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Subscription-free digital TV in the UK
We explore the various options for those looking to get digital TV in the UK without paying a subscription
Free Digital TV?
These days, we're all after a bargain, but we're also unwilling to sacrifice on our TV watching. There's no doubt that in the UK, the Sky Digital service offers the widest number of channels, but their service comes at a price - a monthly cost ranges from £21.50 a month to over £80, depending on the channels you sign up to.
So, can you still get a decent amount of channels without getting tied into a contract? Yes - and on this page, we look at the options:
For many, this is the cheapest way of getting digital TV. Buy a set-top box for around £20, hook it up to your TV, and you have over 40 digital TV channels without a subscription.
|How many channels?||Over 40, including Dave, BBC3, E4, ITV2, BBC News, Yesterday, 5* and More 4. Full Channel List|
|How does it work?||Freeview is received via a standard TV aerial - many new TVs have a built-in Freeview receiver, otherwise you will need a set-top box - plug this into a spare SCART socket on your TV|
|How do I get it?||If your TV doesn't have a built-in Freeview receiver, you can pick up a Freeview set-top box on the High Street from Currys and Argos for £20. See our Freeview boxes page.|
|Anything else I should know?||High-Definition Freeview is coming in late 2009. Freeview HD|
|Where do I find out more?||Check out our Freeview Basics page for more|
The service launched in 2012, and it combines Freeview, HD, on-demand TV and extra premium content and channels. You get get the service subscription-free for a one-off cost.
|How many channels?||Over 40 Freeview channels, 4 HD channels, plus access to catch-up TV from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Premium content such as Sky Sport, Now TV and BT Vision content is also available.|
|How does it work?||The YouView box connects to your broadband router and a TV aerial. The extra content is streamed over the Internet to your TV|
|How do I get it?||Either buy the box for a one-off fee of around £250, or get a free box from BT or TalkTalk. Details: YouView Explored|
|Where do I find out more?||Check out our YouView Explored page.|
If you get your broadband from BT, you may want to check out their BT Vision TV service. With BT Vision, you get a Freeview box that can download hundreds of TV shows and films on demand. BT Vision offers a subscription-free service where you pay for any on-demand content you watch.
|How many channels?||Over 40 Freeview channels, plus access to catch-up TV from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, as well as a huge back-catalogue of TV shows, sporting events and movies - all to watch on-demand. You only pay for what you watch.|
|How does it work?||The BT Vision V+ box connects to a BT Broadband enabled phone line. Live TV comes from Freeview via a TV aerial. The extra content is streamed via the V+ box onto your TV|
|How do I get it?||If you already have BT Broadband, get BT Vision at btvision.bt.com, otherwise sign up at bt.com/btbroadband
|Where do I find out more?||Check out our BT Vision Basics page|
Subscription-free Sky TV
|How many channels?||Over 220, including BBC3, E4, ITV2, BBC News, Sky News, Film 4, Film 24, Euronews, Zone Reality and Sky 3. Full Channel List|
|How does it work?||Pay a one-off free for Sky to install the service. Sky hopes that you may decide to sign up to their service in the future, after seeing that there's a large number of channels that aren't free.|
|How do I get it?||Sky's Freesat service is available direct from Sky for a one-off payment of £175, including installation and set-top box. See our Sky Freesat page to order|
|Anything else I should know?||Service offers a few free months of pay channels. If you ever decide to subscribe to Sky in the future, you'll have all the kit|
|Where do I find out more?||Check out our Freesat from Sky page.|
This is one of three subscription-free satellite TV options. Freesat launched in 2008 and is a partnership between the BBC and ITV. You'll need a satellite dish and a special Freesat box.
|How many channels?||Over 105, including BBC3, E4, ITV2, BBC News, CNN, CBS Drama, Horror Channel, True Movies, Film 4 and More 4. Freesat Channel List|
|How does it work?||Freesat is delivered via satellite. Subscription-free. Just pay for the dish installation and set-top box|
|How do I get it?||You need to have a satellite dish pointing in the same direction as a Sky dish (installation around £80), and to buy a special Freesat box - Available from Currys, Argos and John Lewis.|
|Anything else I should know?||Offers BBC and ITV HD programming and around 30 radio stations|
|Where do I find out more?||Check out our Freesat page for more|
Free-to-view satellite channels
If you have a Sky set-top box (perhaps you've cancelled their service), or want to buy a cheap satellite decoder, you can connect it to a satellite dish, and watch channels from the Sky satellite legally, and for free. There are over 200 free-to-view channels available.
|How many channels?||Over 200, including BBC3, E4, ITV2, BBC News, Sky News, Film 4, Film 24, Euronews, Zone Reality and Sky 3. Full Channel List|
|How does it work?||Sky Digital is a subscription service, but a number of channels they broadcast as what's known as "free to view", so don't require a subscription or a viewing card. Point a dish at the Sky satellites and use a standard receiver to get the channels.|
|How do I get it?||Get an unwanted Sky Digital decoder, and connect it to a satellite dish that's pointing at Sky's satellites. You can also buy basic decoder boxes at Maplin. If you have no box or dish, you can buy a DIY Satellite kit from Maplin.|
|Where do I find out more?||Check out our Free Satellite TV page for more|
You can view a number of channels or TV shows online on your PC. See our Internet TV page for more.
Digital TV Links:
- For more on Freeview and free-to-air set-top boxes, see our Freeview page.
- For more on free satellite TV, see our Free satellite TV page.
- Discuss digital TV in our TV forum
- Help and Advice: BT Vision , Freesat, Freeview, Sky TV, TalkTalk TV and Top Up TV