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 £26 a month for newbies and could go up to a massive £56 a month if you add in Sports and Cinema, coming in at £672 a year. You might even be paying another £25 a month if you add on things like Kids channels, UHD viewing and multiroom. That’s potentially £81 a month and £972 a year.
And existing customers could be paying even more with the full price for the complete works costing £100 a month, or £1,200 a year. The amount could go higher still if you’re still on an old Sky package.
Yet, 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 the long pay TV contracts. Though I’d expect you to get deals to reduce costs further, even if you pay full price, and get all the equivalent Sky channels, you’re still looking at paying no more than £64 a month, saving between £200 and £430 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 are 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’re paying to watch free channels
The most watched TV channels are BBC, ITV and Channel 4. These are all available via Freeview. For free. And there are plenty more, inclduing Dave, Dmax, Really, Food Network, HGTV, Quest and Yesterday.
You can pay less for ALL the major Sky channels elsewhere
There are actually only a handful of channels not available to watch via Freeview. These are mainly the Sky channels (eg Max, Atlantic, Comedy, Witness etc) and a few others such as Gold, The History Channel, 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 most of the above channels and more via your broadband connection. There are also options for Sky Cinema, reality and Sports. I’ve written in more detail about NOW TV in my review here.
The major mainstream channels you might want to keep that aren’t on Freeview or NOW TV are probably Discovery, TLC and Eurosport. Both are available from Discovery+ (£4.99 or £6.99 with sport) or as an Amazon channel (you’ll also need Prime).
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.
You’re locked into Netflix with Sky
Lots of Sky customers think they’re getting free or cheap Netflix with Sky. You aren’t. Though the recent Netflix price increase will mean you’re getting a slight discount right now, it’s not much. And since you’re on an 18-month contract you don’t have the choice whether you keep it or not. It’s far better to pay separately.
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.
Though Sky introduced Sky Glass which is also a 30-day contract, you’re committing to buying a TV on top – and it’s far from perfect.
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.
And you can also catch them online via Freeview Play, iPlayer, All 4, ITV hub and so on.
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 freebies, 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 (8 months at an average of £1 per pass) = £8 p/year
- NOW Sky Cinema (3 months at an average of £1 per pass) = £3 p/year
- NOW Boost (7 months at £1 a month) = £7 p/year
- NOW Sky Sports month passes (5 months at an average of £17.80 per month pass) = £89
- NOW TV Sky Sports day passes (1 at an average of £3 per pass) = £3
Total spend on Sky channels via NOW in 2021/22 = £110
Equivalent cost of Sky channels in a Sky subscription = £600
So last year I paid £550 less for the exact same channels at Sky without committing to a long contract! And if I remove the sports passes, I spent just £19 in the year.
If you’re interested, here are the other TV options I had and their cost:
- Freeview recording box (six years old) = £0
- Apple TV+ (8 months free via different deals) = £0
- Amazon Prime TV (30-day free trial) = £0
- Disney+ (annual plan) = £59
- Netflix (2 months at £9.99 a month) = £19.98
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 £150 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.
Listen to Cash Chats, Andy’s twice-weekly podcast. Episodes every Tuesday and Friday.