Greatest UK streaming and pay-TV companies 2021: Sky, Virgin, Netflix and Amazon Prime in contrast and ranked | Know-how

The selection of the way you get your TV and flicks within the UK has exploded lately, with a rising variety of premium pay-TV suppliers and streaming companies accessible at a variety of costs.

A lot of them have lengthy contracts, unique content material and complex bundle pricing. And that’s earlier than you’re employed out how one can truly get it to your tv, whether or not it’s stay broadcast TV through the normal routes of aerial, satellite tv for pc or cable, new choices of streaming stay TV over the web, on-demand obtain or streaming companies, or a mixture of all three. All of which makes selecting the best one for you a little bit of a minefield of data overload.

That can assist you choose the most effective pay-TV or streaming service on your wants, desires and finances, right here’s a information protecting all of the choices from Sky Q to Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and every little thing in between.

This Guardian purchaser’s information to UK pay-TV and streaming companies was final up to date on 9 March 2021, and represents the most effective accessible and examined on the time. As companies change and new ones are examined, this information will likely be up to date that will help you select the best pay-TV or streaming service for you.

Welcome to one of many Guardian’s new purchaser’s guides. This text represents a whole bunch of hours of testing by the writer to convey collectively a succinct record of really helpful services or products so you’ll be able to choose from the most effective and ignore the remaining with out having to do hours of your personal analysis.

Whereas the Guardian might earn a small fee from gadgets purchased by way of affiliate hyperlinks, the gadgets featured on this purchaser’s information have been examined and included with out affect from any advertiser or business initiative.

Greatest broadcast: Sky Q

Month-to-month from: £25 to £93.99


Sky Q is the most effective premium pay-TV expertise you may get within the UK, with essentially the most 4K content material, finest field, customisable EPG and sensible Sky Go app. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Minimal contract: 18 months
Connection: satellite tv for pc, broadband

Sky’s Q field has lengthy been premium pay-TV platform to beat, providing a greater, extra versatile and seamless expertise than rivals.

It begins with the little issues. The interface is fashionable, quick and responsive. Voice search through the distant is incredible and can be utilized to regulate playback too. The distant is nicely designed. You’ll be able to create a customized TV information, not solely modifying which channels are proven however the order wherein they’re displayed, one thing key rivals nonetheless don’t provide. And the field learns what you need to watch at completely different occasions of the day so it will possibly make options.

An unlimited array of stay channels can be found, relying in your chosen bundle. Sky Atlantic is unique to Sky, accessible by way of Sky Q and Now TV, which options HBO reveals comparable to Succession and Westworld. Most channels can be found in HD, sports activities such because the Premier League, Formulation One, darts, rugby and boxing are broadcast stay in 4K too. Be aware that HD and 4K are optionally available add-ons and that BT Sport just isn’t accessible in 4K. You’ll be able to report as much as six programmes concurrently and watch one other.

Sky Q has one of many widest alternatives of on-demand 4K content material, together with Sky’s field units and flicks, plus these accessible from Disney+, Netflix and the not too long ago added Amazon Prime Video. The most recent Dolby Atmos {surround} sound is accessible for some issues proven in 4K such because the Premier League, field units and flicks. The field helps HDR (HLG) in choose Sky on-demand 4K motion pictures and TV reveals, plus Amazon, Disney+ and Netflix. Dwell TV in HDR is at present within the works.

All on-demand content material, together with catchup, Netflix and Disney+, is built-in immediately into the primary interface such because the TV guides and search. Every part, other than content material from Amazon, Disney+ or Netflix, downloads to the Sky Q field somewhat than being streamed immediately, which is useful for slower connections. You can begin watching earlier than the obtain completes, and the standard is mounted somewhat than being variable primarily based in your connection. You’ll be able to due to this fact watch 4K downloads from Sky even when your broadband is just too gradual to stream in 4K from different companies. You may as well queue downloads within the background and go away them going in a single day with the field on standby.

The person catchup and streaming apps are additionally accessible, if you happen to would favor to make use of them as a substitute of the primary Sky Q interface, alongside YouTube, YouTube Youngsters, Spotify, BBC Sounds and others, whereas AirPlay is accessible for streaming music from Apple units. Sky Retailer, by way of which you should buy or lease content material not accessible as a part of a subscription, is accessible on Sky Q too.

Sky Q additionally has multiroom choices costing £14 a month utilizing wi-fi Mini Q packing containers, which stream content material together with stay TV, recordings and on-demand straight from the primary field through wifi or ethernet. Alternatively the glorious Sky Go app on smartphones, tablets, Home windows 10 and Macs can do the identical factor, streaming stay TV, recordings from the primary field or on-demand content material over the web with offline downloads too.

In depth parental controls can be found, together with a devoted Youngsters Secure Mode, which solely reveals U-rated content material, and pin-protection of age-rated content material, pre-watershed playback, purchases or particular person recordings. The grownup leisure channels could be hidden and you’ll block entry to third-party apps. The identical parental controls apply to Sky Go too.

Heavy rain and storms can often interrupt the satellite tv for pc sign, however the main draw back for Sky Q is value. Though it’s scalable, paying for less than sections and capabilities you watch comparable to sport or motion pictures, it is likely one of the most costly companies with a reasonably complicated pricing construction that has HD and 4K as added extras. It’s usually higher worth when purchased with different companies comparable to broadband. Look out for offers too, as Sky routinely gives bundled reductions.

Why must you get Sky Q?

Sky Q is the most effective pay-TV service within the UK, with a contemporary interface, quick field, good distant and spectacular voice search, entry to essentially the most 4K broadcast content material each stay and on-demand plus HDR, and the flexibility to take a variety of it with you on units, both on-demand or recordings.

Subscribe if: you need the most effective expertise plus 4K and HDR

Don’t subscribe if: you don’t need 4K or need one thing that doesn’t value as a lot

Greatest stay streaming: Now TV

Month-to-month from: £3.99 to £65.95


best pay tv -now tv

Now TV gives Sky channels and content material over the web with out lengthy contracts, both with a wise streaming stick or through an app in your TV or set-top field. {Photograph}: Sky

Minimal contract: one month
Connection: broadband (2.5Mbps minimal)

If you need entry to Sky’s content material however don’t desire a satellite tv for pc dish, one other set-top field or a prolonged contract, Now TV is the reply. It’s primarily pay-TV on a rolling month-to-month foundation streamed over the web by Sky.

The interface is pretty simple to navigate and is responsive on extra fashionable units. The service is damaged down into 5 month-to-month “passes”, which could be purchased individually or mixed, and auto-renew every month except cancelled. These present streaming entry to stay channels and on-demand content material that aren’t accessible on Freeview.

The £9.99 Leisure Go has 300 TV field units plus 17 stay streaming TV channels together with Sky Atlantic. The £11.99 Sky Cinema Go has 12 of Sky’s film channels plus 1,000s of on-demand motion pictures. The £33.99 Sky Sports activities Go has all 11 Sky Sports activities channels, however will also be purchased per day at £9.99 too. The £3.99 Youngsters Go has six youngsters channels and 1,000s of ad-free youngsters reveals on-demand. The £4.99 hayu Go has US actuality TV reveals.

All content material is streamed at as much as 720p HD decision with a minimal required broadband connection of two.5Mbps or 450Kbps on 4G. Six units could be registered at anyone time and as much as two screens or units can be utilized concurrently for simple multiroom entry. The £3 Increase add-on will increase the utmost streaming high quality to 1080p HD, provides Dolby 5.1 {surround} sound and a 3rd concurrent stream. It’s price noting {that a} Chromecast counts as two units, the telephone controlling it and the precise Chromecast.

Parental controls could be enabled, requiring a pin to start out watching stay channel streams and filtering on-demand content material by age restrictions.

Sky has its personal Now TV Sensible Stick (£24.99), which streams Now TV, plus UK catchup apps, Netflix and Disney+. However Now TV works on a variety of third-party units, together with some Samsung and LG TVs, PS4, Xbox One, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, YouView, Android, iOS, macOS and Home windows. You’ll be able to obtain reveals for offline viewing on smartphones and tablets through wifi too.

The first downsides are you can’t get Now TV in 4K, HDR or with Dolby Atmos, not all units help the Increase add-on for 1080p streaming and with out it the streaming body fee could be beneath 50 frames per second, which in concept could make fast-moving motion comparable to sports activities a bit jumpy and jarring in case your TV doesn’t have motion-smoothing to compensate.

Why must you get Now TV?

Now TV places the most effective of Sky’s channels and content material in your TV or units with no dish, field or lengthy contract. If you need a pay-TV top-up to your Freeview, that is it.

Subscribe if: you need the most effective of UK pay-TV with no contract

Don’t subscribe if: you need 4K, recordings or have actually gradual broadband

Greatest on-demand: Netflix

Month-to-month from: £5.99 to £13.99


best streaming service - netflix

Netflix was one of many first streaming companies and remains to be the most effective, supporting the newest applied sciences and codecs with a big library. {Photograph}: Netflix

Minimal contract: one month
Connection: broadband (3Mbps minimal)

Netflix is the byword for streaming and on-demand content material. It’s the authentic and nonetheless the most effective when it comes to streaming high quality, know-how and library.

The app is accessible on virtually any system, TV or laptop, with the widest availability of any of the companies. That features Android, iPhones, iPads and Home windows 10 PCs, plus browser-based streaming. Many good TVs include Netflix pre-installed and will also have a Netflix button on the distant. You will get Netflix on a wide range of Blu-ray gamers (bear in mind discs?), all the most important video games consoles, together with older ones, most set-top packing containers together with YouView, Freesat, Sky Q, Virgin and BT, plus streaming media gamers comparable to Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast and Roku.

Netflix’s know-how, each on the app aspect and the streaming aspect, is a few of the highest. You’ll be able to obtain for offline viewing on tablets and smartphones, together with a wonderful Home windows 10 app, and stream within the newest codecs, together with 4K, HDR10, Dolby Imaginative and prescient and Atmos, with the best system and plan. There are roughly 1,000 TV reveals and flicks accessible in 4K on Netflix.

The service is damaged down into three streaming plans. The £5.99 Primary plan has one stream at a time and solely in customary definition. The £9.99 Normal plan can stream to 2 screens directly (for multi-room) and in 1080p HD. The £13.99 Premium plan has 4 streams and as much as 4K, which can also be required for HDR10, Dolby Imaginative and prescient and Atmos. The minimal bandwidth necessities are 3Mbps for SD, 5Mbps for HD and not less than 25Mbps for streaming 4K content material.

Netflix additionally has one of many largest content material libraries accessible, together with comparatively new reveals and flicks, numerous older content material, plus a raft of its authentic content material, which is usually of upper high quality than opponents together with hits comparable to Stranger Issues, and exclusives comparable to Star Trek: Discovery (which is broadcast by CBS within the US).

It additionally has multi-user help with profiles that may be locked by pin. Parental controls embrace age scores, the flexibility to dam particular person TV reveals or motion pictures, plus a devoted Youngsters expertise. If you happen to journey with Netflix you get entry to the library in numerous international locations, which could be good however may reduce you off from the actual content material you need when on vacation if it’s not accessible in that nation.

The first draw back with Netflix is that the sheer quantity of content material overwhelms the interface, making it onerous to search out what you need, exterior of a search. It has filtering by TV present or film style, a not too long ago added record and a advice engine to assist, however can usually be irritating.

Why must you get Netflix?

Netflix has the most effective streaming know-how, apps and system help, in addition to one of many largest libraries together with high-quality authentic TV reveals and flicks, but in addition an enormous again catalogue of previous and new reveals and flicks.

Subscribe if: you need as much as 4K HDR streaming and a large library of TV reveals and movies

Don’t subscribe if: you need the very newest motion pictures, arthouse movies or extra area of interest TV

Greatest for youths: Disney+

Month-to-month from: £7.99


best streaming service - disney+

Disney+ gives a wealth of family-friendly content material with actually good know-how, permitting streaming on a wide range of units together with glorious smartphone and pill apps. {Photograph}: Disney

Minimal contract: one month
Connection: broadband (5Mbps minimal)

Disney+ is the most recent streaming service on the block and has not too long ago added a wealth of adult-oriented content material alongside its giant library of youngsters and big-kids motion pictures and TV reveals.

It has a few of the finest streaming know-how. You’ll be able to have seven separate profiles, together with pin-protection and children profiles, which could be restricted to age-appropriate content material together with scores for zero, six, 9, 12, 14, 16 or 18-plus years previous.

You’ll be able to watch on 4 screens concurrently with 4K, HDR10, Dolby Imaginative and prescient, Atmos or Digital 5.1 accessible as customary. It helps a wide range of units from good TVs and set-top packing containers to consoles, smartphones and tablets, plus you’ll be able to obtain any TV present or film on the service to as much as 10 separate units.

The Disney+ interface is pretty easy with highlights, search, suggestions, watch lists and the flexibility to dig down into the content material library divided up into the media firm’s six important manufacturers, Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Nationwide Geographic and Star.

The depth and breadth of family-friendly content material is unrivalled, with every little thing Disney has made proper again to the unique Mickey Mouse, cartoons comparable to X-Males from my childhood, the entire fashionable animations in addition to the Pixar movies. It additionally has some extra adolescent-themed content material, together with all of the Marvel and Star Wars movies and TV reveals, the entire Simpsons, Nationwide Geographic and different bits. The current addition of Disney’s new Star model has bolstered the adult-orientated content material with US TV reveals and flicks starting from Household Man and Sons of Anarchy to Deadpool, the Satan Wears Prada and the Grand Budapest Resort. The grownup choice isn’t as massive as rivals, however is rising quick, as is the service’s choice of high-quality Disney+ authentic content material together with the superb Mandalorian, WandaVision and Hamilton.

Disney+ prices £7.99 per 30 days or £79.90 for a 12 months up entrance, with no contracts or streaming high quality limits. It requires a minimal web pace of 5Mbps for HD and 25Mbps for 4K streaming.

The first draw back with Disney+ is the shortage of any non-Disney-produced content material, however then it is a one-brand service and Star has dramatically expanded what’s accessible past what you’d usually count on from Disney. It’s additionally price noting that Disney withdrew its longstanding Disney Channel, DisneyXD and Disney Junior from Sky and Virgin, making Disney+ the only house for his or her content material since 1 October 2020.

Why must you get Disney+?

If you happen to or your youngsters love Disney motion pictures and cartoons, you need all of the Star Wars or Marvel motion pictures and TV reveals in a single place, and also you’re a fan of Disney’s US TV and film reveals underneath its new Star model, that is the service for you. The know-how is basically good too.

Subscribe if: you’ve got youngsters that want family-friendly leisure or simply love Disney, Marvel or Star Wars

Don’t subscribe if: you’re searching for huge libraries of adult-themed content material

Greatest worth: Amazon Prime Video

Month-to-month from: £5.99 to £7.99


best streaming service - amazon prime video

Amazon Prime Video rivals Netflix with a pretty big library, good know-how, 4K HDR and stay sport streaming. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Minimal contract: one month
Connection: broadband (1Mbps minimal)

Taken by itself Amazon Prime Video is likely one of the finest video streaming companies accessible rivalling Netflix, with a wide range of content material spanning third-party TV present field units, massive and small motion pictures, and a small however good choice of authentic or unique TV reveals, together with its personal Star Trek. It additionally has one thing most streaming companies don’t have: stay sport, together with some Premier League video games, ATP World Tour tennis occasions, and NFL Thursday Evening video games.

It’s accessible as a £5.99 a month subscription by itself, but it surely is much better worth wrapped right into a full Prime account at £7.99 a month or £79 a 12 months, which works out at £6.58 or 69p extra per 30 days than simply Prime Video by itself.

Prime consists of Amazon’s supply service, in fact, but in addition consists of Prime Music with entry to 2m songs, Prime Studying with a rotating choice of ebooks, magazines and comics, plus Pictures with limitless picture storage and Drive with 5GB of storage.

Both manner, Prime Video can stream throughout a giant vary of units, together with Amazon’s numerous Fireplace TV and Fireplace pill units, iPhones, iPads and Android units, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One and PS4, Freesat, BT TV, Sky Q, TalkTalk TV and Virgin set prime packing containers, plus apps on a variety of good TVs. You’ll be able to watch within the browser on a pc and obtain reveals for offline viewing with the brand new Home windows 10 app for PCs or on cellular units.

You’ll be able to watch Prime Video on as much as three separate units or rooms on the identical time, however solely two units can stream the identical piece of content material on the identical time.

Amazon helps all the newest codecs together with 4K, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Imaginative and prescient, Atmos and Digital 5.1, with round 100 TV present seasons and a modest film choice accessible in 4K, together with Amazon’s originals and a few Premier League video games. A minimal broadband pace of 1Mbps is required to stream in SD, 5Mbps for HD and 15Mbps for 4K.

Parental controls could be set to pin-protect purchases and content material primarily based on age score. Amazon means that you can apply restrictions primarily based on system too, that means your baby’s pill or the TV can require a pin however your telephone could be restriction-free.

The first draw back of Prime Video is its interface for sport, which is clunky and it may be tough to navigate to the stay occasions handed all of the earlier catchup content material. It additionally doesn’t have as many hit authentic reveals as Netflix or Disney+. Be aware that it may be tough to discern between what’s included with Prime Video and what prices additional for lease or buy by way of the Amazon Video retailer, with which the current addition of a “free to me” swap on some units has helped considerably.

Why must you get Amazon Prime Video?

Amazon Prime Video is superb worth by itself, undercutting arch-rival Netflix, however even higher as a part of a full Prime account making it a no brainer for these already a part of Amazon’s ecosystem. It additionally gives one thing others don’t: high-quality stay sport.

Subscribe if: you’re searching for the best-value streaming service, stay sport or are already within the Amazon ecosystem

Don’t subscribe if: you desire a bigger library of TV reveals and flicks

Digital programme information (EPG)

The EPG is the TV listings, usually permitting recording scheduling and displaying as much as seven days of programmes.  

Private video recorder (PVR)

A PVR, also called a digital video recorder (DVR), is a set-top field that works as each a tuner and a recording system. Most set-top packing containers supplied with pay-TV companies are PVRs.

Terrestrial, satellite tv for pc, cable or IPTV

The strategy of delivering the TV sign. Terrestrial is the time period given to broadcast TV alerts obtained by an aerial utilized by Freeview, satellite tv for pc is utilized by Sky sending alerts to mini-dishes, cable is utilized by Virgin and IPTV is a system of streaming stay TV over the web.

Streaming v downloading

Streaming solely buffers the image in small quantities earlier than being proven on display and is dynamic, various in high quality and determination to maximise the expertise with out overwhelming your web connection. That is why streams usually begin trying poor and enhance as they ramp as much as increased high quality.

Downloads are a fixed-quality video file that’s saved regionally and performed again, both after they’ve totally downloaded or when sufficient of the content material has been saved {that a} appropriate buffer has been reached.

Dwell v on-demand

Dwell TV is broadcast in a linear style, the place you tune in and watch because it occurs. On-demand is pre-recorded and delivered to you while you need it. Dwell TV will also be provided on demand, the place you’ll be able to “restart” or “recap” a stay broadcast utilizing a PVR or stream.


The time period used for recordings of broadcast content material made accessible on-demand after they’ve been proven stay on tv.

Field units

Field units are reveals collected by season or full sequence accessible on demand.

Single, double, triple and quad-play

The phrases used to explain the delivering a number of service from the identical supplier, usually together with a number of of TV, landline, broadband and cell phone.


Multiroom is the time period used to explain the choice to observe a TV service on a couple of tv or system, normally through a second set-top field.

Excessive (OTT)

The time period used to explain companies that ship their content material through the web, somewhat than a set, single-purpose supply mechanism comparable to terrestrial, satellite tv for pc or cable.

Body fee

Body fee is the variety of nonetheless pictures proven per second to make up a transferring picture both given both in Hertz (Hz) or frames per second (fps), that are interchangeable. They usually quantity 24fps for cinema footage, 25fps for broadcast HDTV and 50fps for 4K UHD TV.


Movement-smoothing, movement compensation or movement interpolation, also known as 240Hz, TruMotion, Movement Plus, Movement Circulate or related, is a picture processing system that makes an attempt to take away the judder of movement attributable to decrease body charges by inserting artificially created frames in between the actual ones.

It’s notably useful for sports activities or different high-motion content material, but in addition creates the so-called cleaning soap opera impact in motion pictures the place movies look cheapened akin to daytime TV or YouTube movies.

Excessive definition (HD)

HD describes a content material proven with a larger variety of pixels than customary definition, which offers a crisper image. It’s cut up into 720p, which has a minimal decision of 1280 x 720 pixels, and 1080i/p (usually known as full HD or FHD), which has a minimal decision of 1920 x 1080 pixels and is usually referred to as 2K.

Footage present in 1080i are interlaced, which signifies that the horizontal strains that make up the image are drawn on the display in an alternate style with the odd strains first then the even strains. Footage proven in 1080p are progressive, which implies the all of the strains are drawn on the display one after the other from prime to backside. Interlaced footage produce two so-called “fields” per body of progressive image, which helps deal with the show of movement at a decrease body charges. 

4K extremely excessive definition

4K UHD, also called simply UHD or 4K, describes content material proven at 4 occasions the decision of full HD, at 3840 x 2160 pixels, for a considerably crisper image, notably on bigger shows. UHD may consult with 8K UHD (7680 x 4320 pixels), which isn’t at present extensively accessible.

Excessive dynamic vary (HDR)

HDR is a technique of encoding brightness data alongside color, which produces a larger brightness vary between the brightest whites and darkest blacks for extra lifelike image. Usually HDR alerts are solely included with the best high quality video, normally in 4K. There are a number of complimentary and competing codecs of HDR together with:

  • HDR10 – the fundamental open HDR customary supported by most units that’s static for the entire piece of content material
  • HDR10+ – an enhancement of HDR10 that gives dynamic metadata on prime on a frame-by-frame or scene-by-scene foundation
  • Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) – a royalty-free HDR customary utilized in some broadcasts and on-demand content material
  • Dolby Imaginative and prescient – Dolby’s proprietary HDR customary that may be static or dynamic and is seeing more and more extensive help

Encompass sound

Encompass sound takes many types however is actually something that’s extra than simply stereo (2.0) or 2.1 (left, proper and a subwoofer).

Dolby Digital (DD)

DD, also called Dolby 5.1 or AC-3, is the most effective identified surround-sound customary because it was one of many defaults for DVDs. It encodes as much as 5 audio system and a subwoofer (5.1), usually organized in centre, left and proper channels on the entrance and left and proper on the rear. DTS was the competing format on DVDs.  

Dolby Digital Plus (DD+)

DD+, also called Enhanced AC-3, is the successor to Dolby Digital and is utilized by most fashionable broadcast, Blu-rays and on-demand content material. It encodes as much as 16 channels, usually 5.1 or 7.1, with two additional aspect channels on left and proper of the centre spot.  

Dolby TrueHD

Dolby TrueHD is a lossless, high-resolution 16-channel surround-sound format that was a successor to DD and usually discovered on Blu-rays. DTS-MA is the competing format for Blu-rays.  

Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos is the newest Dolby surround-sound format that operates in a different way to its predecessors. Quite than dictating the channel from which a sound is performed, Atmos is object-based system, which defines the place a sound is coming from in a 3D area together with a top factor. The Atmos soundtrack due to this fact encodes the place the thing ought to sound like its coming from, permitting the processor to then determine which audio system to play it by way of. DTS:X is the competing format.

Within the house, Atmos spatial data is delivered as an extra layer to Dolby TrueHD, or extra generally to DD+ soundtracks, as is the case with most on-demand content material. Atmos-capable house methods are usually configured with 5 or seven {surround} audio system, a subwoofter and two top audio system (5.1.2 or 7.1.2). Top audio system are usually both mounted to the ceiling above the listener, or audio system that undertaking sound up and bounce it off the ceiling.


Google’s gadget for streaming content material to a TV. It’s a stick that plugs into an HDMI port and streams content material straight from the web with a telephone, pill or laptop appearing as a distant, somewhat than a conduit. Google’s Chrome browser may mirror a tab from laptop or an Android telephone can mirror its display and audio on to a Chromecast.  

Google Forged

Google’s methodology of sending video and audio to a Chromecast utilizing a telephone, pill or laptop as a distant or mirroring its display. It’s usually used interchangeably with Chromecast, and is represented by the icon of a display with radio waves transferring into it from the underside left nook.

Chromecast built-in

Google’s Chromecast know-how that’s immediately built-in right into a TV or different set-top field, which behaves in the identical manner because the bodily Chromecast dongles.


Apple’s AirPlay and its successor, AirPlay 2, ship video and audio immediately from a smartphone, pill or laptop to a set-top field or speaker utilizing wifi.


Bandwidth, in web phrases, is the quantity of knowledge that may be despatched or obtained at anyone time, usually measured in bits per second (bps) and sometimes referred to colloquially because the obtain, add or, merely, web pace. An 8Mbps web connection can obtain 8m bits per second.

It is price noting that the bits journey on the identical precise pace whatever the bandwidth, simply that extra of them can journey concurrently, and that there are eight bits in a byte, that means a 1MB file will take one second to switch throughout an 8Mbps connection.

Runners up

Virgin Media TV V6

Month-to-month from: £33 to £178.49


pay tv buyer's guide - virgin TV

Minimal contract: 18 months
Connection: cable, broadband

Virgin Media is the opposite massive pay-TV supplier within the UK utilizing cable as a substitute of satellite tv for pc, which has the benefit of avoiding any chance of climate disturbances, however reduces availability to solely these properties which might be related to Virgin’s underground community, which is over 50% of British households.

Virgin takes a special strategy to Sky, appearing as an aggregator of everybody else’s content material and its V6 set prime field appearing extra like a wise TV. Meaning you may get virtually each channel, bar Sky Atlantic, on Virgin and sometimes in bundles which might be cheaper than opponents. It has a unified seek for all content material throughout a number of companies and a sequence of highly effective recording choices for reveals, even spanning a number of channels. It additionally has virtually each streaming TV app (other than Now TV), together with all of the UK catchup companies and BBC Sounds. The V6 field helps 4K and HDR content material, together with BT Sport Final and the Virgin UHD channel broadcast in 4K, streams from Netflix, Amazon and others, plus the not too long ago added 4K on-demand content material from Sky Leisure and Sky Cinema costing £6 a month as an add-on.

Whereas quick, the interface could be very dated and you’ll’t change the order of channels within the EPG, which makes it clunky and irritating to make use of in comparison with Sky. Catchup and on-demand content material is principally streamed by the person apps too, which implies leaping into and out of BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, and many others, which is usually a bit gradual and clunky. Not all catchup content material is in HD both, whereas streaming is reliant in your broadband too, not the cable connection into the again of the field, which implies in case your router isn’t close to your TV you may need issues.

You’ll be able to have as much as 5 set-top packing containers for multi-room TV, together with the flexibility to stream recordings between packing containers. Virgin’s TV Go app streams stay TV over the web, and downloads for offline, however doesn’t entry recordings in your V6 field, and the standard even over a quick connection could be hit or miss. You can also’t purchase TV with out broadband, and lots of the bigger TV packages can solely be purchased in triple or quad-play. Virgin has additionally had just a few outages over the past a number of months, which has prompted a few of the companies to go offline for brief intervals of time.

Be aware that Virgin’s next-generation TV 360 service is at present changing the V6 field and repair for brand new clients.


Month-to-month from: £36.99 to £103.97


pay tv buyer's guide - BT TV

BT TV is an add-on service for BT Broadband clients and is actually a YouView PVR set-top field with Freeview and BT’s unique AMC channel. On prime you’ll be able to subscribe to Now TV’s numerous leisure, motion pictures and sport packages, plus BT Youngsters or BT’s Sport channels and BoxNation, together with BT Sport Final in 4K.

The BT TV field is available in a number of variations, together with only a TV field with no recording features past short-term pause and rewind, one with full recording features and one with recording and 4K help. You’ll be able to edit the EPG and the packing containers help all of the terrestrial catchup and streaming apps – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Spotify and others – however a few of the packing containers endure from app crashes and could be pretty gradual to activate, even from non-eco standby.

Multiroom is accessible with an extra set-top field, but it surely will need to have its personal aerial connection and be cabled into your router through ethernet. It additionally requires increased broadband speeds, you’ll be able to’t watch recordings from one other field and multiroom is restricted to only two rooms.

As with Virgin TV, you’ll be able to’t purchase BT TV with out BT Broadband, which additionally requires a BT telephone line, so it’s solely accessible as triple-play. However you’ll be able to change the channels you pay for every month, which makes it extra versatile than many of the competitors. BT recommends a minimal broadband connection of 44Mbps for 4K content material.

Apple TV+

Month-to-month from: £4.99


pay tv buyer's guide - Apple TV+

Minimal contract: one month
Connection: broadband (5Mbps minimal)

Apple TV+ is a little bit of an odd providing. It’s solely made up of films and TV reveals made by Apple, and whereas the agency is quickly including extra reveals to it, there’s not an terrible lot of it in comparison with rivals. There have been some actually good issues on launch, comparable to The Morning Present, and extra reveals and flicks are being added on a regular basis, some good, some not so good.

The Apple TV app is accessible on Apple’s units, together with Macs, iPhones, iPads and the Apple TV streaming field, on a handful of good TVs from Samsung and LG, plus PlayStation, Xbox, Amazon’s Fireplace TV, Google TV and Roku’s streaming packing containers, however not Android units or Amazon’s Fireplace tablets. Different units can stream Apple TV+ in a browser. You’ll be able to watch on as much as six units or rooms concurrently, and obtain reveals on Apple’s units.

A 12 months subscription of Apple TV+ is bundled with new Apple units comparable to telephones, tablets and computer systems or there’s a seven-day free trial accessible.


Month-to-month from: £5.99


pay tv buyer's guide - Britbox

Minimal contract: one month
Connection: broadband (3Mbps minimal)

Britbox is the newest streaming service from BBC and ITV, which, because the identify would possibly counsel, concentrates on British TV present field units and flicks.

It attracts content material from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, which implies the mainstay of the library is older dramas, comedies and documentaries which have been proven on terrestrial TV at one stage or one other. It has 369 field units courting from the Nineteen Eighties until now. Meaning lots of the TV reveals are additionally accessible totally free by way of the varied catchup suppliers, comparable to BBC iPlayer or rival companies comparable to Now TV, Amazon Prime Video or Netflix.

Programmes and flicks are all ad-free and steamed in both SD or HD, relying on how previous the fabric is. A minimal broadband of 3Mbps for SD and 6.5Mbps for HD streaming is required.

Gadget help is restricted however slowly rising together with a handful of good TVs, comparable to Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and LG fashions; set-top packing containers comparable to Apple TV, Amazon Fireplace TV, Google Chromecast, Freeview Play and YouView, plus internet browsers on computer systems, Android and iOS units. There are parental controls, which pin-lock any PG or older age-rated content material.

The apps are a bit dated in options, however are bettering slowly, together with the flexibility to obtain content material for offline viewing on Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. There aren’t any particular person profiles and the suggestions are a bit poor, however you’ll be able to flick through every little thing on the service in about 20 minutes so it’s not overwhelming.

A 7-day free trial is accessible. is to not be confused with, which is just accessible to these within the US and Canada.

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