TV News

From new developments in technology to special offers and voucher codes - keep up to date with the world of digital TV here.

Free Set Top Box with Top Up TV Sports

Top Up TV

Top Up TV have a new offer for sports fans – get a free set-top box and one month free when you take Sky Sports 1 with ESPN on a 12 month contract. The normal cost for the box is £49.99 and the ongoing monthly fee £32.99, so the free box and 1 month represents a saving of £82.98.

Top Up TV is mainly known for offering Sky Sports on a ‘no contract necessary’ basis one month at a time, so how does the one year contract add up against the other providers? Let’s imagine you don’t have a contract with anyone at the moment as if you were with, say, Virgin Media for your TV it would almost certainly make sense to add Sky Sports with them for £14.50 a month extra. If you’re starting from scratch and opt for Top Up TV with this deal your outlay for the year is going to be eleven months at £32.99 plus a £20 connection fee, which isn’t mentioned on the ads but will be there in the basket – total £362.89.

Just a reminder of what you get for this;

  • >> A Top Up TV box, essentially a Freeview Plus box, which enables you to pause, rewind and record all of your Freeview channels and the Sky Sports and ESPN channels too
  • >> Sky Sports 1 and ESPN for 12 months

If you went for Sky Digital on the most basic triple bundle and added Sky Sports 1 and ESPN your monthly costs would be;

  • >> £20 for the TV, Broadband and Talk
  • >> £12.25 line rental
  • >> £12.50 for Sky Sports 1 and 2
  • >> £9 for ESPN
  • >> Total £53.75

Sky give away a voucher for Marks and Spencer to new customers – at the moment £100 but usually £25 – so let’s take that amount into account when looking at the whole year and make it 12 x £53.75 minus £25 – £620.

The difference in annual cost between Sky and Top Up TV is £257.11 but for that you’re getting phone and broadband too (plus a lot more channels on TV and Sky Go on your laptop, iPad or iPhone). So if £257.11, or £21.43 a month, is less than what you pay now for broadband and landline it’s a good deal for you. If you don’t want a landline and broadband, go for Top Up TV.

If you go for Virgin Media on the most basic triple bundle and add Sky Sports 1 and ESPN the figures are very similar;

  • >> £20 for the TV, Broadband and Talk
  • >> £13.90 line rental
  • >> £14.50 for Sky Sports 1
  • >> £6 for ESPN
  • >> Total £52.40

So the same conclusion here – if you don’t need landline and broadband or have a great deal on broadband already but want Sky Sports the Top Up TV deal is definitely worth a look…

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Free £50 Sainsburys Gift Card from BT

BT Vision

BT have just inproved their Winter Deal by adding a free £50 Sainsburys Gift Card for any new customer taking BT Broadband with or without BT Vision TV. This is an online-only exclusive which can be used in conjunction with the 4 months free offer already running, giving you an effective saving of £114 – not to be sniffed at.

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4 Months Free BT Broadband Offer

As this is the leading BT Winter Deal let’s have a closer look at what you get with the 4 Months Free offer combined with the £50 Sainsburys Gift Card…

The deal consists of

  • >>BT Total Broadband with up to 20Mb download speed
  • >>Anytime Calls
  • >>Option to add BT Vision TV Essential for an extra £4 per month
  • >>First 4 months free then £16 a month or £20 a month with TV Essential plus line rental
  • >>Free £50 Sainsburys voucher exclusive to online orders

BT line rental is £14.60 a month on direct debit, which is higher than both Sky Digitsl and Virgin Media, but you can opt to pay a whole year upfront by debit or credit card to save money. At the time of writing it costs £120 which is rising to £129 after March 2nd, giving a price per month of £10.75, which is the cheapest of the big 3 with Sky at £12.25 and Virgin at £13.90.

Total Broadband

BT Total Broadband comes on an 18 month contract and gives you speeds of up to 20Mb with a 10GB monthly usage allowance. The BT Home Hub router is their most advanced to date and is really easy to set up, just plug and go, and the package also includes free WiFi minutes on BT Open Zone – handy in a lot of airports, cafes etc if you have no 3G or want to save your bill.

TV Essential

TV Essential is the basic BT Vision package where you add a Vision+ Box (free but with a £40 activation charge) and pay an extra £4 a month to be able to pause, rewind and record your Freeview channels and access on-demand programming on a Pay As You Go basis. The alternative for pausing, rewinding and recording Freeview is to buy a Freeview+ box outright for upwards of £75. The on-demand content comes through the broadband connection and starts from 50p a show, however you can upgrade to TV Unlimited and have unlimited access to their TV shows.

Your £50 at Sainsburys may just go towards your shopping bill but you could, of course, put it towards a new TV or laptop in store or from the Sainsburys website to make the most of your new BT services.

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More Plus Points for Sky Anytime

Sky Anytime Plus

Good news for Sky Anytime+ users this month, and for this who would like to get it but don’t have Sky broadband, as changes to the service announced at the end of January start to take effect. These include a better range of ITV and BBC content on demand, access to the service through other broadband providers and the arrival of something that up until now has given Virgin and BT a killer edge, the BBC iPlayer.

Thanks to an improved deal with ITV there is already new content from the channel in the main Sky Anytime+ menu including Cold Feet, Lewis and Prime Suspect. There’s a dedicated ITV Player section too but the amount of programmes available will increase later in the year.

The deal with the BBC is perhaps more exciting as the hugely popular iPlayer service has not been available on Sky TV up to now, which always feels like a big disadvantage against their competitors Virgin Media and BT Vision. The iPlayer will be arriving later in the year, no date given yet, but in the meantime there is a selection of archive BBC programmes on Anytime+ including some Doctor Who, Outnumbered and Top Gear.

Anytime+ is currently available free to anyone with Sky TV and Sky broadband as part of all bundled Sky TV packages and is being used by around a million households. Popularity is growing too as Sky have seen weekly usage figures rise by 80% in the last quarter of 2011, and the decision to now open it up to Sky TV customers with any broadband connection will mean over 5 million more homes in the UK will be able to access it.

What you can watch on Anytime+ depends on your Sky TV subscription both in terms of the main package you have – Entertainment or Entertainment Extra – and any added premium channels. So if you have Entertainment with Sky Movies as a add-on you can watch on demand content from any of the 50 or so channels in Entertainment and archived Sky Movies, but not for example the Sky Sports content. It’s not just Sky content on demand but a lot of programmes from the partner channels, including MTV, Discovery, FX, History, Disney, UK TV and National Geographic Channel.

For more general info see the Sky Anytime+ page or click on the button below to read more on the Sky site…

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BT Vision Growing – How Does It Work?

BT Vision

With the Virgin Media TiVo box everywhere and Sky TV offering free movies and M&S vouchers you could be forgiven for thinking that BT are having a hard time recruiting customers to the BT Vision TV service – you’d be wrong. In the last quarter of 2011 BT Vision gained almost as many new customers as Sky at around 40,000 and it was also the fastest growing pay TV service in quarter three. It doesn’t mean BT Vision is taking over, far from it as the service now has just under 680,000 subscribers against Sky’s 10.25 million with Virgin somewhere in the middle, but something about the offering that many thought would never take off has obviously grabbed the British public and BT must now feel like the magic 1 million subscriber number is at least in sight. The fact that they are the biggest UK broadband provider gives them a huge advantage here of course, as the TV service can be added for a very small extra cost if you already have BT broadband.

What are the Pros and Cons of BT Vision?

As mentioned above if you already have BT broadband or have decided that’s the one for you then it’s a cheap add-on if you go for TV Essential at £4 a month – TV Unlimited at £12.50 a month needs more comparison, we’ll look at that in a moment.

Here’s how it works;

The Vision+ Box is essentially a Freeview Plus box, that is it receives Freeview channels and uses the built-in hard drive to let you pause, rewind and record programmes. The difference with the Vision+ Box is that it connects to your BT broadband to download on demand content and catch-up such as the BBC iPlayer. If you have TV Essential the catch-up TV is unlimited and included but the on-demand content is accessed on a pay-as-you-go basis from 50p a show. If you opt for TV Unlimited you can watch the on demand content as often as you like, plus you get free ESPN – well, no monthly fee after you buy a one-off £10 viewing card.

Why not just buy a Freeview Plus box? Freeview Plus boxes start at about £70 and there’s no ongoing subscription charge, however that won’t give you the catch-up and on demand. There is a £40 activation fee for the Vision+ Box (sometimes discounted or waived depending on the BT deals on offer) so it adds up quite well.

BT Vision – Good Bits

The Vision+ Box is HD and 3D ready – there isn’t a huge choice of HD channels but if you just want the main terrestrial channels in HD like BBC, ITV etc it’s a lot cheaper than Sky or Virgin.

BT Vision – Bad Bits

It’s Freeview based so you have to make sure the Freeview reception in your area is good enough to give you a reasonable selection of channels. This includes extras like Sky Sports – if you get Sky Sports on BT Vision it’s delivered to you via Freeview so you need to check availability first. Not great for those who want a huge selection of channels.

Check it out on the BT site by clicking on the button below.

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Make the Most of Sky Anytime+

Sky Anytime Plus

There are so many channels to choose from on Sky TV, so why is it we still flick from channel to channel to find something to watch? Perhaps it’s because we know what we want to watch and when we actually want to watch it, but the timing is never right – if this is you, Sky Anytime+ could be the answer.

Sky Anytime+ allows customers to stream a whole load of TV programmes and movies to the Sky box at the touch of a button. So what about the content on there? To begin with, Sky Anytime+ is a free service which is available for Sky TV customers who also have Sky Broadband. Anytime+ can be accessed by pressing ‘TV Guide’ followed by the ‘Anytime’ button (the red button). Unlike the old ‘Anytime’ which provided a smaller selection of movies and TV programmes, Anytime+ has a category bar where you can narrow down a specific genre from a selection of nine choices. These genres include Movies, Documentaries, Sports and Kids, to name a few.

So, if you decide to select the ‘Movies’ tab, the genres are then broken down further (into 10 boxes) to help you find which type of movie you are looking for. For instance, you can choose from ‘Most Popular’ to ‘Box Sets.’ Alternatively, if you fancy browsing the entire library, you can even opt to do that.

Once you decide on which movie you would like to watch, accessing the movie is also very easy to do. All you have to do is press the ‘record’ button on your Sky remote control; this will then transfer the movie by downloading it into your ‘Planner’. It makes you wonder, with so much choice, whether you ever to rush out to rent a DVD from your local store when you have access to this many movies, from new to old, at the touch of a button.

With so many movies to choose from (over 600) those with young children may be worried that they may have access to films which are unsuitable for them – worry not. The usual parental controls exist for Anytime+ hence you can ‘lock’ any programmes/movies which you deem inappropriate for younger viewers.

All this considered, Anytime+ is obviously a major bonus for any Sky TV customer. If you are a Sky TV customer but don’t currently have Sky Broadband it would be worth looking into getting it in order to make the most of Anytime+ – make sure you get Broadband Unlimited though as everything you download to watch counts towards your monthly limit on Everyday Lite.

Good news for Virgin TV customers too as last year Sky Anytime+ vbecame available on Virgin’s top TV package XL as part of the on-demand offering (coupled with TV Choice XL it’s hard to beat for choice).

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Smart TVs – All You Need to Know

3D TVs were the phenomenon of 2010, followed by Smart TVs in 2011, but how much do you actually know about them? A Smart TV is a TV which has the ability to connect to the internet by itself, giving you access to features you are more used to using on a mobile phone or laptop. Smart TVs are available in LCD, Plasma and LED and come in various sizes, many of them with Freeview HD built-in.

Features of a Smart TV

With a Smart TV you can download apps, similar to an Android phone or an iPhone – the kind of apps available including gambling apps, Catch-UP TV, movie apps and social networking. Other common apps include Skype, You Tube, Love Film and BBC iPlayer – the particular beauty of Skype on a TV is that it enables you to make a video call on the big screen- all you need to do is plug in a webcam to the USB port on the TV.

Connecting to the Internet

On a Smart TV you will find an ethernet port which allows you to connect to your broadband using a cable. Many Smart TVs are Wi-Fi ready too, so you can buy an optional wireless dongle which plugs directly into the TV and picks up your home Wi-Fi broadband. The more expensive Smart TVs have Wi-Fi capability already built in, so no need for the dongle.

Smart TV Remote Control

You’ll get a remote control with your Smart TV, as you’d expect with a TV, but with top end models from Samsung you would receive a touch remote – this has a small LCD screen which even allows you to watch a different channel to the one on the main TV. Additionally, you can use your Android device or Smart Phone as a remote control on some Smart TVs.

Other Features Available on a Smart TV

Smart TVs feature DLNA Digital Living Network Alliance technology – in basic terms, DNLA is a piece of technology which enables a wide selection of devices and gadgets to ‘communicate’ with each other, a bit like Bluetooth. In turn, this means they offer you the option to send music or photos to your television wirelessly from your mobile phone.

Access to the Internet from your Smart TV

Cheaper Smart TVs will not have an internet browser included so you would not be able to surf the internet as you would on a laptop, you would only be able to access apps. On the other hand, expensive Smart TVs will include a browser enabling you to surf pretty much any site from the comfort of your sofa.

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Get Free ESPN for a Weekend of Sport

ESPN

Calling sports fans – if you’re a Sky TV customer or your TV service is Freeview get ready for the first weekend in February when you’ll be able to watch sports channel ESPN absolutely free. It’s all thanks to a deal between ESPN and Nokia to promote the Nokia Lumia and it means free access for all satellite and Freeview viewers from 6am on Friday 3rd to 6am on Monday 6th February – the Freeview element means that customers of BT Vision and Top Up TV will also get the deal.

They’ve picked a good weekend too as there’s a range of decent events on the schedule, from Premier League action to boxing to basketball, so there’s a good chance a lot of sports fans are going to really enjoy this and be tempted to subscribe – surely the intention… more on how to do that below.

What’s on over the free weekend?

Here’s a rundown of the highlights on ESPN’s free weekend…

Football

The weekend kicks off with Nuremberg v Dortmund in the Bundesliga at 7.30 on the Friday and there’s a good helping of European games on with French and Italian fixtures over the weekend too. The big double bill on the Saturday is Fulham v Man City in the Barclays Premier League at 4.30 on Saturday followed by Italian Serie A excitement with Roma v Inter Milan at 7.45pm.

Boxing

In the middle of the night at 3am you can watch the UFC143 welterweight fight between Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit live from Vegas. This was originally to be Diaz v George St Pierre but he had to pull out following a knee injury.

Basketball

If you follow NBA basketball this is a major game – the New York Knicks at the Boston Celtics can be seen at 1am on Sat 4th, so something to round off your Friday night if you have the staying power perhaps.

How to Get ESPN

So what to do if you love the free weekend so much you can’t bear to be without ESPN? If you’re a Virgin Media customer you get ESPN included in the XL package, so adding the channel is simply a case of upgrading to TV XL. On Sky you can add ESPN as you would any other premium channel – it costs £9 a month if you’re a Sky Sports subscriber and £12 a month if you’re not.

Top Up TV is a Freeview-based service that allows you to pay a monthly fee for a card or adaptor which enables you to receive channels like ESPN and Sky Sports 1 and 2 on Freeview – without a subscription to Top Up or BT Vision you’ll find the channel on the Freeview EPG but it will be blocked. ESPN on Top Up TV costs £10.99 a month with no contract – you just take it a month at a time.

Finally, here are the highlights of the free weekend:

  • Fri 3rd Feb
  • 19:30 – LIVE Bundesliga: Nuremberg v Dortmund
  • Sat 4th Feb
  • 01:00 – LIVE NBA New York @ Boston
  • 16.30 – LIVE Barclays Premier League: Manchester City v Fulham
  • 19:45 – LIVE Serie A: Roma v Inter Milan
  • Sun 6th Feb
  • 03:00 – LIVE UFC 143 Condit v Diaz
  • 11:30 – LIVE Serie A: Genoa v Lazio
  • 13:45 – LIVE Serie A: Fiorentina v Udinese
  • 16:45 – LIVE Bundesliga: Kaiserslauern v Cologne
  • 19:15 – LIVE Serie A: AC Milan v Napoli

Enjoy!

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Higher Speeds on the Way For Virgin Customers

Virgin Broadband

As of February Virgin Media will be doubling the speed of their broadband service, a development which will benefit over 4 million Virgin customers. The upgrade means that Virgin Media’s maximum broadband speed looks to increase to 120Mbps from 100Mbps at an overall cost to the company of £110 million and looks set to be complete by the middle of 2013.

Even Prime Minister David Cameron commented on the proposal, stating that it would be a great boost for the UK in terms of the economy as well as how businesses, consumers and households use the internet. The government has targets in place to build on and improve broadband speeds over the next 3 years in order to further develop the infrastructure in the UK as well as enhance a new and ‘smarter’ economy.

So what does this mean for Virgin Customers? Those customers who currently receive 10Mbps will now receive 20MBps, similarly customers who receive 20 or 30Mbps, will now be boosted to 60Mbps. Those currently on a 50Mbps service will be upped to 100Mbps and those receiving the top tariff of 100Mbps will be increased to the new maximum 120Mbps. Virgin Media have added that they will also double usage limits – customers will get this upgrade at no extra charge and those customers who have older modems will be sent new equipment, also at no cost. The question which still remains is how Virgin TV will tackle rural areas, as at present Virgin tend to cover urban areas only.

As for competitor BT, they had suggested that they were going to invest approx £2.5 billion in order to make fibre optic broadband available to around two thirds of homes in the UK by the end of 2015. Since promising this, BT has actually further invested £300 million in order to bring that goal forward, making it the end of 2014. They have promised major improvements to many homes, adding that broadband as quick as 300Mbps will be available to a certain amount of ‘superfast’ locations. With regards to Virgin’s plans, BT noted that they are by no means surprised that Virgin are ‘following their lead’ in the hope to double broadband speeds.

The UK only ranks number 35 globally when it comes to broadband download speed – 11.65Mbps on average. Virgin Media stated that when this new development has been completed they expect this average to increase to approx 16.46Mbps. If this turns out to be true then the UK will be ranked 19th in the world.

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F1 is Coming to Sky TV

Formula 1 Sky Sports Deal

If you are anything like us you will agree that the announcement that Sky TV is to have its own Formula 1 channel will fill you with glee. Taking nothing away from other channels that cover the sport, it is nice to see that motorsport has finally been given some of the attention that football gets, Sky always having prided itself in being able to offer its customers the best sports channels. The announcement reminds us we haven’t got long to wait now for the high octane fun to start – drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have scores to settle from last years season so they will be fired up this year (like with any sport we have our favourites, but I am sure that Lewis and Jenson will be at the top of the list for support among the British public).

Existing sport channels offer everything sport-related but never showed any F1 races. The new channel will be offering 10 races from around the world including countries like Britain, Germany, Monaco and the USA to name just a few. The 2012 Formula 1 season will have 20 races split between the BBC and the Sky F1 channel so we will have a new set of commentators to get used to; the Sky team will consist of Martin Brundle, a well known motorsports figure, along with Anthony Davidson and David Croft. It has also been announced that Damon Hill will be joining the team which will please his fans (Damon Hill raced as a F1 driver throughout the nineties and had major success, so he will be able to offer a professional drivers eye on this years championship). This kind of commentator is invaluable as we will get to hear what it is like from a driver’s point of view which will really enhance the viewing experience.

Formula 1 has gained even more popularity over the years as it is more than just a sport; there are teams to follow and individual driver performances to take note of. Formula 1 visits some of the most exclusive countries in the world, so we get to sit back at home and experience the jet set life style from the comfort of our arm chairs. Sky is not only bringing us a Formula 1 channel, they are also offering it on HD so we will be able to enjoy all the glitz and glamour with a crystal clear picture. It has been announced that the channel will be available through Virgin TV too, so access won’t be limited. It looks like we can now really look forward to a very exciting season ahead.

The Sky Formula 1 channel will be launching in March.

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A Brief Guide to HD TV

Sky HD Upgrade

You have to have been living on another planet if you have not yet come across HD TV, either seeing a friend’s TV or from the advertising campaigns Sky and Virgin Media have been running. With so many of us going HD mad, others are left not really knowing what HD TV actually provides – if this is the case for you, let us explain:

High Definition or HD provides viewers with a picture in higher resolution than standard TV broadcasts, in actual fact the clarity of the picture is five times that of a normal broadcast.

A colour television consists of groups of tiny blue, green and red dots (otherwise known as sub pixels) and the clarity of a picture relates to the amount of pixels present. A normal television picture consist of 720 x 576 pixels (approximately half a million points of light), by contrast an HD picture consists of 1920 x 1080 pixels (more than 2 million points of light).

If you decide to subscribe to Sky HD, you will find there are a number of key benefits from watching programmes in HD, for instance you’ll find the sound quality superior too and you’ll notice that the picture is much sharper and colours so much more vibrant. Also bear in mind that Sky TV offers the largest range of HD channels (over 50) in the UK – Virgin Media offer a lot less but HD comes as standard on Virgin TV packages so if you only want the main channels like BBC and ITV in HD that can be better value.

If you are thinking about getting an HD TV package there are a number of things that you will need to be aware of.

  • To begin with you will need to have an HD ready TV – if you are not sure if your TV is HD ready, then look out for the logo ‘HD ready’ which will be visible somewhere on the set.
  • You need a digital TV box that is HD compatible like the Sky+HD, Virgin TiVo, BT Vision+ boxes or a Freeview HD box. As an example (as they give you the biggest selection of HD channels)the Sky+HD box is a digital receiver and video recorder, all rolled into one. Once you are connected to your HD TV, you will be able to watch both normal definition programmes as well as HD programmes and the box has the capability of storing around sixty hours of HD television (or around 185 hours of normal television). You can record two programmes at a time with the Sky+HD box (three at a time with Virgin TiVo) and with both you can use your mobile phone or the web to record programmes remotely.
  • If you’re going for Sky HD you need the HD pack, an ‘add on’ available from Sky TV costing £10.25 per month, which provides you with access to the HD channels. These channels include documentaries, sports, movies, drama and the arts, although most sports and movies channels require you to take Sky Sports or Sky Movies as extra add-ons.

You may be aware that HD can come in different formats – 720p, 1080p and 1080i – the best quality format for HD broadcast in the UK is 1080i (Sky HD supports 1080i as well as 720p).

Some people believe that the digital switchover will provide them with HD channels automatically, which is not the case – the switchover will simply switch off the analogue television signal leaving only digital television channels and is in no way linked to automatic HD broadcasting. You can get HD channels free on Freeview HD but you need to invest in the box and of course have an HD ready TV too.

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