Comparing UK TV Options

Choosing the right Satellite or Cable Service for your information and entertainment needs is a challenge in the UK, where the options and features can be confusing and intimidating.

All of the systems provide multiple channel options, and include equipment that can handle recording shows, as well as real time pause and rewind.

Some of the services listed are cable only while others are satellite based or a combination of the two.

Here is a quick breakdown of what is out there so that you can make an informed choice.


This service, sponsored by the BBC and ITV, is available at no charge, other than the cost of acquiring and installing the equipment required for reception. This service will carry nearly all of the standard BBC programming that the land based free-to-air system carries.

Since Freesatshares the Astra 2 satellite group with most of the other UK providers, users of other Satellite systems can switch to Freesat using their existing equipment. If enough ports are available, Freesat can be added on simply by purchasing the correct converter box, allowing you to view Freesat and other services like Sky at the same time.

While it is not as popular as the subscription services which offer more premium programming, Freesat is still a good bargain (free) and provides a lot of high quality programming every week through over 200 TV and Radio channels.



Another lower cost option, the BT system offers more than 70 free to view channels as well as a selection of premium channels covering sports, music, movies and family fare. Both the free and subscription channels offer select Pay per View options.

BT TV is offered by one of the UKs oldest and largest communications companies, but does not at this time include a satellite option.

The firm does have a number of exclusive contracts with various sports teams and organizations that make it a popular choice for those following the exploits of their favorite teams. They have also brokered programming deals with other entertainment providers including Sky, Fox, UKTV, National Geographic Channel, AMC and Netflix.


By far the most popular of the subscription services, SKY is the modern incarnation BSkyB system, boasting over 11 million subscribers. Sky carries a wide range of programming on more than 300 digital radio and TVchannels with programming options ranging from sports and children’s programming to premium channels and on demand.

Sky also offers a number of in home viewing options allowing different programming to be accessed from multiple sets.

Other services include Sky Now which allows subscribers to view programming on their portable devices including tablets and smartphones, and Sky Anytime, a streaming service that allows viewing of select programs whenever the user wants.


As with many other cable and satellite services, bundled packages are available with special pricing.

However, Sky has been criticized for requiring costly addons in order to access the programming that you want. This can be mitigated by selecting the optimum package up front for your viewing requirements, but can be an issue if you try to add features at a later date. And while it was once the exclusive provider of specialized entertainment channels, now virtually all of the Sky offerings are available on one or more other Satellite or broadband services.


Another premium service, ranked second in the UK based on subscribers, Virgin features more than 175 channels, many with HD and even 3D capability. Their Digital Recording Systems allow for the recording of multiple shows at once. It is also recognized as the nation’s number one provider of on demand programming, with over 300 million users accessing this service each year.

To broaden their options, Virgin subscribers can also subscribe to select SKY packages.



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