Compare Sky and Virgin
Sky Digital and Virgin Media are the two biggest providers of digital tv, broadband and phone in the UK. If you compare Sky and Virgin both offer great value triple bundles, a wide range of channels and both basic and advanced set-top boxes but are quite different in terms of set-up, availability and pricing. Let’s compare.
TV on Sky and Virgin Media
Sky TV is transmitted by satellite so you need a Sky mini-dish installed somewhere on the outside of your property. Virgin TV comes via cable so you need to live in a street that’s been cabled to get it. Here are the main points for each.
Sky Digital TV
- Sky Plus to pause, rewind and record TV comes as standard
- Huge range of channels
- Channels available in 2 Entertainment Packs
- Full range of Sky Sports and Movies available to add on
- Over 50 HD channels – extra monthly fee for HD
- Dedicated 3D channel
The 2 Entertainment packs are Entertainment and Entertainment Extra. The Entertainment pack includes all of the channels from what used to be known as the Variety and Style & Culture packs. Entertainment Extra includes all of these plus the channels from the former News & Events, Knowledge, Music and Children’s packs – see our Sky TV packages page for more detail. You need to take one of these as the basis of your TV package. To receive the range of HD channels you need to take the HD pack for an extra £10.25 a month. To get the Sky 3D channel you need to subscribe to the Sky World HD package.
Virgin Media TV
- V+ to pause, rewind and record TV can be added for a one-off fee and small monthly fee
- Channels arranged in 3 TV sizes – M+ (65 channels), L (100 channels) and XL (160 channels)
- BBC iPlayer as standard
- Sky Sports and Sky Movies available to add on
- Optional upgrade to TiVo, revolutionary new web TV service
- Up to 19 HD channels dependant on package – one-off activation fee for HD
- Some 3D content on demand
To use V+ you need to upgrade from the standard V HD box to the V+HD box for a one-off fee of £49.95, but this will also give you HD activation. V+ is included in the TV XL package and is an extra £5.10 a month on all other TV sizes. All of the Virgin TV boxes are HD and 3D ready – the standard issue is the V HD box – however to receive HD channels in your package you need to pay a one-off HD activation fee of £49.95 (unless you’ve already upgraded to V+HD discussed above). To get the full range of HD channels you need to subscribe to the TV XL package. Virgin offer the full range of Sky Sports except for 3 and 4 in HD and Sky Sports News, for more info see our Sky Sports on Virgin Media page.
TiVo is what Virgin Media call the ‘next generation’ of TV. At the heart of it is the TiVo box, an advanced box with its own 10Mb broadband connection and either 1 terabyte or 500GB of hard drive to store hours and hours of TV. You can search for content by keyword such as an actor’s name or a title and the TiVo box will bring back anything relevant from the channels in your TV package and from the web, so it could give you 2 movies, a documentary and an acceptance speech from YouTube for an actor. The box gets to know what you like and will record content without being asked and store it in a special ‘Suggestions’ folder for you, and thanks to the built-in broadband your main internet connection won’t be slowed down when it records from the web.
Broadband on Sky and Virgin Media
Sky offer 2 levels of broadband in their packages, called Broadband Everyday Lite and Broadband Unlimited. The download speed on both is up to 20Mb with an upload speed of up to 1.3Mb, but Broadband Everyday Lite has a monthly usage limited of 2GB which of course doesn’t apply to Broadband Unlimited. Both come with a free trial of McAfee Internet Security Suite – 3 months on Everyday Lite and 12 months on the Unlimited option.
Like its TV service Virgin Broadband comes in 4 sizes – L, XL, XXL and a superfast 100Mb service that is being rolled out across the country. Broadband L has download speeds of up to 10Mb, XL is up to 30Mb and XXL up to 50Mb. All of the broadband sizes are advertised as unlimited downloads but a fair usage policy applies and Traffic Management operates from 4pm to 9pm and 10am to 3pm to “ensure a consistent user experience”. Virgin Broadband extras include online storage and free photo prints as well as free Virgin Media security, and the Virgin service has been found to offer the highest and most consistent broadband speeds in the UK, with customers on the 10Mb service typically getting a speed of 9.68Mb.
Phone on Sky and Virgin Media
Sky landline services are called Sky Talk and come in 2 sizes called Sky Talk Freetime and Sky Talk Unlimited. Freetime gives you included evening & weekend UK landline calls and comes included with Sky bundles but you must pay line rental to Sky. Sky Talk Unlimited is £5 a month and gives you unlimited UK landline calls at any time and unlimited calls to 20 international destinations and to mobiles in the USA & Canada.
Like its TV and broadband the landline phone on Virgin Media comes in 3 sizes – M, L and XL. M is the free option in a bundle which gives you unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles, L is the same but covering evenings and weekends (£4 a month) and XL is unlimited calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles at any time (£8 a month).
Digital TV Packages
- Sky+ HD Starter
- Sky+ HD with Sky Movies
- Sky+ HD with Sky World
- Sky+ HD with Sky Sports
- Virgin TV L + Phone M
- Virgin Media TiVo Starter Bundle
- Virgin Media TiVo XL
- Top Up TV Favourites
- Top Up TV Complete Sports Pack
- BT Vision Gold Pack
- TV Essential + Broadband and Anytime Calls
- TV Unlimited + Broadband + Anytime Calls
Sky TV Starter Deal
Only £20 a month
Sky+ TV, broadband and calls £20 a month. Free Sky+ Box and set-up, up to 2MB broadband and included evening and weekend calls.
Virgin Value Bundle
£20 a month
This bundle has size ‘M+’ TV, that’s 65 channels, TiVo, On Demand & Catch-Up, 10Mb Broadband plus Phone with unlimited weekend calls! £20 a month plus line rental.
BT Vision Starter Deal
£18 a month
£4 a month first 4 months! > Free Vision+ Box > 20Mb Broadband – 10GB usage > Freeview, Catch-Up & Pay per View > Anytime calls > Online only offer
Top Up TV Favourites
£11.99 a month
Library of popular TV – over 700 shows to choose from each month including Life on Mars, Little Britain, Lost and many more. Top Up box from £39.99 – £20 set-up.