TV bundle to get cheap broadband

Though bundling your services together can earn you discounts, especially when haggling, you can still shop around for great broadband deals on their own. Remember to combine these offers with cashback sites. Here’s how to get the lowest price on your internet connection.

You can still get free TV without an outdoor aerial

Not all houses and flats have an outside aerial connection. If you want to get Freeview channels without a dish then you’ll need one of these. If you don’t have one you can try indoor aerials which might work.

But if you have a satellite dish connection then you can use something called Freesat which will also give you access to the free channels. Failing that, the previously mentioned TV Player lets you get the free channels via your internet.

Andy’s TV set up

Here’s how my TV set up has looked for the last year. Obviously I’m always taking advantage of the best offers and deals, and only signing up to passes when there’s something to watch!

I’ve had a lot more Sports passes since more football matches have been shown. Normally I’d buy just six or seven day passes.

  • NOW Entertainment (4 months at an average of £3 per pass) = £12 p/year
  • NOW Sky Cinema (3 months at an average of £3 per pass) = £9 p/year
  • NOW Sky Sports month passes (6 months at an average of £17 per month pass) = £102
  • NOW TV Sky Sports day passes (4 at an average of £4 per pass) = £16

Total spend on Sky channels via NOW in 2020/21 = £139

Equivalent of Sky channels in a Sky subscription = £696

So last year I paid £557 less for the exact same channels at Sky without committing to a long contract! If you’re interested, here are the other TV options I had and their cost:

  • Freeview recording box (six years old) = £0
  • Apple TV+ (annual plan included with phone purchase) = £0
  • Amazon Prime TV (8 months of an annual Student Prime plan cancelled in January) = £26
  • Disney+ (annual plan with cashback) – £34 p/year

When Sky or Virgin might be better value

There are a few exceptions though when paying for TV via Sky or Virgin could work out either better value or just a better user experience.

If you watch a lot of sport

Though occasional viewers can get a day pass for Sky Sports on NOW TV, the month pass comes in at £33.99. There are often deals that bring the price down to around £25 for a month, sometimes £20.

But if you know you are going to want and watch the main sports channels every week then you might be better off with Sky or Virgin where you can usually pick it up at £20 a month. However, don’t forget you are tied into an 18 month contract.

If you don’t have great broadband

On-demand streaming does require decent broadband, so you will probably want to look at upgrading to fibre if you don’t already have it. If that’s not possible – especially in rural areas – then you might need to stick with Sky for your TV.

If you want to record non-Freeview TV

One problem with the on-demand streaming services is that some programmes and films are only there for a set time before going (and often coming back at a later date). So if you want to watch, and rewatch something you might want to stick with a premium pay-tv service.

If you are happy just being able to record free to air TV then you can buy Freeview or Freesat recorders for around the £120 mark. Personally I really only use my box so I can skip adverts on Channel 4 and ITV programmes!

If you love channels including W, Alibi or Eden

These three UKTV channels are only available on Sky, Virgin and BT TV. Pretty much all the other major channels are available on another service.

Andy’s podcast

Listen to Cash Chats, Andy’s twice weekly podcast. Episodes every Tuesday and Friday.

21 thoughts on “It’s time to cancel expensive Sky and Virgin TV subscriptions

  1. Hi Andy,
    Came across your site while hunting for better deals.
    Just got a 15.33% increase in my Sky account… deducted via my debit order without my consent or knowledge!!

    Advice from you would be much appreciated…
    My wife and I are pensioners on Universal Credit and we have to penny pinch.

    We do not watch much… Come Dine With Me… Pointless… Strictly… news and so on… sometimes we record movies but not often… so we are not heavy consumers.

    Virgin broadband I kicked into touch with their automatic increases.
    Went to Shell but the secret is to change your debit order to a standing order… works quite well…
    Contract just finished and they sent me my increase request of about 50p.
    It is still costing me £27/m.

    Oh well… hope you have a great day…
    John

    1. Hi John, I’d certainly suggest dropping Sky TV then – as long as you are out of contract. If you’re not worried about recording programmes either you should be able to get by with the normal TV aerial and catch up on services like iPlayer. If your TV doesn’t have apps for things like that you can buy a smart streaming stick for between £20 and £30 which plugs into the HDMI socket in the back of your TV and connects wirelessly to your internet. Hope that helps!

  2. Why is sky so expensive with rubbish service and now tv is cheaper no contract bu owned buy sky.I want to get out of my contract with sky ASAP ,but told they take the discount of and have to pay full price and contract if you can get in touch it a nightmare

    1. Yeah, they tie you in for the full contract. So the most important thing now is to make a note of when that contract ends so you can leave penalty free

  3. A very good article and much of what you have written I implemented myself a few years back when I gave Sky it’s marching orders from my home. I would like to mention that you can also sign up for the History Channel app through Amazon Prime for £3.99 per month that I believe provides a great deal of what you can find on their cable channel. Found TV Player a frustrating experience, personally.

    1. Ah that’s great to know! Thanks Jeremy

  4. What about foreign channels?
    I have stuck with Sky for the foreign channels. I barely watch TV nowadays but my parents do.

  5. Unfortunately Where I live standard broadband is about 2Mb which leaves me with only Virgin to turn to and after speaking with them today about my renewal I can stick with all three services (TV, Phone, Internet) for less than I can get Internet & Phone for and only £2 a month more than Broadband only. So trapped for the time being. No access to the new customer deals either.

    However I am interested in how you get the NowTV entertainment passes so cheap. I don’t ever pay full price, but I have not got them anywhere near that low.

    1. Ah, that’s such a shame. It’s ridiculous how they charge more for less services! I’ve actually got broadband only from Virgin and managed to haggle a lower price by threatening to leave. They called me back and offered a good broadband only deal.

      Yes, I’m always on the look out for free or cheap passes, and I’ve a deals page where I share the best ones. Currently I’m paying £1.20ish a month for three months, which was a offer given when I clicked to cancel my pass. Before that I had a couple of free passes from different promotions, and next up I’ve got three months to add from a Stick/pass bundle I got for £7.50, and sold the stick for £7! The most I generally pay is £3.50. This is just Entertainment mind.

      1. I have tried the leave and get a better deal tactic – but the agent said that due to the fact they knew how much internet I used (I am an above average user apparently in terms of data per month) and the fact that they also knew the best local connection was 2MB, that I couldn’t realistically leave them so they would not be offering a deal in my case.

        Thanks for the info on the passes

  6. Just haggled a new deal with sky. We now get phone line (no calls but use our mobiles not with sky), superfast broadband, sky q box, minibox so we can have multi room, entertainment, plus SPORTS AND MOVIES for £67 per month for 18 months

  7. I inherited Virgin – no BT landline – no where to put dish outside – am in garden flat – lots of high buildings around. Am I stuck with Virgin?

    1. If that’s the only way to get broadband then possibly you are stuck for internet. But even then you can still get Freeview channels over the internet for free via TV Player, and sign up for NOW TV / Netflix etc for other channels.

    2. For broadband you probably are – but you don’t need to get the tv from them. For freeview channels you can use a service called TV Player which has a few option. And of course there’s iPlayer, All 4 and so on

  8. I get prime for £39.50 a year because I subscribed to the shared household with my sister, she can watch it at her home address and receive next day delivery etc. It’s worth it doing it this way. I prefer to pay £39.50 a year instead of £79 that’s for sure.

  9. The best thing we ever did was to get rid of Virgin Media 18 months ago. The last straw was when, after over a decade as a customer of their TV, broadband and phone services (retained through inertia) they made another price hike and we wanted to cut back on our package. They were really unhelpful and even tried to insist we move from the rolling contract to a new 18-month one. We ditched the lot and got Freesat – the money we immediately stopped paying to Virgin quickly covered the cost of the dish and a Freesat box. We took out a new broadband/landline deal with Plusnet (now switched to TalkTalk), buying via a cashback site for a lot of extra money off. The only ongoing TV cost we now have is Netflix, shared with a relative. My sister-in-law has also just ditched Sky after ten years and is delighted. She has realised that the channels she liked to watch, are free-to-air ones anyway!

  10. How do you get Prime for £39 a year? Mine is £7.99 a month!

    1. This is thanks to a trick where non-students can get an NUS/Totum card by taking out an eligible online learning course. Sadly this loophole has closed, but if you did manage to get one before it did you can still renew your membership. I’m now on year 5 or 6 of this discounted Prime membership.

      If you know you want Prime every month then it’s worth paying the £79 a year to save nearly £17.

  11. Yes we belong to sky ad yes we paying far to much

  12. You say your total bill for tv per month is under a tenner. What are you getting for that?

    1. As I say I take advantage of lots of offers, and have the odd month off, so that £10 is an average. But in general: Now TV entertainment (I usually pay less than £3 thanks to special offers, currently £1.20 a month and often free), Prime (I pay £39 a year, so £3.25 a month), and then Netflix (£8.99 a month but shared with my sister so only pay half). Occasionally say six times a year) I’ll get a Sports day pass which I generally get on offer and split the cost of with my dad.

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