Detangling TV: Work Out What’s Right For You

The best of the streaming services

‘Streaming’ is watching film or TV on demand via your WiFi connection, without having to download it first. It’s ideal for taking a pick-and-mix approach, watching just the shows you want when you want them.

Netflix

In a nutshell: A huge selection of TV series, documentaries and original content, including Making A Murderer and House of Cards, plus movies like The Wolf of Wall Street.

The deal:
* £5.99 a month lets you watch on one screen at a time, for example, just your phone.
* £7.49 a month lets you watch on two different screens simultaneously – so your husband can watch his favourite show in another room while you catch up on Orange is the New Black – with higher-quality HD content.
* £8.99 a month lets you watch on up to four screens at once, with the highest quality ultra HD content.
* First month free
* No contract – cancel anytime
* Create five individual profiles with one account – so you can have one, your husband can have one, your children can have one. This means you can get individual recommendations to the shows you want to watch and won’t forget where you are when watching a series.

Amazon Prime Video

In a nutshell: Amazon’s video library includes exclusive content like their award-winning US TV series Transparent, plus thousands of movies and TV series including Gravity and Downton Abbey.

The deal:
* £5.99 a month gives unlimited access to the video library
* £79 a year: as above, plus a host of benefits including free next-day delivery on thousands of Amazon products.
* 30-day free trial
* No contract – cancel anytime
* Create individual profiles for up to 6 family members
* Watch on two devices at the same time

NOW TV
In a nutshell: NOW TV is owned by Sky, so it has channels that you don’t get on Freeview including Sky One and Sky Atlantic. It offers both on-demand and live shows, so you can choose to binge-watch a box set – such as Game of Thrones or Grey’s Anatomy – or watch Comedy Central live. The movies package gives you access to 1,000 Sky Movies titles with more added each month.

The deal:
* £6.99 a month for TV shows and channels
* £9.99 a month for movies
* 14-day free trial
* No contract – cancel anytime
* You can’t add family members, but you can watch on two devices at the same time.

TalkTalk TV Store

In a nutshell: This online store has a better selection of films than the others, with titles including The Martian, Trainwreck and Amy. New releases are often added not long after they finish at the cinema. There’s a good choice of TV, too, including Homeland, The Big Bang Theory and Luther.

The deal:
* Pay as you go.
* New films cost from £3.49 to rent and from £8.99 to buy, TV starts at £1.89 per episode with box sets from £5.99. You can buy TV shows by episode or by series. Movies can be rented or bought – you get 30 days to watch a rented film, which drops to 48 hours once you’ve started it. Bought titles stay in your account permanently.

How to watch online TV

It’s easy enough to watch on-demand TV on your laptop, tablet or phone when you’re in bed or on the train: just load up the app or website and away you go. But if you want to watch shows from the comfort of your living room and you don’t have a smart TV, plug one of these gadgets into your HDTV.

Google Chromecast (£30, Tesco.com)

Remote control? No

How it works: Chromecast connects to your phone, tablet or computer so you can send what you’re watching to your TV. You need the app to control it, as there’s no remote.

Best for: People who already watch content on a tablet or phone and want an easy way to send it to a bigger screen.

Compatible with: Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, NowTV, YouTube

Amazon Fire TV stick (£34.99, amazon.co.uk)

Remote control? Yes

How it works: Amazon’s content comes up on your TV rather than going via your phone or tablet. If you install the mobile app, you can also search for a show or film by voice on your phone.

Best for: People with Amazon Prime – this stick is designed to make the most of the films and TV you get with your subscription.

Compatible with: Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, NowTV, YouTube

Roku streaming stick (£39.99, currys.co.uk)

Remote control? Yes

How it works: Like the Amazon stick, content is shown directly on your TV, you don’t need to use an app on your phone.

Best for: People who want maximum choice – this stick currently offers the widest range of apps, channels and services.

Compatible with: Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, NowTV, YouTube

Are you paying for a TV licence you don’t need?

At the moment, you only need a TV licence if you watch or record TV programmes as they’re being broadcast, whether on a TV, phone, tablet or any other device. If you only watch on-demand shows like ones you’ve downloaded from BBC iPlayer and streaming services, you don’t need a licence (remember this only applies to shows you’ve downloaded, not shows you watch as they’re being broadcast from say, BBC iPlayer). This saves you £145.50 a year. To opt out of the licence, fill in the form at tvlicensing.co.uk and explain that you don’t watch or record live television. They might write asking for evidence that you don’t watch TV – we suggest sending a photo of your Netflix subscription or similar.

Choosing the best TV package for you

The big TV providers offer so many packages that it’s easy to get confused. Prices vary according to where you live because not all services are available in all areas yet. As Ewan Taylor-Gibson from comparison site uSwitch advises, “A lot of people subscribe to big TV packages but only watch 2% of what’s available. Those extra channels sound good, but do you need them?”

• Don’t stick with your existing supplier Having broadband or phone service with a company doesn’t mean they’ll give you the best deal on TV. Shop around using a comparison site like uSwitch.com or CompareTheMarket.com to see what’s available where you live.
• Consider what sports coverage you need Ewan advises looking at how often your favourite sport is on TV: “If it’s only occasionally, you can get a Sky Sports pass from NOW TV instead of paying for a monthly package.” It’s £6.99 for a day, £10.99 for a week and £31.99 for a month.
• You can subscribe to only get broadband from any of the TV providers and get TV via Freeview

BT
Prices start from £7.50 a month with a free YouView box, which gives you 70+ channels and catch-up services. BT Sport is included, and you can add Sky Sports from £22 a month and Sky Movies for £13.50. Line rental is £17.99 a month and activation costs £49, but bear
in mind you have to take BT broadband (included in the price).

Sky
Prices start from £13.40 a month for 240 channels. You can add Sky Sports for £25.50 a month and Sky Movies for £17. Includes Sky Go, which lets you watch Sky content live or on demand from other devices like phones and computers. Line rental is £17.40 a month and installation is £10. A satellite dish is required, free installation depends on the package you take.

Virgin Media
Prices start from £20.00 a month for 70 channels with a free TiVo box. Includes Virgin Anywhere, which lets you watch 20 channels and schedule recordings from your phone, tablet or computer. You can add Sky Movies for £20 a month, Sky Sports for £29.25 or both for £36.75. There’s no line rental but installation is £49.95, and it’s not available everywhere yet.

TalkTalk
Prices start from £5 a month for the first 12 months (after which it goes up to £10 a month) with a free YouView box, which gives you 70+ channels and catch-up services. Add Sky Movies for £15 a month and Sky Sports for £30. Includes TV2Go, which lets you watch live and on-demand content on your phone or tablet. Line rental is £17.70 a month and installation is £20, but bear in mind you have to take TalkTalk broadband (included in the price).

What can you get for free?
Freeview and Freesat give you free access to channels without a subscription.
Freeview: Built into many TVs, or you can get a set top box from £38. It works through your aerial and offers over 85 TV and radio channels.
Freesat: Set top boxes from £45. It works through a satellite dish (so you’ll need to install one if you don’t have one) and offers over 200 TV and radio channels.

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