Do you stand to benefit from Britain’s broadband bundle battle?
The launch of the BT Sport channel in the spring has shaken up the internet and digital TV market.
The firm is offering free access to live English Premier League (EPL) football matches to customers who sign up for its broadband service.
But BT’s biggest rival, Sky, has hit back with a deal that provides up to a year’s free broadband internet for anyone who subscribes to a sport-TV package.
How to make your mind up
Bundles of services – internet, digital TV and home phone – from a single provider have become increasingly popular recently.
But working out which deal is most suitable and best value for you is not easy.
Providers typically have a wide range of special offers and discounts, and it is rare to find two firms which charge customers in exactly the same way.
The current deals from BT and Sky are good examples of this.
So what do you need to check before you choose a package?
Tune in to the right TV deal
Subscription TV channels are likely to be the most expensive part of your package, so it pays to do your homework here.
Sky has tended to offer by far the most comprehensive range, with scores of film, sport and entertainment channels.
Sport has long been Sky’s biggest selling point, and the broadcaster has had exclusive or near-exclusive rights to the likes of top-flight football, international cricket and events such as golf’s Ryder Cup for many years.
But BT Sport is trying to gain a foothold in the market, and has now bought the rights to some EPL games (the majority will be still shown on Sky, however) and Premiership rugby union in England.
To make matters more confusing, you don’t have to be a Sky TV subscriber to get Sky channels: even if you sign up with BT or Virgin, for example, you can pay extra to watch the likes of Sky Sports 1 and 2.
And Sky subscribers will themselves be able to pay an additional fee to receive the new BT Sport channels.
Dominic Baliszewski at broadbandchoices.co.uk says: “There is nothing worse than subscribing to a new TV package only to find the channel you watch the most isn’t included.”
Extra channels = extra expense
But Baliszewski warns that some channels are not widely available.
“The most obvious example is Sky Atlantic, which broadcasts popular shows such as Mad Men and Game of Thrones. This is only available through Sky.”
Sky’s dominant TV range does mean it is more expensive than most rivals. If you want a sports package, you’ll probably end up paying around £50 a month for it, although this can now include up to 12 months’ free broadband.
Compare this with a BT package, which includes the BT Sport channels plus broadband, at around £20 a month.
Baliszewski adds: “Sky’s lowest pricing for sports content may be higher than BT’s, but it is important to remember the range of content that they offer.
“Sky still has the most comprehensive sports TV coverage on the market and for a lot of sports-mad fans that is the most important thing.
“That being said, customers who have shunned sports packages because of the expense now have a viable alternative in BT that will give them a dose of sporting action when they need it.”
For many of us, the internet connection will be just as important as TV channels.
Providers are increasingly giving customers the option of watching TV on their computers via broadband, or of streaming on-demand films and programmes from the internet.
“Do bear in mind that anything you watch online will count towards your monthly data usage,” says Baliszewski.
“This isn’t such a big deal if you have an unlimited data allowance, but if you have a set limit you may be charged extra (£1 per GB in some cases) if you breach it.
“And if you are likely to make use of your digital TV provider’s online app, you also need to ensure you have a download speed that can handle the streaming of video content.
“Watching standard-definition TV online requires a connection speed of around 2Mb to do so comfortably without any buffering.”
Also bear in mind…
There may also be up-front costs such as a digital TV box – although these can be waived if you sign up for a more expensive package – and monthly charges like telephone line rental.
BT, Sky and their rivals also frequently give new customers money-off vouchers to be used at retailers such as Amazon or Marks & Spencer. This could help you decide between two otherwise similar offers.