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BT vs Sky vs Virgin vs TalkTalk: Who has got the best broadband, phone and TV bundles for 2021?

bt vs sky vs virgin media
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Britain’s biggest providers want to sell you broadband, phone and TV in a bundle, but who has the best channels and the cheapest deals?

Just four of the UK’s biggest broadband providers now offer the ‘triple play’ of TV, phone and broadband – and they happen to be the biggest in the business. All give you all three services in just one contract, along with options for additional streaming channels and a set-top-box (or sometimes two) to plug into your TV and enjoy your favourite shows.

Choosing between them isn’t easy, not just because they all have some tempting offers, but because they each offer several packages or bundles and making direct comparisons is a nightmare. What’s more, these packages are designed to lock you into 18-month or even 24-month contracts, so you can’t just switch out whenever you like. As a result, it’s best to grab the best bundle you can, then either renegotiate or leave when the contract ends.

To make your choice easier, we’ve combed through each provider’s different plans and add-ons, and also tallied up the cost of the cheapest fibre, phone and TV package from each one, working out what each will cost you over the whole length of your contract. We’ll also take you through any potential gotchas, explore the most exciting extras and cover the strengths and weaknesses of any hardware bundled in.

Note that while Vodafone now offers some broadband, phone and TV bundles, these are limited to an Apple TV 4K box with a 12-month Apple TV+ subscription thrown in. Meanwhile, Plusnet no longer has any TV bundles, though you can get free BT Sport with certain packages through your TV, phone or browser.

The UK's best broadband, phone and TV bundles

1. Virgin Media: The best for great TV and stupidly fast fibre

Monthly cost: £33

Setup fee:Free

Total contract cost: £594 over 18 months

Virgin’s bundles have been tweaked but not substantially changed since our last review, with the biggest shifts being the removal of the old £35 setup fee and the replacement of the V6 box with the new Virgin TV 360. The new box features voice search and voice control, a new startover feature for skipping back to the beginning of live programmes, and the addition of profiles so that every member of the household can have their own channel line-up and recommendations. It’s designed to be easier to use than the old V6, but it still supports 4K playback and shared pause points between the box and Virgin’s TV Go app. Mini versions are also available if you buy into a multi-room package.

With the setup fee gone you can now have 18 months of TV, phone and broadband for under £600, although Virgin’s basic 100 plus channel line-up isn’t all that inspiring and you’re limited to the basic 54Mbits/sec average fibre plan. Move up to the £38 a month Big Bundle + Drama and Docs and things get more interesting, with a rise to 108Mbits/sec average speeds and over 145 channels, including Sky One, SyFy, Comedy Central and more. However, these premium channels aren’t offered in HD, so if you want high definition, you’ll need to move up to the Bigger bundle with 190 channels for £57 a month. You can also add Sky Cinema HD to this package with the Bigger bundle + Movies for an extra £5 a month. There’s also a version with the Sky and BT Sports channels for £72 a month.

If you want Virgin’s all-singing, all-dancing bundle, Ultimate Oomph gives you 630Mbits/sec fibre, anytime calls and the complete line-up of 230 channels for £79 a month, including Virgin TV Ultra HD and BT Sport Ultimate in Ultra HD. What’s more, this package includes an Unlimited data SIM, giving you mobile as well for a quad-play package.

The only big downside with Virgin’s approach is that all these deals come on an 18-month contract, with the prices rising massively once that time is up. Where the basic Big Bundle rises from £33 a month to £56, Ultimate Oomph goes up from £79 to an eye-watering £139 a month. Sky can match Virgin’s channel line-up, but it’s going to cost you a little more and nobody else can offer you as many top channels along with such speedy fibre.

Browse Virgin Media bundles now


2. Sky: The best bundles for unbeatable TV

Monthly cost: £43

Setup fee: £49

Total contract cost: £823 over 18 months

Sky charges into this battle with a big advantage. Not only do you get all the major UK TV channels along with regulars like Fox, MTV and SyFy, but also Sky’s own stellar line-up, including Sky One, Sky Arts and Sky Atlantic. The last is particularly important, as while you can find Sky One elsewhere, Sky Atlantic is only available through Sky and Now. BT now has a deal with Sky to offer Now through its TV packages, but if you want to watch shows like Mare of Easttown, Succession, Chernobyl or Westworld, Sky is still the easiest way to do it. What’s more, some of Sky’s best value options now come with a free Netflix subscription bundled in.

That said, you’ll have to pay for the privilege. Even Sky’s cheapest Super Deal TV bundle comes in at £43 a month for 18 months, though it does include 59Mbits/sec broadband and a basic Netflix subscription. What’s more, you’ll need to pay an extra £7 to have both Sky’s channels and Netflix in HD. Sky’s mid-range Mighty Deal takes the fibre up to 145Mbits/sec Ultrafast, but you still need to splash out extra for HD. Only with the £59 per month Ultra deal do you get HD bundled in, along with 4K on Netflix and supporting Sky channels.

The other good thing about Sky is that there are extras if you want them, including Sky Sports (for £22 a month), Sky Cinema (£11), Multiscreen (£15) and BT Sport (£27). Most of the extras come on a 31-day rolling contract, although Sky Cinema and Sky Sports require you to sign up for 18 months.

Sky’s other big selling point is its Sky Q hardware, which we still rate as the UK’s top premium TV system for its flexibility and next-gen features. If you want the latest programmes from Sky and HBO, this is still the best option out there, but watch out for those extra costs if you want to watch in HD or 4K.

Browse Sky bundles now


3. TalkTalk: The cheapest broadband, phone and TV bundles

Monthly cost: £26

Setup fee: £4.95 P&P

Total contract cost: £473 over 18 months

With its closest rival, Plusnet, out of the broadband/TV game, TalkTalk has the cheapest broadband, phone and TV bundles out there. You pay £22 a month for TalkTalk’s basic Fibre 35 package or £25 a month for the faster Fibre 65, then pay an extra £4 a month for TalkTalk TV. The only setup charge is £4.95 for postage and packing.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a case that you get what you pay for. TalkTalk no longer supplies its recordable TV Box Plus, leaving you with the basic TV Box with no recording, although it has got YouView catch-up features and can pause and rewind live TV. The box doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi, either, so you’ll have to connect it directly to your router or use Powerline or a wireless access point to bridge the gap. The channel line-up extends no further than the normal YouView channels, or you can get Now, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix subscriptions, with a small discount for Now. These replace TalkTalk’s old Boost packs, which gave you extra channels on a 30-day rolling contract.

In short, the only reason to get a TalkTalk TV bundle is that it might work out slightly cheaper than buying a separate Freeview Play box, although with options like the Manhattan T3 or Humax Aura out there, you might still want to weigh things up. Throw in the fact that TalkTalk continues to do badly for customer service in Ofcom’s annual report, and this isn’t a TV bundle that we’d happily recommend.

Browse TalkTalk bundles now


4. BT: The best bundles for fast internet and sport

Monthly cost: £39

Setup fee: £20

Total contract cost: £956 over 24 months

BT has a range of flexible TV bundles you can attach to its standard fibre packages, along with a line-up of packages based around its base-level Fibre 1 option. This approach means you can easily find the best bundle for you, whether you want all the sports and movie channels on a 67Mbit/sec Fibre 2 connection or just the basic entertainment package on BT’s ultrafast 300Mbit/sec or 900Mbit/sec plans.

The packages start with the Classic Entertainment plan at £39 a month with the 50Mbit/sec Fibre 1 connection or £10 as a top-up. This has all the usual Freeview channels plus SyFy, Eurosport, Discovery and AMC, along with a recordable, 4K-capable BT Box. You can also bolt on extras, including Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, starting at £6 a month. The Entertainment package currently comes in at the same price, but includes a Now Entertainment membership as well, although it’s normally £2 extra per month.

Move up to the £44/£15 Sport package and you get Freeview, the Classic Entertainment channels and five channels of BT Sport, but serious (and well-heeled) sports fans might want to think about the £69/£40 Big Sport package, which adds Now’s sports channels to the line-up as well. Meanwhile, cinema aficionados have the Big Entertainment option, which takes Entertainment and throws in Now Cinema as well. And if you just want everything, BT’s £91/£65 VIP plan has you covered.

There are a few gotchas to watch out for. Calls are PAYG as standard, so you’ll need to find an extra £7 to £16 a month to get a package of minutes if you make a lot of calls. More seriously, you’ll need to pony up £5 a month to get the full range of HD channels, but at least this includes the HD Boost for Now Entertainment, Cinema and Sport. All this can make BT an expensive option, yet it’s so close to Sky in price – and sometimes offers faster fibre speeds – that it’s always worth making a direct comparison based on the channels you want to watch and the fibre options in your area, and the Big Sport option’s a definite hit if you’re after the widest coverage of sport.

Browse BT bundles now


Compare the best broadband deals in your area

So which TV package deal is the best deal for you?

As we said, it’s hard to make direct comparisons, especially when contract lengths differ – although here you could argue that having your price fixed for longer could turn out to be a good thing. Your best bet is to pick the TV content that you can’t live without and the minimum fibre speeds you need, then work out the cheapest way to get them depending on what’s on offer in your area. In some areas that’ll mean a choice between BT, Sky and Virgin, while in others Virgin won’t be an option.

Generally speaking, Virgin tends to get you the fastest speeds at the most affordable prices, although you might need to pay extra to get the TV you’re looking for. Where it’s not available, BT’s often the strongest option for fast fibre, but the same applies to its TV. That leaves Sky as the top choice if the TV is your priority, not least because its hardware and services are still the best in town.

Whichever deal you choose, keep an eye on when your initial contract term is up, as you’ll nearly always face a price hike, and a competitor might offer better deals. Find out and, armed with this information, you’re better armed to get a lower price from your existing provider – or switch if they’re not smart enough to play ball.

All figures correct at time of publication

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