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The cheapest TV sports packages
Image © David Davies – PA Archive
The Olympics are over and football's back, so now is the time that many of us turn our minds towards what sport we want to watch on TV over the coming season.
Of course, there's more than just football on TV - everything from cricket to darts and pool is televised these days. But what is the cheapest way to watch some sport on the box?
Undoubtedly, the most penny-pinching way of watching sport on your TV is to stick to Freeview. A basic set-top box will set you back about £30, but you'll have access to things like live Champions League, FA Cup and international football on ITV, live Europa League football and Test cricket highlights on Channel Five, and a range of European football and boxing on ITV's digital channels. And of course there's the Match Of The Day and Football League Show highlights programmes on the BBC.
Some of these boxes, and many digital TVs, now include high definition channels, so if you really want to see Wayne Rooney's hairplugs in all their glory, this is one way to do it.
If you want a slightly more expensive set-top box you can go for Freesat, which requires a dish as well. In addition to the channels available on Freeview, you'll also get some Scottish Premier League football (delayed full match coverage) and shinty on BBC Alba and some Welsh football, horse racing and Pro 12 rugby via S4C and BBC Wales. You can buy the equipment new for around £70-£90.
If that's not enough sport for you, the next stage up is to look for a package from one of the main digital TV providers - Sky, Virgin, BT and Top Up TV. All of them now offer the option of at least two of the Sky Sports channels and ESPN.
Here's a broad overview of which sports are offered by each channel.
|Sky Sports 1||English and Scottish Premier League and Champions League football, international cricket, golf and tennis|
|Sky Sports 2||Champions League and Football League football, international cricket, golf and tennis|
|Sky Sports 3||A mixture of international sports|
|Sky Sports 4||A mixture of international sports|
|Sky Sports F1||Formula 1 World Championship|
|ESPN||English and Scottish Premier League football, international football, UFC and US sports|
Things to bear in mind
As you'll see from the tables later on in the article, the monthly cost isn't the only thing to look at when you're considering which TV sports package to sign up to. You should also think about:
- Can I get the service? Virgin Media isn't available in all of the UK so may not be an option. Always use the postcode checker option on providers' websites to make sure.
- How flexible do I want the package to be? Most of the packages, with the exception of Top Up TV, tie you in to a minimum contract (usually 12 months, although BT's is only one month). If you want the ability to cancel at short notice and cut back your monthly spend, you should think about this carefully before you sign up.
- What kind of digital TV box do I want? Virgin, Sky and BT all offer digital TV boxes that allow you to record, pause and rewind live TV. If that's something you'll find useful, it might be worth paying a bit extra for.
- Do I want to watch sports on the move? If you're a Sky customer you can watch your sports channels on your smartphone, laptop or iPad via Sky Go free of charge.
Cheap TV-only packages
Before you start looking at the cost of the subscription packages, bear in mind that you'll need the relevant set-top box first. Virgin, BT and Sky provide one for their customers, but you'll need to pay an installation fee to Virgin and, at the very least, a delivery charge to BT if you're confident of installing it yourself.
BT also charges activation and viewing card fees.
So here's the cost of some of the basic packages, both on a monthly and an annual basis. For the Top Up TV packages, the total cost includes a basic set-top box at £29.97 from Tesco.com.
|TV provider||Channels||Monthly cost||Total first year cost (including any box, installation and other fees)|
|Top Up TV||Sky Sports 1||£24.99||£329.85|
|Virgin M+||Sky Sports 1||£22 for first six months (£28.50 thereafter)||£352.95|
|BT (only for BT broadband customers)||Sky Sports 1 & ESPN||£25.40||£361.75|
|Sky||Sky Sports 1||£22.50 for first month, £32.50 thereafter||£390|
|BT (only for BT broadband customer)||Sky Sports 1, 2 & ESPN||£30.70||£425.35|
|Top Up TV||Sky Sports 1, & ESPN||£32.99||£395.88 (free Top Up TV box included with this deal)|
|Top Up TV||Sky Sports 1 & 2||£33.99||£437.85|
|Top Up TV||Sky Sports 1, 2 & ESPN||£40.99||£521.85|
Full monty TV-only channels
So, if you want the full sports services on offer, what sort of outlay are you looking at?
|TV package||Channels||Monthly cost||Total first year cost (including any box, installation and other fees)|
|Virgin M+||Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 & F1||£32.25 for first six months, £38.75 thereafter||£475.95|
|Sky||Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 & F1||£30 first month, £40 thereafter||£480|
|Virgin M+||Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4, F1 & ESPN||£38.25 for first six months, £44.75 thereafter||£547.95|
|Sky||Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4, F1 & ESPN||40 for first month, £50 thereafter||£600|
HD, 3D and other options
You should also bear in mind that if you want HD and 3D coverage, you'll may need to pay extra (and you'll need a suitable TV). You can also add on individual football club channels, such as Manchester United and Chelsea TV, for an average of £6 a month, but these are only available via Sky or Virgin.
You may find it's cheaper overall to bundle your phone, broadband and digital TV with one provider. You can compare broadband, phone line and digital TV packages with our partner Broadband Choices.
Don't forget to negotiate or look for cashback
If you call up to buy a TV package, it's worth negotiating to see if you can get a discount or something else, such as a gift voucher, thrown in. Or you take a look at cashback sites such as Quidco and Top Cashback and see what they're offering (make sure you read the terms and conditions before you sign up).
And don't forget to play hardball when it comes to renewal time as well.
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Dean, you are absolutely right. The number of channels is rediculous, Virgin keep banging on about the number of channels they offer. But what they don't tell you, is that it's all sh1te. If you scroll through the menu's, the same show is on two, three, sometimes even four more channels. So deduct them, plus the radio station channels (who the hell buys a TV service to listen to a goddam radio???) and you really only get 20 or so watchable channels. Deduct from that list the channels you never watch and look! You're paying through the nose for 3 or 4 channels........I am NOT renewing in october.
Stuff the lot of them........
I refure to line the pockets of the Murdochs anymore than can be helped and in hardtimes how can I justify an extra £30 a month to watch my favourite TV sports of football and F1, wouldnt be so bad if they offered a pay per view of matches/races . Absolute ripoff.
As a footnote, ive been able to one way or another watch any premier league match online. just search P2P football, or justin TV ,
iam so sorry that is inposible to pay that money so most people around the world watchs SKY SPORT so you must decrease the price so as to increase your watchers all over the world
Yep so what happened to the BBC's cough up or else Olympic 24 red button channel, compulsory paid for in part by 30% of licence fee paying population who could not watch the 24 channels because they did not or could not afford free sat, Sky, BT or cable. So much for the BBC and its all animals are equal policy. After giving up Cricket, Football, F1 and so on it transpires that the BBC has now given up horse racing and know all Clair Balding having been paid a million by the BBC for making herself and the athletes at the Olympics look complete prats in Swimming Diving, Equestrianism, Boxing Pentathlon, Budgie sexing, Caber Tossing, Bog Snorkelling, Tiddly winks, catching a greasy pig and who was the one so far up the **s of the lady head of BBC sport that you could only recognise her by her footwear. Channel four has taken on bandwagon girl as head of horse racing. Can’t wait to see what happens when she tries to bull***it Frankham , Stevenson and Macerick
The cheapest deal you can is NOT TO WATCH. Didn't we learn from the Olympics. That those worth watching are whose who give everything in their lives to achieve one goal. Real effort, real sacrafice - not these over-pampered Premier League players on massive salaries , who we constantly excuse as not being to pass a ball, nor run into spaces which other countries seem able to see.
Don't go. Don't pay. Take your wife, take your children somewhere else.
Learn to live a life without football!
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