Sky TV: should you believe in better?
FOR years Sky have been synonymous with wide-ranging and exclusive TV content, from movies to sport to popular series bought out from the terrestrial channels.
More recently they've been the place to find HD versions of more familiar channels, and more 3D content than is available with any other provider.
Last autumn they upgraded their standard set top box, with all new customers now getting a Sky Q box rather than one of the older but still impressive Sky+ boxes.
But they've also got a reputation for being expensive and offering lots of channels that people don't want or need.
In this guide we take a look at the basics of Sky TV - the packages available, the extras they can add, and how much they cost.
What we don't look at here is the Sky Q boxes themselves . We've a full guide to them and their features here.
Let's start by addressing one of the features Sky are famous for: their special offers. This is the main deal Sky are currently offering new customers who sign up to Sky TV online via Choose - just click the red button below:
Sky TV Latest Offers
Sky TV: basic packages
New customers will have to pay set-up costs of at least £15, and up to £199 (more detail here). For that they'll get the loan of their Sky Q box(es), with their "smart features" activated.
This is something of a change for Sky: customers used to be given a Sky+ or Sky HD box to keep, free of charge. But as Sky Q customers are only "borrowing" the boxes, no matter how long they subscribe to Sky TV, they get free servicing and mechanical fault repairs.
Note also that minimum contracts are now 18 months long.
Among the paid for channels on the Original Bundle are Sky One, Sky Living and Real Lives, Sky Arts, and perhaps most importantly for fans of HBO programmes, Sky Atlantic.
With the Variety Bundle, there's also a host of extra music channels such as VH1 and the MTV spin-offs, the Discovery channels, a greater range of kids' channels, and several sports channels - but not Sky's.
The Box Sets Bundle is the new name for the Family Bundle. It's basically the same as the Variety Bundle, but with far more HD channels, on demand 3D content, and - as the name suggests - access to Sky's collection of box sets and exclusive series.
With more than 350 titles to choose from, Sky boast that this collection contains more of the latest shows "than any other pay TV or online subscription service in the UK".
Sky TV on demand
Everyone taking a Sky TV bundle can get a certain amount of on demand content free of charge. For Original and Variety customers this is limited to catch up services such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, My 5, and Sky's own catch up options.
Accessing it is simply a matter of connecting their set top box to a broadband connection.
People with the Sky Q app on their mobile or tablet can also use that to prompt their set top box to download catch up content, wherever they are, so it's ready to watch when they get home.
Do note that while BT give their capped broadband customers unlimited on demand TV access when that content is accessed through their set top box, Sky TV plus broadband customers don't get the same perk - so be careful if catching up via one of their capped broadband deals.
All Sky TV customers get Sky Go at no extra cost. This gives them access to content via their laptop or compatible tablets and mobile phones, wherever they are, via 3G, 4G or wi-fi.
What we can get on our devices or computers should mirror our subscription - so people with the Original and Variety Bundles can watch those channels, while Box Sets Bundle customers will also be able to access, well, box sets.
People with extra channels like Sky Sports will be able to watch them too.
Sky Sports and Sky Cinema
Sky Sports and Sky Cinema - previously known as Sky Movies - come as extras on top of the basic bundles - here's how much more they cost, when not on special offer:
With the recently refreshed Sky Cinema package also comes access to around 1,200 films on demand, and since June last year, both the SD and HD versions of each channel for no extra cost.
Those who want Sky Sports in high definition, however, still have to pay extra for the special HD pack, which is only available to customers with the Box Sets Bundle, and costs £6 a month on top of all the other subscriptions, which means a total monthly bill of £71.50.
Anyone who isn't too bothered about Sky Sports in HD can add both these premium packs to their basic channel pack for £36, a saving of £9.50 on getting them separately.
Alternatively, those who want the Box Sets Bundle as well, or who must have Sky Sports in HD, can always take the Complete Bundle:
|The Complete Bundle||As Box Sets, PLUS Sky Cinema, PLUS Sky Sports in HD||£80|
While £80 a month may look steep, it's almost £10 a month less than buying each part of the package separately - which would cost £89.50.
That could cover at least part of the cost of the other extra channels available:
The Sky Asia pack offers seven channels, including Sony Max, Zee TV and Zee Cinema, ARY Digital, and B4U Movies.
These channels are available as bolt-ons whatever the basic package.
More screens, more freedom
For those who don't want to be limited to watching Sky TV on one decent sized screen or who don't have a good enough signal or connection to stream it to their devices, there are a couple of options: Sky Q Multiscreen and Sky Go Extra.
We look at Sky Q Multiscreen in more detail here, but in essence for £12 a month, customers will get one or more Sky Q Mini boxes for another room or rooms in the house.
People who take Sky Q Multiscreen can use the Sky Q app to stream or download content and recordings from their set top box to their tablets or phones.
Those without Sky Q Multiscreen will need Sky Go Extra instead. Like Sky Go, it allows users to stream live content to two other devices at a time - in addition to watching on TV - but also lets them download on demand content (but not personal recordings) to as many as four devices to watch later.
Sky's other products
While Sky still focus primarily on their TV offering, their other media services are pretty competitive too - and they're often made even more so by the special offers the provider runs.
This is a selection of some of them:
For anyone thinking of adding extra services, Sky Talk is the logical place to start.
It's available to all homes with a BT-compatible phone line - although Sky will install a new line in houses that are lacking, for just £20.
Line rental costs £18.99 a month - the same as charged by BT and Virgin Media. The minimum contract is 12 months long.
Sky don't include any calls to UK landlines with their line rental; anyone who wants inclusive calls will need to add either evening and weekend calls for £4, or anytime UK calls for £8 a month.
They also offer unlimited anytime calls of up to 60 minutes at a time to 50 countries for £12 a month.
Once we've got Sky Talk, the next logical step is broadband.
It used to be that Sky TV customers who also had Sky Talk could get basic, limited, broadband free on top of their other services, in the form of Broadband Lite.
This had a monthly data limit of 2GB and only offered speeds of up to 17Mb, but very few of us use that little data any more - so in July 2016, Sky withdrew the package.
It was replaced by a package with a slightly more generous cap of 12GB per month; introductory periods aside, the new deal costs £5 a month and it's available to everyone, not just Sky TV customers.
The other issue with Sky Broadband is availability. Not everywhere can get it, and in early 2017 Sky stopped offering their out-of-area product, Sky Connect, which offered speeds of up to 8Mb for £17 a month.
These are the basic packages on offer:
Note the difference in contract lengths between standard and fibre broadband. After selling both on year-long terms for about a year, Sky have recently moved back to asking for a longer commitment from those who want one of their fibre deals.
We look into Sky's broadband deals in more detail in our main guide here.
After announcing their mobile ambitions at the start of 2015, Sky have just launched their O2-based mobile virtual network.
Existing Sky customers and those who pre-registered have been able to sign up for Sky Mobile since December 2016; sales opened to everyone else in January this year.
There are just three data plans to choose from, ranging from 1GB for £10 a month to 5GB for £20 a month.
There's a huge incentive for those interested in Sky Mobile to have Sky TV first: unlimited inclusive calls and texts to all standard UK landlines and mobiles.
Everyone else (including Sky Broadband and Talk customers) needs to pay for every call and text they make, or add a calls and texts bundle to their plan for £10 a month.
|Data||Calls and texts||Contract term||Monthly price|
|1GB||Sky TV customer
Pay as you use
We look into how it all works in this guide.
Depending on which media service is their priority, potential customers are likely to go for different providers.
But when it comes to TV, the basic packages available from other providers pale in comparison with the sheer number of channels, and breadth of content available on Sky's Original Bundle.
If, however, it's just Sky's movie channels or sports content that appeal, both packages are available to customers on the other pay TV services at varying prices. Check out our guide to getting Sky Sports elsewhere here, and where to find Sky Cinema in this guide.
It's even possible to get Sky Atlantic elsewhere - although the options are seriously limited. See this guide for more.
For a more comprehensive look at each of the big multimedia providers versus one another, take a look at our guide here.
It's worth noting that among the big four media providers, Sky and Virgin are frequently in a face-off for which can get fewer complaints, and which has the most satisfied customers.
In the past year or two Sky have had the edge, with Ofcom reporting a customer satisfaction rating of 80% and an average of just one complaint for every 100,000 Sky customers - and independent surveys also tend to rate Sky's aftercare pretty well.
It doesn't hurt that they're the only place to find lots of TV that might once have been on terrestrial or free-to-view channels, or that they're willing to haggle to keep our custom.
But they've certainly raised their game from the days of being an expensive luxury to become a good all-round TV and media provider.