How To Pay Less for Your TV and Movies
Recently, we’ve taken a look at how you can potentially lower your Sky bill. The fact of the matter is, the cost of home entertainment is always on the increase. This is often due to inflation, though the major UK TV and broadband providers do unfortunately still have the right to hike prices up once you’re in contract. With that in mind, it’s little wonder so many of us are looking for a cheaper alternative to Sky, Virgin Media and BT. But what’s out there beyond the big three that is actually worth your money?
In this guide, we’re going to explore all the best alternative routes you can take when it comes to getting your hands on great entertainment for less. There are plenty of great alternatives to Sky. You just need to do a little bit of digging. You’ll also need to consider your budget, too – as well as exactly what you want from your entertainment provider.
Do you want access to sports, movies or pay per view services? Are you interested in box sets, catch up TV or on demand features? These are all things which could help to hike up the cost of your TV bill. Ultimately, if saving money is important to you, you might need to think carefully about what you’re willing to sacrifice.
That being said, it might just be a case of thinking outside of the box. We’ve got access to more channels and shows than we’ve ever had before. Sometimes, it’s not so hard to look for alternatives to Sky in 2019 as it is to find worthwhile replacements. Everyone’s TV needs are going to be slightly different.
Therefore, in this guide, we’ll be looking at viable alternatives for Sky, Virgin Media, BT and more. We’ll run down some of the best ways for you to save cash on your monthly TV bills, all the while not missing out on your favourite shows, movies and events. You don’t have to keep paying for Sky or Virgin unless you want to. Start thinking about cheaper ways to entertain yourself!
Best Alternatives to Sky
Let’s start with the absolute cheapest. Freeview is, of course, absolutely free. It has been ever since it was first brought in around the time of digital TV taking over the analogue signals. Freeview is a service that’s pretty much available to anyone with a TV, full stop. Most modern TVs are built with the Freeview service already installed, which means all you need to do is connect up a set-top box or an aerial to get going.
While Freeview is free on the surface, costs may vary when it comes to paying for a box or a device for you to stream it through. However, this is normally less than £40-£50, which is a pretty sweet price to pay when it means you get all the programmes it provides for free from here on out.
Where Freeview falls down is, naturally, the choice of channels available. However, it is still a viable alternative to Sky TV packages if you’re mainly interested in one or two channels or shows. This is your best way of getting close to the ‘terrestrial’ package of old, which of course included the four basic channels (before Channel 5 showed up and made things complicated around 1997).
Freeview TV channels include all the BBC standards, ITVs, Channel 4 and 5, as well as plenty of niche channels such as Dave, Quest, CBS, and even the Horror Channel. What’s more, there are even a few on demand services tied in, too. Think about the TV you actually want to watch, and weigh up whether or not it’s worth going subscription-free.
The Bottom Line: It’s free, but it’s limited in terms of channels. If you don’t watch TV much, or only watch a few stations, Freeview is a brilliant cheaper alternative to Sky.
There’s probably not that much more we can say about Freesat given that Freeview has already been covered, as you’ll get access to the same channels. That being said, as the service is streamed through a satellite dish, it’s a viable alternative to homes which have poor access to Freeview. Once again, it’s completely free.
However, do be aware that if you are set to leave Sky, you may need to change your dish or its capabilities, as it works on a slightly different system. For stable, free TV, Freesat is a good option for many households.
The Bottom Line: Free TV channels – similar to Freeview, but more stable with dish reception.
Yes, Netflix is pretty much the Daddy of streaming services, and there’s plenty of good reasons why. For as little as £5.99 per month, you can get access to a rolling library of TV series and movies, many of which are from the UK and from the US. Netflix also produces its own exclusive content, most of which is worth watching, and which you won’t get access to elsewhere.
The major benefit of Netflix lies in its compatibility. You can pretty much stream Netflix to any device known to man. This is what makes it one of the best alternatives to Sky on the market. You can stream via Smart TV, certain games consoles, tablets, smartphones and streaming sticks. Even the Amazon Fire Stick supports it, though it doesn’t like making a big song and dance about it.
Fans of great-looking TV content can upgrade to Ultra HD streaming for a little extra, all for less than you’d expect to pay Sky for every month. What can let Netflix down is that its selection isn’t always the best. It rolls its selections around occasionally, but there’s no sports coverage or pay per view services.
It’s pretty much a digital lending library. That’s not a bad thing! What’s more, you can set it up for up to five different profiles to use, meaning if you’d rather your side of the TV wasn’t clogged up with recommendations for ‘Twilight’ or ‘Stranger Things’, you can tweak your experience your own way.
The Bottom Line: Netflix is convenient, cheap, and available just about everywhere. Your tastes may vary when it comes to the quality of content but it’s definitely one of the best Sky alternatives.
Amazon prime is Netflix’s main rival, and for £5.99 per month, it competes very well indeed. It can also come tied in with the benefits of having Prime next-day-delivery and a host of other services for just £7.99 per month (or £6.58 per month if you pay annually). It’s safe to say Amazon has built up one of the most compelling alternatives to Sky in 2019.
You can currently get a free 30 day unlimited trial of Amazon Prime Video with no commitment – click here to visit Amazon, sign up and try it free for 30 days!
Prime is also well-known for its unique content. It’s been the home of The Grand Tour for several years, which is of course the show Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear gang headed to after jumping ship from the BBC. It’s also got – arguably – a wider selection of movies to choose from, many of which are included for free. You can easily rent or buy certain movies, however, which is convenient from your laptop, Smart TV, tablet or streaming stick.
Speaking of streaming sticks, at present, the Amazon Fire Stick ( along with the soon to be released Fire TV Cube ) are TV-plugin devices through which you can watch prime video. Unlike Netflix, you won’t be able to stream or cast from your phone straight to a Smart TV or dongle such as Google’s Chromecast. Therefore, unless your Smart TV or set-top box has Amazon Prime pre-installed, you’ll need an additional device in the form of the Fire Stick or Fire TV Cube. The latest Fire Stick provides Ultra HD and comes with an Alexa Voice Remote.
- The most powerful streaming media stick with a new Wi-Fi antenna design optimized for 4K Ultra HD streaming.
- Launch and control your favourite movies and TV shows with the Alexa Voice Remote. Use the dedicated power, volume and mute buttons to control your compatible TV, soundbar and receiver.
- Enjoy brilliant picture with access to 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR, and HDR10+. Experience immersive sound with access to Dolby Atmos on selected Prime Video titles.
- Enjoy favourites from BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, ITV Hub, All 4, Disney, Curzon and others (subscription fees may apply).
- Experience thousands of apps, Alexa skills and channels plus millions of websites such as Facebook and Reddit.
Amazon Prime is a fantastic alternative to Sky TV package deals in general, and it makes good sense to take a look at it as a potential cheaper alternative to Sky. An added bonus is they have recently started to offer live sports – having provided full coverage of the US Open and plans to introduce English Premier League games coverage later in the year.
The Bottom Line: A brilliant Sky TV and Netflix alternative. You can tie it in with Amazon delivery perks and the fire stick makes it very portable. Limited sports coverage at the moment but that looks set to change in the coming months.
NOW TV is actually where things get a bit more interesting. That’s because it’s provided by Sky themselves. But why is NOW TV seen as the best alternative to Sky by so many people? For one thing, you can choose whether you want a TV package, a movies package or a sports package – and you can pick between passes as you see fit.
However, this does come at a cost. You’ll probably expect to not pay more than £10-£15 for a box or a streaming stick, and streaming passes start at £4.99 per month. Movies are currently priced at £8.99, while sports are available in day or week passes for £6.99 and £10.99 respectively. This is actually an impressive amount of flexibility.
It’s also a really clever move on the part of Sky. If you just want the sports, pay for as much as you want. If you only want Sky Movies, buy the relevant pass. The number of movies available is absolutely stonking, too, meaning it often has plenty going for it over Netflix. What’s more, it’s more flexible than Prime, as you can stream it to various sticks as you see fit.
However, the NOW TV Player, a native program available for PCs, laptops, Macs and MacBooks, is notoriously clunky. To be able to watch content via a computer, you’ll need to install a separate application, which can often prevent you from watching in auto play mode. The functionality isn’t as smooth as Netflix, but you really can’t fault the choice.
The Bottom Line: Loads of passes and flexibility, can be a little clunky in terms of PC / Mac functionality, although it’s not bad. Definitely a viable and flexible alternative to Sky TV package deals.
TVPlayer is probably not as well-known as the above, but it’s a nice little step up from Freeview. Available for £6.99 per month, you’ll get access to up to 34 different channels which aren’t available on free boxes or streaming services. Therefore, it might well fill the gap between Freeview and Sky TV for a paltry sum each month.
It’s an online alternative to having a box of sorts plugged into your TV. Therefore, it’s well worth looking into if you spend most of your time watching TV online as opposed to via the gogglebox. Again, however, this is a streaming service which focuses mainly on entertainment, and not on movies or sport. For tailored sports and movies packages, you really should do best looking elsewhere.
The Bottom Line: Super-cheap, a nice add-on for Freeview. Not as much content here as elsewhere for the price.
DisneyLife and Disney+
DisneyLife is an app-based, streamable content platform which is available from £4.99. A brilliant option for families, you get access to more or less everything Disney’s produced over the years, including TV shows, Pirates of the Caribbean and Pixar movies. It’s also crammed full of great little features for the kids, too, meaning you can leave them to enjoy their favourite movies in peace.
There’s more on the horizon, too. Disney+ looks set to challenge the likes of Netflix, Amazon and more with an advanced streaming service. This is thought to be going international by 2021, and it’ll likely cost around £6.99 per month here to begin with. They’ll be bringing together all of their brands including Marvel and Star Wars, as well as acquired content from 20th Century Fox such as The Simpsons. It may be worth holding out for, but no word yet on functionality.
The Bottom Line: A brilliant choice for families. It may be worth holding out for Disney+ when it emerges in the months to come.
For as little as around £30, Google’s Chromecast will easily plug into your TV, and you can stream a whole host of content to the device from your smartphone or tablet. The best thing is, you can access various on demand services for free and just cast them as and when you like. Again, Prime sadly won’t work in this way, but you’ll need to pay out for a Fire Stick to get access to that.
Stream BBC iPlayer, Netflix, NOW TV, UKTV Player, YouTube and tons more. The functionality is great, which means if you’re already pretty savvy with your streaming and your smart tech in general, you’ll have no difficulty getting started. It’s one of the more niche alternatives to Sky and may not be a viable option for those of us who like to be able to control everything with a TV remote, but it’s still pretty impressive. If you’ve got several streaming services on the go, definitely make an investment.
The Bottom Line: Stream all manner of services to an affordable, flexible stick. Maybe not as user-friendly as a set-top box, but impressively capable.
So – the elephant in the room thus far – is the fact that there’s not really been much put forward in the way of sports content. Step forward Eleven Sports in that case. This is an affordable, online sports and events streaming service which has decent schedule of live and on demand football coverage. Like Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and Premier League? You’re covered, and all for £4.99 per month.
This is likely to be the best alternative to Sky available now as far as sports streaming is concerned. What’s more, it’s flexible with Android and iOS, and you can stream it directly via AndroidTV, Chromecast and Fire Stick services. It’s a great way to get access to niche and popular sporting events, rather than having to shell out extra to Sky for their sports packages. It’s probably going to be a viable option for anyone looking to slide some sports in alongside their movies and TV streaming platforms.
The Bottom Line: Likely to be the best streaming choice for sports fans. Easily cast and stream to smart sticks and TVs.
HayU is a pretty niche streaming service, but one that’s massively popular. For £4.99 a month, you’ll get access to top US reality TV such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians (if that’s your kind of thing, I’m not here to judge!), available to watch the same time they go live across the Atlantic. What’s more, it’s one of few streaming services still offering a solid free trial, meaning you can watch as much reality TV as you want for up to 30 days before a direct debit will kick in.
However, as this service is fairly niche, it may not be to everyone’s tastes. That being said, it may be a worthy alternative to Sky TV package deals where only a few reality or lifestyle channels are included, and where you get limited access to certain shows and episodes.
The Bottom Line: A brilliant niche streaming service, free for a month, and then reasonably priced after that.
Anyone who has paid for a TalkTalk package in the past will be familiar with YouView, which is a service that the brand shares with BT. YouView is a subscription-free service that provides tons of great channels and catchup services. It’s often found on set-top boxes and, on the whole, it’s built-in with various BT and TalkTalk plans.
Therefore, it may not be a viable choice unless you are willing to jump ship to either TalkTalk or BT in the meantime. What’s more, it can be notoriously temperamental in some areas. It might not make much sense to use YouView if you have access to a streaming stick.
The Bottom Line: Easy to use, but largely limited to BT and TalkTalk. Pretty flaky on the signal front.
Other Things to Consider
Switching over from Sky to another package may seem simple enough, but it’s always worth doing your homework as far as the various streaming and package deals available are concerned. Definitely take advantage of free trials from platforms such as Prime, Netflix, DisneyLife and HayU wherever possible. This way, you can make your mind up as to which services suit you best.
Do invest in a streaming stick or plugin. For our money, the Google Chromecast is likely to be your best bet for the opening RRP and for its amazing flexibility. However, the Amazon Fire Stick and NOW TV boxes are just as reliable, if sadly not as flexible.
Before you leave Sky, consider your contract term. Are you still tied in? How much notice do you have to give?
Is Sky still supplying your broadband service? If so, you may wish to inquire about disconnecting your TV while keeping your internet active. You are well within your rights to request this. However, you’ll also likely need to take a look at download restrictions on your broadband if you’re going to switching to streaming in the near future.
Regardless of the alternative to Sky package deals you choose from in our guide, the overriding benefit is the fact that there is no contract supplied with the above options. Give a month’s notice to cancel, and you’re free to go. While you may save £20-£30 per month overall by quitting Sky outright, it is certainly refreshing not to be tied down.
What is the Best Alternative to Sky?
To sum up, let’s take a look at what we’ve covered. No one cheaper alternative to Sky is better than any other, generally – as it will all depend on your budget and your tastes.
- For basic TV packages and simple programming including on demand TV, choose Freeview or Freesat.
- To top up your choice of channels, consider paying a small monthly fee for TVPlayer.
- For on demand movies and TV, choose Netflix, Amazon Prime or NOW TV.
- For sport, consider either buying a weekly pass through NOW TV or signing up for Eleven Sports, or even both.
- Invest in a Google Chromecast to flexibly stream niche services such as DisneyLife and HayU.
- Hold on tight for Disney+, as it looks set to change the game completely.
What are some the best alternatives to Sky TV you’ve found? Try out some of the options we’ve explored here and build your own entertainment setup!