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Ways to Watch Television in the United Kingdom

Updated on March 2, 2015
There are lots of ways to watch the fantastic TV that the UK produces
There are lots of ways to watch the fantastic TV that the UK produces | Source

Introduction

If you want to watch TV in the UK, you have plenty of choice. Whether you want to view one of the free-to-air channels, subscribe to a digital content provider or want to watch streaming TV on your laptop, there's an option for you. This article explores the main ways that viewers can access and watch TV in the United Kingdom.

Whether you are interested in Freeview, cable TV, satellite TV or watching online, there's plenty of choice when people are deciding how you want to consume your media, including:

  • Digital TV networks
  • Digital TV providers
  • Virgin Media
  • Sky Broadcasting
  • Other cable broadcasters
  • Online services
  • Further information

Freeview is a very popular, free way to watch TV
Freeview is a very popular, free way to watch TV | Source

Digital TV networks

The UK no longer broadcasts television via the analogue network and has now moved to providing TV channels exclusively via digital services. Viewers in the UK can watch many channels at no extra cost in the UK through Freeview and FreeSat.

  • Freeview - Freeview is a service that receives digital broadcast signals and allows them to be watched on any digital TV. Freeview is a service jointly operated by several of the main broadcasters in the UK. Freeview is built into many newer TVs as standard, although it is also available as a separate box.
  • FreeSat - FreeSat is a satellite service that provides free access to many channels. Receiving FreeSat is dependent on having a satellite dish and a FreeSat receiver. Sky Broadcasting also provides a competing 'FreeSat from Sky' service.

Freeview Guide: How To Set Up Your Freeview Digital Box

Digital TV providers

There are several digital TV providers in the UK, including Virgin Media, Sky Broadcasting, BT Vision and Talk Talk Plus TV.

Virgin Media is the main cable provider in the UK
Virgin Media is the main cable provider in the UK | Source

Virgin Media

Virgin Media provides TV broadcasting as a cable provider. Following a large amount of consolidation in cable companies over the last few years, Virgin Media is now the only major cable TV provider in the UK. Features of Virgin Media include:

  • Access to all digital cable channels.
  • 'On-Demand' and 'Catch-Up' services for popular shows.
  • 'Pay-per-view' services for movies and sporting events.
  • Personal video recorders that integrate with TiVo.
  • Provision of a phone line and internet broadband together with a cable TV package.
  • Subscription prices for Virgin Media typically range between £35 and £110 a month.

Sky Broadcasting is the main satellite broadcaster in the uk
Sky Broadcasting is the main satellite broadcaster in the uk | Source

Sky Broadcasting

Owned by News Corporation, Sky Broadcasting is the biggest satellite broadcaster in the UK. Features of Sky Broadcasting include:

  • Access to all satellite channels.
  • 'On-Demand' and 'Catch-Up' services for popular shows.
  • 'Pay-per-view' services for movies and sporting events.
  • Sky Atlantic channel featuring popular HBO shows like Game of Thrones, True Detective etc.
  • Optionally you can also get a phone line and internet broadband from Sky.
  • Subscription prices for Sky typically range between £35 and £85 a month.

BT TV is an online service providing access to many channels, especially sports
BT TV is an online service providing access to many channels, especially sports | Source

Other cable and digital broadcasters

Although these are the largest digital TV providers in the UK, there are a couple of smaller services, BT TV and Talk Talk Plus TV.

  • BT TV - BT (formerly British Telecom) provide a TV service over broadband. Their TV service allows viewers to watch both on-demand shows and also live TV. Subscription prices for BT TV typically range between £30 and £50 a month.
  • Talk Talk Plus TV - Similar to BT TV, Talk Talk Plus TV also provides a TV service over broadband. Subscription prices for Talk Talk Plus TV typically range between £25 and £35 a month.

Online services

In addition to traditional television broadcasting providers, people can also watch TV online via popular streaming services such as iPlayer, ITV Player, Amazon Video, Netflix and LoveFilm. These services are available via several methods:

  • Newer TVs often have these services built in (Smart TVs).
  • Smart boxes such as Roku boxes can provide access to these services and let people watch them on their TV.
  • People can also access and watch these services on a PC or laptop.

Further information on television in the UK

Here's some additional useful information on TV in the UK.

  • Many channels are available in both standard and high definition; some providers do charge slightly more for HD channels.
  • If you own a TV in the UK, you must buy a TV license. The cost of a TV license is around £150 a year.
  • On-demand and catch-up services allow viewers to watch programs after they have been aired on regular TV.

How do you prefer to watch TV in the UK?

See results

In closing

You have lots of options if you want to watch TV in the UK. With the quality of programming available from many broadcasters and the variety of ways to consume that broadcasting, you should be able to find a way of watching TV that meets your needs.

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