Which TV providers offer HD and Ultra HD?

Last updated: 11 October 2023   By Lyndsey Burton

Sky and Virgin Media both offer access to full 1080p HD content, as well as some programmes in 4K Ultra HD.

While full 1080p HD is becoming the standard definition for free and premium TV content, prices still vary, with only some providers including it for free.

Ultra HD content is still somewhat limited, although customers can access 4K resolution on Sky Entertainment, Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, and Netflix shows among others.

This guide looks at what HD and Ultra HD content is available, and the prices each TV provider charges.

ultra hd tv viewing
Credit: Daniel Krason/Shutterstock.com

At a glance: HD and UHD TV packages

Sky and Virgin Media now both offer full 1080p HD as standard, with customers able to pay more for Ultra HD content.

However, customers on the older Sky Q platform will mostly receive channels in SD, and will need to pay to upgrade to either the HD, or HD & UHD pack.

BT and TalkTalk both offer content through the NOW streaming platform, however, while the default definition for NOW is 720p HD, TalkTalk customers get NOW Boost free, while BT customers have to pay extra to get full 1080p HD.

HD TV Ultra HD TV
Sky Stream & Glass Included £6/mth
Sky Q £8 (was £9) £12 (was £13)
Virgin Media Included £6 - £7
(TNT Sports Included)
BT TV £6 Only TNT Sports 4K
TalkTalk TV Included N/a
Netgem TV Included Included
NOW TV £6 N/a
Amazon Prime Video Included Included
Netflix Included £5 - £11

While services like Netgem TV support 4K, the content a customer receives will depend on individual subscriptions to additional services including NOW or Netflix.

Overall, in terms of TV platforms, Sky and Virgin Media offer the most full HD content, with the ability to also add Ultra HD content from Sky Entertainment, Sky Cinema, and Sky Sports.

Amazon Prime Video is also a good choice for those who only want some on-demand content, with the service including Ultra HD TV shows and films as standard, and acting as a platform for additional services including Paramount+ and Discovery+.


Best deals on Ultra HD TV content

With Ultra HD 4K content focusing on Sky Entertainment, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, and TNT Sports channels, we can look at the best deals for pay TV bundles where Ultra HD can be added.

Package TV Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Sky Entertainment + Netflix 150 N/a £19 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Save £9/mth + Free setup (Ends 23/05/2024)
Sky Entertainment + Netflix + Ultrafast Broadband 150 145Mb average £39 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Save £9/mth on Sky Entertainment & Netflix + Reduced price broadband + Free setup (Ends 23/05/2024)
Bigger Combo bundle 190 362Mb average £40 Free 18 months
offer Offer: No setup fee (was £35)
Bigger Combo bundle + Sports HD 195 362Mb average £65 Free 18 months
offer Offer: £250 bill credit or a LG 43 inch TV + No setup fee (was £35) (Ends 27/05/2024)

Sky Stream can be taken with or without broadband and offers content in 1080p HD as standard. Customers can add the Ultra HD pack for an extra £6 per month, and they'll get 4K content on other packs they've also subscribed to - for example, Sky Cinema or Sky Sports.

Virgin Media TV customers will also need to bundle their broadband, but will get TNT Sports Ultimate in 4K included as standard with the Bigger Bundle and up, and can choose to add Sky Sports Ultra HD for an extra £7 per month.

Virgin Media customers can also access Ultra HD content on Sky Entertainment and Sky Cinema channels for an extra £6. Customers who want both Sports and Cinema packs in 4K will be paying an extra £13 in total, which could make it more expensive than Sky.

Finally, while customers can upgrade to full 1080p HD with BT and TalkTalk, they won't be able to access any Ultra HD content through the NOW subscriptions, including Sky Sports Ultra HD, as this isn't available.


Best deals on full 1080p HD content

Those who only want full 1080p HD viewing have a wider choice available to them, both in terms of pay TV provider and the content they want to watch.

Full HD is now becoming the standard definition for many pay TV providers, including Sky's new Stream platform, Virgin Media TV 360 and Virgin Stream, and Netflix.

TalkTalk TV also bundle NOW Boost for free, so all customers get their NOW memberships in full 1080p HD, while BT TV customers can add the upgrade for an extra £6 per month.

Here is a selection of the cheapest pay TV bundles with full HD included or available:

Package TV Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Sky Entertainment + Netflix 150 Mb average £19 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Save £9/mth + Free setup (Ends 23/05/2024)
M125 Fibre Broadband + Stream 52 132Mb average £26 £35 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £26 per month + Get 10% Stream credit back on every subscription you add to Stream
TV Hub + Full Fibre 150 70 152Mb average £34 Free 18 months
offer Offer: NOW Entertainment just £4.99 for 12 months (was £9.99) + NOW Boost free + Free setup and P&P
Sport + Full Fibre 100 77 150Mb average £49.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + No setup fees save £61.99 (Ends 06/06/2024)

Overall, Sky and Virgin offer the widest range of content in full 1080p HD, while TalkTalk also offer customers a good deal with their NOW Boost bundle.


Sky HD & Ultra HD

Sky's new Stream TV service, launched in October 2022, offers customers content in 1080p HD as standard, which includes Sky Entertainment channels such as Sky Max and Sky Atlantic, as well as offering Freeview HD too.

Customers still using Sky's older satellite-based Sky Q platform will get Freeview channels in HD, but will have to pay an extra £8 per month for any content in full 1080p HD.

HD Ultra HD
Sky Stream Included £6/mth
Sky Glass Included £6/mth
Sky Q £8/mth £12/mth

Sky offers definition upgrades in a specific add-on, which are offered to customers with rolling 31-day contract terms.

Sky Q customers have to pay more compared to Sky Stream and Sky Glass, but the Ultra HD pack also includes HD content, so customers won't have to pay for both packs.

Ultra HD content on Sky tends to focus around their Sky Originals programming, as well as movies and live sporting events in the Sky Cinema and Sky Sports packs.

That means, while there is some 4K content on Sky Entertainment, to make the most of the Ultra HD pack, customers will probably want to be watching Sky Cinema or Sky Sports as well.

Sky Ultra HD also includes TNT Sports Ultimate if customers have the TNT Sports pack, and an upgrade to Netflix Premium for Sky Stream and Glass customers who get Netflix Standard included.

Read more about Sky TV packages.


Virgin Media HD & Ultra HD

Virgin Media take a slightly different approach to Sky when it comes to HD and Ultra HD content, with the provider including more upgraded content as standard.

Both Virgin Media TV 360 and Virgin Stream customers will get all the content they're subscribed to in full 1080p HD as standard where it's available.

Customers who take the Bigger Bundle, Biggest Bundle, or Mega Volt Bundle will also get TNT Sports Ultimate in 4K included alongside the four TNT Sports HD channels.

Virgin Media also offer all TV 360 and V6 customers the Virgin TV Ultra HD channel for free, with customers able to watch a variety of content in 4K if their TV supports it.

To get more Ultra HD content on Virgin Media, customers can add the Sky Entertainment & Sky Cinema Ultra HD upgrade add-on for an extra £6 per month.

And in February 2023, Virgin Media added the ability for customers to upgrade to the Sky Sports Ultra HD pack for an extra £7 per month on top of their Sky Sports subscription.

Virgin Media also launched the Bigger Combo Bundle + Sports HD in July 2023, upgrading the Sky Sports pack to full 1080p HD as standard, when it had previously been limited to SD, except on the Ultimate Volt Bundle.

Here is the content quality included in the three main Virgin Media bundles:

HD Ultra HD
Big Bundle Included Virgin TV Ultra HD
Bigger Bundle Included Virgin TV Ultra HD
TNT Sports Ultimate
Mega Volt Bundle Included Virgin TV Ultra HD
TNT Sports Ultimate

Bundles that include, or where customers add, additional Sky packs, including Sky Cinema and Sky Sports can then upgrade their viewing quality:

HD Ultra HD
Sky Sports Included £7/mth
Sky Entertainment & Sky Cinema Included £6/mth

Read more about Virgin Media TV packages.


BT TV HD

BT TV provides Freeview channels in HD as standard and customers can add a HD add-on to access more HD channels within their chosen TV package.

HD Ultra HD
BT VIP Included TNT Sports Ultimate
All other plans £6/mth TNT Sports Ultimate

The HD add-on on costs an extra £6 per month, but it's on a rolling contract so it can be cancelled at any time.

Alternatively, BT TV customers who take the most comprehensive VIP package will receive full HD content across their channels where available.

One thing worth pointing out with BT that could catch customers out, is that despite BT's involvement in the TNT Sports channels (previously BT Sport), customers only receive these in SD as standard, and have to pay for the HD pack to upgrade viewing to 1080p HD.

In addition, customers won't get the TNT Sports Ultimate channel in 4K unless they also subscribe to BT's HD pack.

While the latest BT TV Box Pro supports both HD and Ultra HD content, although NOW TV subscriptions don't offer any 4K content. Customers with an older BT YouView box will only be able to watch up to 1080p HD as the box doesn't support 4K.

Read more about BT TV packages.


TalkTalk TV HD

TalkTalk TV offers a 4K streaming platform through either a Netgem 4K TV box or the newer Android 4K TV box.

However, while customers will receive Freeview channels in HD as standard, and TalkTalk bundles NOW Boost for free, there is likely little Ultra HD content available on the platform.

NOW Boost upgrades any NOW Membership plan to full 1080p HD, but there is no option to upgrade further to Ultra HD. This includes content such as Sky Entertainment, Sky Cinema, and Sky Sports.

NOW Boost usually costs £6 per month, but all TalkTalk TV customers get that for free with their TV subscription.

TalkTalk TV does support streaming apps such as Netflix and Prime Video, where users could subscribe to and watch Ultra HD content, including TNT Sports Ultimate on Discovery+, but they'll have to go without Sky Sports Ultra HD or Sky Cinema in 4K.

It is a low-cost, flexible, TV package though, and new TalkTalk broadband customers can also access exclusive discounts on NOW memberships, so it's still worth considering, especially where cost is an important aspect.

Read more about TalkTalk TV packages.


Streaming platforms

Netgem TV

Netgem TV is available as a standalone TV service or alongside some broadband packages from providers like TalkTalk and Community Fibre.

The service includes Freeview HD channels along with some premium HD channels including:

  • Free Sports
  • Premier Sports
  • Premier Sports 2
  • Sports TV
  • Football TV
  • Xtreme Sports
  • Frag TV

Netgem ship their 4K set-top box as standard, so customers will be able to view content in the highest definition if it becomes available.

There are no extra costs with Netgem for HD content, but there isn't a great amount of it so far.

NOW TV

NOW TV memberships are a flexible way of taking premium content, but it costs more every month to add HD content to a subscription.

This is called NOW Boost and it costs an extra £6 per month.

Taking this allows customers to watch any HD content available within their memberships such as Sky Sports content (with the Sports Membership) or films (with the Cinema Membership).

NOW say this includes the following content where applicable:

  • All Sky Sports channels and on-demand content
  • All live Sky Cinema channels plus on-demand movies
  • Most live Entertainment channels (except Cartoonito and Nicktoons)
  • Selected TV box sets and limited on-demand kids' episodes
  • Very limited selection of hayu box sets

Just like the memberships themselves, NOW Boost can be cancelled at any point. NOW TV can also be bundled with NOW Broadband for extra money-off.

Netflix

Streaming service Netflix offers three tiers of packages, with two of them offering HD content and one offering UHD content.

Here's how those packages look alongside each other:

Plan HD UHD Price per month
Basic with ads Yes No £4.99
Standard Yes No £10.99
Premium Yes Yes £15.99

So, there is a premium to be able to access UHD content on Netflix, although the different tiers do have other perks - read more in our full guide to Netflix.

As for how much content is actually available in HD and UHD, it varies depending on what customers like to watch.

For example, older TV content will be in SD rather than HD because that's just the way it was made, but we can expect modern content to be in HD.

UHD is more problematic. At the time of writing, there are only around a thousand titles on Netflix in UHD, so the majority of movies and shows won't be in Ultra HD.

On that basis, we can't say that signing up to Premium solely for UHD content is economical, yet it's more likely customers would be signing up for the option to watch on four screens instead.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime does not charge extra for customers to view content in HD and UHD.

Most of their content is in HD, although the same issues with older SD content apply to Prime Video as they do to Netflix.

Again, there's little UHD content available, but at least customers don't need to pay extra for the privilege of accessing it.

Find out more in our guide to comparing Amazon Prime Video with Netflix.


Watching in HD or UHD

For those who want HD and UHD TV, the obvious place to start is an HD or UHD ready TV set. Almost all TVs sold these days are at least HD ready and many are also UHD ready, although the latter are slightly more expensive.

HD TVs should have a minimum resolution of 720p, which is enough to view most content broadcast through the main HD channels, although the standard for full HD is now 1080p.

UHD TV offers four times the detail of HD, meaning UHD compatible TVs will have a resolution of 3840 x 2160, or 4K for short.

For anything more than the Freeview HD channels available through the TV, customers will need to sign up to a pay TV provider who offers HD content as discussed above.

Each provider will offer a set top box with their TV packages. Those on HD packages will need a HD compatible box and those on UHD plans will need a UHD ready box. Most new boxes will now be Ultra HD ready.

This won't automatically guarantee access to all HD and UHD channels though, it'll depend on the exact package they sign up to.


Summary: Where to watch HD and Ultra HD TV

1080p HD is becoming more of a standard where viewing definition is concerned, with Sky Stream, Virgin Media, and even Netflix, now including HD as standard.

However, prices vary, and some older systems, such as Sky Q and BT TV, still require customers to pay for channels in full HD.

Ultra HD is going to be most attractive to customers who already subscribe to premium channel packs like Sky Sports and Sky Cinema, and that's where the majority of 4K content will be found too.

Virgin Media now offer Sky Sports in Ultra HD if customers want it, and both Sky and Virgin Media customers can access 4K programmes on Sky Entertainment and Sky Cinema channels.

Virgin Media may well be the best place for those wanting to try out Ultra HD, with a dedicated 4K channel included for all customers, and TNT Sports Ultimate also included in the Bigger Bundle and up.

TalkTalk TV also deserves a mention here, including the NOW Boost to 1080p HD as standard, and support for Prime Video with inclusive Ultra HD content supported on the set-top box. However, Ultra HD content on Sky isn't available.

Overall, it's likely customers will choose a pay TV provider first, and then look and see what HD or Ultra HD content is available. However, for new customers trying to pick a provider, we'd say Sky Stream or Virgin Media would be the best places to start.

Comments (2)

Peter
21 April 2016

Still no UK cable company broadcasting in HD (1080p)!!! Pointless buying any TV higher then 720p.

Ofcom need to start pressurising the likes of Sky, Virgin et.el.

Kevin T replying to Peter
22 August 2016

It's ridiculous. HD is 10 years old now. You can't buy a non-HD TV anymore. HD channels should now be standard but the TV companies still insist on charging a premium for them where they even exist.

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