The cheapest TV sports packages
Watching sport on TV is not always cheap. We look at the most competitive packages.
The Olympics are over and football's back, so now is the time that many of us turn our minds towards what sport we want to watch on TV over the coming season.
Of course, there’s more than just football on TV – everything from cricket to darts and pool is televised these days. But what is the cheapest way to watch some sport on the box?
Undoubtedly, the most penny-pinching way of watching sport on your TV is to stick to Freeview. You’ll have access to things like live Champions League, FA Cup and international football on ITV, live Europa League football and Test cricket highlights on Channel Five, and a range of European football and boxing on ITV’s digital channels. And of course there's the Match Of The Day and Football League Show highlights programmes on the BBC.
Some of these boxes, and many digital TVs, now include high definition channels, so if you really want to see Wayne Rooney’s hairplugs in all their glory, this is one way to do it.
If you want a slightly more expensive set-top box you can go for Freesat, which requires a dish as well. In addition to the channels available on Freeview, you'll also get some Scottish Premier League football (delayed full match coverage) and shinty on BBC Alba and some Welsh football, horse racing and Pro 12 rugby via S4C and BBC Wales. You can buy the equipment new for around £70-£90.
If that's not enough sport for you, the next stage up is to look for a package from one of the main digital TV providers – Sky, Virgin, BT and Top Up TV. All of them now offer the option of at least two of the Sky Sports channels and ESPN.
Here's a broad overview of which sports are offered by each channel.
|Sky Sports 1||English and Scottish Premier League and Champions League football, international cricket, golf and tennis|
|Sky Sports 2||Champions League and Football League football, international cricket, golf and tennis|
|Sky Sports 3||A mixture of international sports|
|Sky Sports 4||A mixture of international sports|
|Sky Sports F1||Formula 1 World Championship|
|ESPN||English and Scottish Premier League football, international football, UFC and US sports
Things to bear in mind
As you'll see from the tables later on in the article, the monthly cost isn't the only thing to look at when you're considering which TV sports package to sign up to. You should also think about:
- Can I get the service? – Virgin Media isn't available in all of the UK so may not be an option. Always use the postcode checker option on providers' websites to make sure.
- How flexible do I want the package to be? – Most of the packages, with the exception of Top Up TV, tie you in to a minimum contract (usually 12 months, although BT's is only one month). If you want the ability to cancel at short notice and cut back your monthly spend, you should think about this carefully before you sign up.
- What kind of digital TV box do I want? – Virgin, Sky and BT all offer digital TV boxes that allow you to record, pause and rewind live TV. If that's something you'll find useful, it might be worth paying a bit extra for.
- Do I want to watch sports on the move? – If you're a Sky customer you can watch your sports channels on your smartphone, laptop or iPad via Sky Go free of charge.
Cheap TV-only packages
Before you start looking at the cost of the subscription packages, bear in mind that you'll need the relevant set-top box first. Virgin, BT and Sky provide one for their customers, but you'll need to pay an installation fee to Virgin and, at the very least, a delivery charge to BT if you're confident of installing it yourself.
BT also charges activation and viewing card fees.
So here's the cost of some of the basic packages, both on a monthly and an annual basis. For the Top Up TV packages, the total cost includes a basic set-top box at £29.97 from Tesco.com.
|TV provider||Channels||Monthly cost||Total first year cost (including any box, installation and other fees)|
|Top Up TV||Sky Sports 1||£24.99||£329.85|
|Virgin M+||Sky Sports 1||£22 for first six months, £28.50 thereafter||£352.95|
|BT (only available to BT broadband customers)||Sky Sports 1 & ESPN||£25.40||£361.75|
|Sky||Sky Sports 1||£22.50 for first month, £32.50 thereafter||£390|
|BT (only available to BT broadband customers)||Sky Sports 1, 2 & ESPN||£30.70||£425.35|
|Top Up TV||Sky Sports 1 & ESPN||£32.99||£395.88 (free Top Up TV box included with this deal)
|Top Up TV||Sky Sports 1 & 2||£33.99||£437.85|
|Top Up TV||Sky Sports 1, 2 & ESPN||£40.99||£521.85|
Full monty TV-only channels
So, if you want the full sports services on offer, what sort of outlay are you looking at?
|TV package||Channels||Monthly cost||Total first year cost (including any box, installation and other fees)|
|Virgin M+||Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 & F1||£32.25 for first six months, £38.75 thereafter||£475.95|
|Sky||Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 & F1
||£30 first month, £40 thereafter||£480|
||Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4, F1 & ESPN
||£38.25 for first six months, £44.75 thereafter
||Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4, F1 & ESPN||£40 for first month, £50 thereafter
HD, 3D and other options
You should also bear in mind that if you want HD and 3D coverage, you'll may need to pay extra (and you'll need a suitable TV). You can also add on individual football club channels, such as Manchester United and Chelsea TV, for an average of £6 a month, but these are only available via Sky or Virgin.
You may find it's cheaper overall to bundle your phone, broadband and digital TV with one provider. You can compare broadband, phone line and digital TV packages with our partner Broadband Choices.
Don't forget to negotiate or look for cashback
If you call up to buy a TV package, it's worth negotiating to see if you can get a discount or something else, such as a gift voucher, thrown in. Or you take a look at cashback sites such as Quidco and Top Cashback and see what they're offering (make sure you read the terms and conditions before you sign up).
And don't forget to play hardball when it comes to renewal time as well – you could well get a better deal.
Happy sport watching!
Packages and prices were correct at time of publication
This is a classic lovemoney article that has been updated