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Digital TV Basics: The Options Compared

Helping you choose which TV service to pick

Digital TV Logos


Choosing digital TV

The UK completed the digital switchover in October 2012, spelling the end of the older analogue TV system. This section of our site outlines the various digital TV services on offer, and is aimed at those looking for some advice on which service to go with.


Summary of the Digital TV Services

Here is a table showing the basic TV services offered by each of the main TV services:

Service Basic TV Channels On Demand Monthly fee Box cost Setup High-Definition Broadband
Sky 200+ Small selection on Sky+ boxes From £21.50 Free From Free Over 50 channels Up to 14MB
Freesat 80+ - Free From £40 From £80 5 channels -
YouView 40+ Large selection, plus catch-up TV is free, broadband subscription required for on-demand £299 - - -
Top Up TV 42+ 100 hours a week £13.99 From £40 nil - -
Virgin 65+ Large selection, plus catch-up £18.74 (inc line) Free £40 Over 25 channels, plus on demand Up to 50MB
BT Vision 40+ Large selection, plus catch-up From £4 (+ Broadband) Free £30 Small selection of content Up to 20MB
Freeview 40+ - Free From £20 nil 4 channels -
Last updated November 2012


Five things you need to know about each service:


TV aerialBT Vision

  • If you get your Broadband from BT, you can get this for free
  • 40 live TV channels via a TV aerial (the Freeview channels)
  • Loads of TV and films to watch over the Internet
  • On-demand TV and films either on subscription, or pay-to-view
  • More on our BT Vision page or at

Satellite DishFreesat

  • Satellite TV without subscription
  • Choice much more limited than Sky's satellite service
  • Offers small amount of subscription-free High Definition
  • Covers 98% of the UK
  • More on our Freesat page.

TV aerialFreeview

  • Received via a standard TV aerial
  • No subscription fees / no installation fees
  • Cheap way to get digital TV - one off cost
  • Available to most of the of the UK
  • More: See our Freeview page.

Satellite DishSky Digital

  • You need a satellite dish, fitted by Sky
  • Widest choice of channels in the UK
  • Covers 98% of the UK
  • Offering a free Broadband service to customers who take out Sky Talk
  • More: See our Sky Digital page, or go to

Phone lineTalkTalk TV

  • TV over a phone line
  • Not available across the UK - Only in London and a few other towns
  • You need to sign up to TalkTalk broadband
  • Free set-top box provided
  • More: Full details on our TalkTalk TV Page.

TV aerialTop Up TV

  • Viewed by many as not the best value for money
  • Live TV channels come from Freeview via a TV aerial
  • The box downloads extra TV content overnight, for viewing next day
  • Downloaded content is limited
  • More: See our Top Up TV Anytime page.

Fibre Optic CableVirgin Media Cable

  • Delivered via underground fibre optic cable
  • Not available throughout the UK
  • Good collection of on-demand content
  • Cheap solution when used with Virgin's phone and broadband
  • More: See our Cable TV page, or see if you're in coverage at

Listen to show 29, covering the Digital TV Basics:

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More help and advice:


Got a question on digital TV that we can answer in our next podcast?
Call 020 8133 4567 or send us a message


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