Get rid of Sky TV and save money on your television
A typical Sky subscription costs much more than the television licence. We tell you how you can keep multichannel television - and the convenience of Sky+ - but remove the cost.
As at June 2012, a full subscription to Sky, including HD, costs £63 a month - that's £756 a year. Even a cheap subscription to Sky+, excluding the movies and the sport, costs £20 a month - that's £240 a year. And all those costs are on top of the TV Licence fee, a charge of £145.50 which pays for the BBC domestic services and some S4C programmes.
After you've been with Sky for a number of years, you can miss the advances on other platforms. And the benefits of Sky+ - one touch recording that records every single episode - are often cited as a good reason to keep Sky+, and the accompanying fees.
In fact, you can get rid of Sky and still retain a large choice of channels - as well as all the benefits from a hard-disc recorder like Sky+. Here's what to look for.
Have you got anything else from Sky?
By offering a bundle including broadband internet and cheaper phone calls, Sky aren't just competing with Virgin Media's cable television - they're also making it harder for you to move away from Sky. If you went the whole hog and got broadband and telephone calls, you'll need to think about what you do there.
What channels do you watch?
Pop into the bit of the Sky EPG that has your recorded programmes, and take a look at your most-watched channels. If they're mostly Sky brands, particularly Sky Movies or Sky Sports, you're better off staying put with Sky. The channels are available through Virgin Media, and partially on the same system as Freeview, but you'd be swapping one large monthly fee for another.
Make your choice of platform
You've got three choices.
FreeSat From Sky is what you'll get if you simply cancel your Sky subscription completely, but keep your Sky box. By and large you get all of the free-to-view channels available on satellite. However, your Sky+ box will stop recording - the Sky+ service is actually a £10 monthly cost, incorporated into most Sky bundles. If you think £120 a year is a good deal for this functionality, then that's fine. We'd probably caution against it.
Freesat is the confusingly similarly titled free satellite service, which is operated as a joint venture between the BBC and ITV. Freesat uses your existing satellite dish, so you can simply unplug your Sky box and plug the Freesat one in. It, too, picks up the free-to-view channels available on satellite. Media UK lists channels available on Freesat. There are no subscription costs at all with Freesat, so once you've bought the box, you're sorted. A typical Freesat box will offer both HD and SD pictures, and an integral hard-disc recorder. Most boxes also include access to services like the BBC iPlayer for catch-up TV. A box can cost you as little will cost you around £89: browse through Amazon's Freesat HD recorders.
Freeview is television through your aerial, rather than through your satellite dish. Accordingly, this picks up a different, and smaller, choice of channels - we list channels available on Freeview. So: why on earth would you want it? For a few reasons. First, you still get many of the decent channels that you're probably watching: Dave, in particular, is a channel which is paid-for on satellite but free on Freeview. You can also get HD: though you'll be limited to up to five channels. And because it works through your aerial, it doesn't matter if one of the reasons you'd like to ditch Sky is because the dish looks ugly or has stopped working properly. Freeview HD recorders are a little more expensive than Freesat ones (because they're brand new), and Amazon has a good list of Freeview HD recorders. By the way: Freeview itself is free; if you want to add more channels, you can get something called Top Up TV, which gives you some of the channels you'll recognise from Sky, but many of them only broadcast in the middle of the night or early mornings for you to record.
Other things to watch out for
Want Dave, 4 Music, Virgin 1 or Channel 4 HD? These are paid-for on satellite, but free on Freeview.
Want Sky News? Don't go for Freesat - it's not on the official channel list. (You can tell your Freesat box to tune in, but it's a fiddle, and it won't work perfectly).
Want radio? The most choice is on FreeSat From Sky; and comparatively few on Freeview (though you still get all the national BBC channels there).
Want a clear user-interface? The Sky EPG is recognised as one of the cleanest in the world; and you'll spot less control from Freesat and certainly Freeview about how consistently different manufacturers' boxes work.
Want lots of red button goodness? Dabblers with the red button will find the most choice on FreeSat From Sky. Freeview itself has less space for that kind of thing, and therefore less content. You're unlikely to get any clever red button things from anyone except the BBC.
Want lots of HD? There are more HD channels on Freesat than Freeview; and the picture quality is technically better on satellite as well, not that we believe most viewers would notice.
However you do it, junking the Sky box might end up being a good money saver. You'll easily save a couple of hundred pounds a year, maybe much more - and speaking from experience, it's unlikely you'll miss most of the choice of Sky. Good luck - and happy choosing.
why pay for Sky+ you can get it free with a PVR or Freesat+
Sorry forgot to mention that not paying Sky also means you won’t be contributing to company who thinks it’s okay to illegally hack into the voicemail of a murdered school girl and give her parents false hope that she was still alive. which is an added bonus
Not quite the case, Ian: that was the News of the World, and the two companies were quite separate. They do share the same owner, however, and you can certainly base your decision based on that.
The deciding factor is that are you a fan of live sport? and do you like watching sport from the comfort of your own home? If no you can probably avoid Sky or Virgin and go with cheaper options.
I’d like to add that I use BOTH Freeview and Freesat from the BBC, but not sky currently. This is by far the cheapest but best set up to have. It is possible to run both at once when you have both the boxes, as long as you have a TV with a Scart socket in the back. Next, look on Ebay for a scart adapter which costs just £4.99 with free postage too. U can then switch between Freeview and Freesat once you have all this connected up with the scart leads also, and use both a loft ariel (normal one) and a satellite dish on the outside of your house. These channels are all free forever and no viewing card or subscribption is ever required.
It is true, it’s all cheaper than SKY, as I have both Freeview and Freesat and switch between scarts etc – the only thing I feel, as I couldn’t give a toss about sport, is that I wish both the BBC and ITV would get their heads together and make a few free classic/mix of film channels as well as documentary channels. Now I’m not expecting ‘Sky’ Movies but films up to say 5 years old and before and both the BBC/ITV/Channel 4 and sometimes Five have a VAST amount of documentary programmes from over the years – they could seriously challenge Sky a little more if they sat down and thought, what they could do with Freeview/Freesat and it would benefit us too.
I have been given a FOXSAT-HDR Digital Television Recorder and I took the leads out of my Sky+ box and attached them to the FOXSAT-HDR but it keeps bringing up a message telling me that it didn’t recognise the postcode and the connection was to be checked. Does anybody know what I might be doing wrong? I want to leave Sky, but first I need to know if this recorder works.
Many thanks for any help.
I’m happy with just Freeview and Freesat. Ironically since digital switchover, and the installation of a new aerial, I barely put the freesat box on except to listen to radio caroline or GOLD.
This article is now a little out of date. Channel 4HD is available on Freesat now, as is Sky News amongst others.