Virgin Media TV review: is it any good?
VIRGIN MEDIA offer one of the best pay TV services available in the UK and their bespoke packages mean there's something for everyone from budget to premium subscriptions.
Their super smart Tivo set top boxes offer up to 500 hours of SD recordings, multiple tuners allow customers to watch and record programs at the same time, and Tivo learns what you like - and don't like - to watch.
And of course, the benefit of Virgin Media TV is that it can be bundled alongside their superfast fibre broadband services from up to 50Mb to up to 300Mb - perfect for larger families.
In this review of Virgin Media TV, we'll look at their basic bundle options and the add-ons available, the premium services, and what sets Virgin apart from their main TV competitor Sky.
Here's Virgin's latest special offers for new customers who sign up online and those thinking of upgrading:
Can I get Virgin Media TV?
The biggest issue a lot of people have with Virgin Media is that they can't get it. At present less than 50% of UK premises are covered by the network, almost all of which are in urban areas.
To find out if Virgin Media TV is available to you use our postcode checker:
Enter your postcode above to check availability in your area.
Can you get Virgin? If so, jump ahead to packages. If not, keep reading.
Virgin Media's current expansion plans mean that by 2020, about 60% of premises should be covered - but those who don't live in or near a major urban centre either need to campaign hard to become one of Virgin's next smaller connected communities or look elsewhere.
Then there's the sizeable minority who live in a Virgin-capable area but are lacking the option when their next door neighbours can.
These are the kinds of gaps in the network that Project Lightning, as the broader expansion plan is known, was originally launched to address - so it's worth getting together with similarly afflicted neighbours and taking action.
Virgin Media TV packages & prices
In a Virgin Media area? Brilliant. Now it's just a case of choosing from one of the many options available.
At the moment, the only TV packages available on their own are Mix TV and Full House TV - these both sit in the middle of Virgin's range of four TV package options.
|Package||Channels||Contract term||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|Virgin Media||Mix TV||150+ (11 HD)||12 months||£20||£22|
|Virgin Media||Full House TV||245+ (50 HD)||12 months||£20||£44|
Both of the above deals include Virgin's 500GB Tivo box. And while Tivo may also be starting to show its age a little, it remains one of the jewels in Virgin's crown.
With the 500GB box, viewers can record up to three channels at once and store up to 250 hours of standard definition recordings. With the higher tier 1TB Virgin TV V6 box viewers can pause, rewind and record up to 500 hours of SD TV. This includes the ability to record up to six shows whilst watching an existing recording.
For more information see this guide to all the features of Virgin's Tivo boxes.
Virgin TV Packages
As mentioned, Virgin actually have four TV packages, starting with the budget option Player TV, which is only available as part of a bundle with phone and broadband. But with just over 70 free-to-air channels and only the basic catch up services, it really is only worthwhile as part of the bundle.
It's also important to note that this bundle only comes with the 500GB Tivo box as opposed to the newer and more advanced V6 which now come as standard with most of Virgin's other triple play bundles.
Mix TV is now the entry level standalone TV package, with more than 150 channels. Importantly, they include several from Sky: Sky 1, Living, Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports News HQ - and the likes of MTV, Fox and Cartoon Network - and the addition of Sky to the catch up services.
Full House TV
As the name suggests, Full House TV is the package that offers Virgin's most comprehensive range of non-premium channels.
There are more than 245 channels in all including the BT Sport collection which comes at no extra cost. Plus 700 hours of catch up content, and at least 1,500 hours of on demand TV, including 300 hours of kids' TV.
Also whilst Virgin's other packages only include the 11 HD channels we'd find on free-to-air TV, Full House TV includes a further 40 HD channels (51 in total), including Sky, Discovery Channel, more children's TV - and BT Sport.
Lastly, Virgin also offer a top-tier TV package called VIP, which offers the same as Full House TV but with an additional 39 channels.
It's only available as part of Virgin's VIP Bundle, but comes complete with a second 1TB Tivo box for multiroom viewing.
Virgin would be missing a trick if they didn't offer subscribers the option to watch TV on the go, in the same way the popular Sky Go service does.
Anyone taking a TV package automatically gets TV Anywhere, which enables them to watch a selection - note, not all - of the channels in their TV package live on compatible devices wherever they can access broadband or wi-fi.
|TV bundle||Channels available on TV||...and via TV Anywhere|
|Full House TV||230+||100+|
Courtesy of the Virgin TV Anywhere App it's now also possible for subscribers to watch content via their mobile phones and tablets. Even subscribers to Player TV can now access over 30 channels via TV Anywhere, which hasn't always been the case.
Virgin also note that the app is only accessible to selected iOS and Android devices, namely those that have sufficient streaming capabilities.
Premium & extra channels
Whichever package viewers take, there are extras like Sky Cinema, sports coverage from Sky, BT and ESPN and more - plus further on demand content via a Tivo-boosted Netflix subscription.
The newly refreshed Sky Cinema is available for £21 a month as part of a package that includes 11 live channels, Premiere +1 and the on demand channel - in HD as standard:
|Package||What you get||Price/mth|
|Sky Cinema||Sky Cinema Premiere, Premiere+1
Sky Cinema Disney
Drama and Romance
Sci-Fi and Horror
Action and Adventure
Crime and Thriller
|Package||What you get||Price/mth|
|Sky Sports||All 8 premium Sky Sports channels||£31.75|
|BT Sport collection||BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, BT Sport Europe, ESPN||£18 (included with Full House TV)|
|MUTV||Behind the scenes footage, match analysis, interviews||£7|
|LFC TV||Behind the scenes footage, match analysis, interviews||£7|
|BoxNation||Amateur, domestic and international boxing||£11|
|Racing UK||Live horse racing, analysis and features||£22|
|Premier Sports||NRL, NHL, NASCAR, South American football and more||£9.99|
Note that while the BT Sport package above is available as an extra to all TV customers, it is already included in the Full House package in both SD and HD versions.
While those adding the BT Sports pack will have both SD and HD content included within the £18 monthly subscription fee. Whereas those who wish to watch Sky Sports content in HD will have to buy a separate HD pack for an extra £7 per month.
Those who are keen not to miss a minute of any of the action will be pleased to know that when they sign up to the BT Sports collection and/or the Sky Sports package they will be able to watch this content via Virgin's TV Anywhere service at no extra cost.
Finally, for sport and movie lovers it is worth bearing in mind that the Sky Cinema and Sky Sports packs can be purchased together for a combined price of £39.25 a month.
If the channels mentioned so far aren't quite enough, then Virgin offer a number of other channels that can be added onto existing packages.
There's an interesting option for new parents: Baby TV, which offers "fun programmes" aimed at under-threes. As well as round-the-clock content for £3.50 a month.
While reality TV fans looking for an extra fix of the Kardashians can sign up to on demand service Hayu; it's included free with Full House TV, while other viewers will need to pay £3.99 a month.
This streaming service includes more than 3,000 episodes of shows like Made in Chelsea, Don't Tell the Bride, Real Housewives and many others.
Then there are the Asian channel bundles:
|Package||What you get||Price/mth|
|Zee Bundle||Zee TV, Zee Cinema, Zee Punjabi||£7.95|
|Zee TV||Zee TV||£4.95|
|Star bundle||Star Gold, Star Plus, Star Life OK||£7.95|
|Asian Mela||All of the above,
plus ARY Digital, B4U Movies,
NDTV Good Times
Whilst it isn't strictly counted as a channel, the subscription service Netflix can be accessed via Virgin TV. Existing Netflix subscribers can use their account details to log in and watch through their TV, whereas new customers can choose to add a subscription to their Virgin Media account.
What's more Virgin's Tivo box integrates Netflix into its search library, meaning any searches made for content will include Netflix shows as well as Virgin TV content.
See this guide for more information on watching Netflix on your TV.
Tivo set top box
The wonder of Tivo doesn't end there. For customers interested in getting a multiroom subscription, having multiple Tivo boxes means being able to stream content from one box to another.
There's more on Virgin's multiroom service here.
To really save money, Virgin's Big Bundles are often the simplest and most effective option combining TV with broadband and phone.
And as mentioned, they also offer two more options for those on a budget or for large families who want a vast array of channels in more than one room at home.
With the exception of the VIP Bundle, each of the above comes with inclusive weekend calls; VIP customers get inclusive anytime calls.
Unusually for an ISP, Virgin offer their broadband without insisting that customers also take their phone line and offer 12-month minimum contracts.
The entry-level service offers speeds up to 50Mb, while their top end package Vivid 300 proudly holds the title for the UK's fastest broadband service.
While existing customers on the 50Mb and 100Mb tiers are being offered free speed boosts up to 70Mb and up to 150Mb respectively, new customers might be rather annoyed to learn that they're stuck with the speeds advertised above.
As already mentioned, when it comes to speed Virgin cannot be beaten and even though advertised speeds might not always be reached, what customers actually get is still pretty fast.
Ofcom's latest set of figures, published in November 2016 gave the following average speed results for Virgin's 100Mb and 200Mb services:
|Maximum||24 hour average||Peak (8-10pm weekdays) average|
|Up to 100Mb||101.9Mb to 104.5Mb||87.7Mb to 95.2Mb||72.6Mb to 86.1Mb|
|Up to 200Mb||201.5Mb to 204.8Mb||169Mb to 177.2Mb||143.7Mb to 155.4Mb|
When these figures were compiled Vivid 300 had not been launched. However, SamKnows, the organisation Ofcom gets its figures from, has reported the following speeds for the service:
|Package||Average over 24 hours||Peak (8-10pm weekdays)|
|Virgin Media||Vivid 200||196.75Mb||182.08Mb|
|Virgin Media||Vivid 300||295.48Mb||282.91Mb|
SOURCE: SamKnows and Virgin Media.
As mentioned above, taking Virgin Media broadband doesn't mean having to take their home phone.
Anyone wincing when looking at those prices and then factoring in line rental, which now costs £19 per month, should take a deep breath - because skimping on the phone line doesn't amount to that big a saving.
Compare the prices above with the prices here, which include the cost of the phone line and inclusive weekend calls:
Of course, no one has to take Virgin's broadband; so what if we just want to take their phone and TV?
At first glance it might seem as though we'd need to add the cost of one of the following call packages to our chosen TV deal:
However, Virgin Media take bundling seriously - so while customers wanting TV and phone pay the prices outlined above for the phone part of the deal, the price they'll pay for the TV part will drop considerably.
Here's what adding a Virgin phone line (with weekend calls) does to the standard cost of each package:
|Package||Contract term||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|Virgin Media||Mix TV + Talk Weekends||12 months||£20||£26
for 12 mths,
|Virgin Media||Full House TV + Talk Weekends||12 months||£20||£46
for 12 mths,
Bear in mind that extras like cheaper rate international calls cost more - but at least Virgin now have a calls package that includes international calls of some sort.
Before late 2014, Virgin were one of just two providers to offer full-on quad-play services, with SIMs for Big Bundle customers.
They've refreshed their bundled SIMs to be slightly better value as quad-play competition heats up, although customers are still limited to one SIM per Bundle.
There are three options available, each on 12 month contracts:
Is Virgin Media TV worth signing up for?
Where Virgin Media have the edge is the speed of their broadband, but their budget Player bundle and the bigger standalone TV packages offer a healthy alternative to Sky.
In addition, the sheer variety of options across all of Virgin's services means it's more likely customers will be able to find - or build - a package that doesn't have too much of what they don't want or need.
Those who are still undecided might want to take a look at the pros and cons of Virgin versus their competitors here.