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TV bundles: your questions answered
Thinking of nabbing a pay TV bundle but have some questions about how it would work?
We've got answers.
Do I need a phone line?
To get Sky's best TV and broadband bundle deals you will need to take a phone line with monthly line rental payable to Sky.
Technically it is possible to subscribe to Sky TV without having a phone line or if you want to remain with your current provider - however it will usually be much cheaper to move your phone line over to Sky.
Similarly, Virgin Media's pay TV service does not require a BT phone line to work.
Virgin Media supply their products via a separate fibre optic infrastructure (see more on the technical differences between providers).
This is an advantage because it allows Virgin customers to use pay TV or superfast broadband services without having to rely upon another separate phone line operator, although it does mean that if you don't live in an area with Virgin Media cable installed beneath your street, you won't be able to access its pay TV service at all.
BT Vision will require you to take a phone line and pay line rental to BT.
Remember that with Freeview (more on that here) or Top Up TV you don't need to worry about line rental at all.
Do I need to have a broadband connection?
Both Virgin Media and Sky will allow customers to subscribe to pay TV services without a broadband connection but as with phone lines the best value deals often pop up when TV and broadband service are bundled together.
As BT Vision is only available to customers using BT Total Broadband you will need broadband and it must be supplied by BT.
Do I need a long contract?
The shortest term for a new contract to pay TV services is 12 months, offered by Sky, Virgin Media and BT Vision.
This does depend on the particular deal you opt for however as cheaper bundle deals, particularly from Virgin Media, tend to attract an 18 month minimum contract term.
Our advice: read the small print carefully!
Set top boxes
Choosing the right box seems like a bit of a minefield but putting a little thought into what services you might need could save a lot of money.
If you want to be able to record shows and pause live TV you will need a personal video recorder box (PVR).
Sky offers its Sky+ HD box as standard to new subscribers although access to HD content is only for new subscribers who opt for the Sky HD package (£10 per month).
Virgin Media offers as standard the V HD box. This standard box is not a PVR and so cannot record shows, it does however offer access to a range of HD channels such as BBC One HD, ITV HD, Channel 4 HD and Film4 HD, for no extra monthly cost.
On the recording front, Virgin Media have hooked up with TiVo to offer 500GB and 1TB incarnations of the TiVo set top box.
There is a monthly charge for access and an activation fee for the 1TB box unless you are taking the most expensive XL package.
How much storage do I need?
If you are going to go for a PVR it is important to consider the amount of storage space you think you might need.
The standard Sky+ box is 250GB, that's enough space for up to 185 hours of standard definition TV. If you need extra space then you could plump for the Sky+ HD 1TB although this currently weighs in at a hefty £149.
Virgin Media's TiVo boxes are 500GB and 1TB - meaning you get more space with the standard TiVo than Sky+.
BT's Vision+ box offers 250 hours of recording.
Which additional features do I need?
All three providers offer lots of on demand content which is piped into your home through your broadband connection.
If you think you will be using this feature a lot it is important to make sure that your broadband subscription is bundled with your TV. This will help avoid any nasty bills at the end of the month for having exceeded your broadband usage allowances.
Sky Anytime+ offers a large library of content from movies to box sets as well as pay per view movie rental.
The service is free to Sky TV subscribers however your set top box must be connected to your home broadband connection, either via wi-fi or Ethernet cable to ensure you get access to the full range of services.
Virgin Media offers a similar on demand package featuring movies and classic series box sets.
On top of that it also gives you access to catch up services from the likes of BBC iPlayer, 4oD, ITV Player and Demand 5 - this is a great little feature.
The two biggest TV bundle providers have the most extras: find out more in this guide to Sky and Virgin.
BT Vision offers catch up via iPlayer, 4oD and the like as well as a range of on demand movies and box sets.
From the most basic package to the biggest and best, the cost of TV bundles can vary hugely, from £20 for the most basic TV and phone package to over £100 a month for all the sports, movies, bells and whistles.
The number of different combinations of TV, phone and broadband services means that it can become incredibly tricky to work out the best value deal. That is, of course, where Choose steps in to help uncover the best bundle deals around!
With Sky it is nearly always cheaper to move your phone line across when taking a pay TV subscription as you pay line rental and get weekend and evening calls for free.
Similarly with Virgin Media the monthly cost of the M package is cheaper when you bundle a Virgin Media phone line with broadband and TV.
It is important therefore to make sure that if you do switch your phone service that you are on the call package that suits you best, either free evening and weekend calls or unlimited UK calls.
For clarity, prices shown in the comparison table above include the monthly costs of line rental when bundled with a TV package but don't include extras like sports or movie packages.