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Today’s post is a guest post from Or Goren of Cord Busters
With many of us spending more and more time at home, the TV is becoming (once again) the centre of our home entertainment.
But some people think this also means they have to pay more for what they watch, when it’s the other way around – because there are so many options these days, it’s easier than ever to save money on your TV watching – sometimes even hundreds of pounds a year, depending on what you’re currently paying.
And the best way to save – is by cutting the TV cord. Which basically means ditching all those expensive “traditional” pay-TV services, like Sky, BT, Virgin Media and the rest – and moving to free over-the-air broadcasts as well as streaming services like Netflix (which you still pay for – but a fraction of the price of a long-term contract with Sky, for example).
Can I Really Watch TV Without Paying Someone?
A lot of people believe that the only way to watch TV is by signing expensive, long-term contracts with companies like Sky.
That is thankfully not the case in the UK – thanks to Freeview. That’s a service that provides over-the-air access to more than 100 TV and radio channels, including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and plenty of others.
And the best bit? Freeview – like the name implies – is totally free. Yep – some companies would have you believe you’re paying them for the privilege of watching Freeview channels – when in fact, anyone can get Freeview for free, with just two pieces of equipment:
- A TV aerial: Because Freeview comes to your house over the air, you need an aerial that can intercept those signals. Many still have aerials on their roof, which is best – but even if you don’t, an indoor aerial might be enough – depending on reception in your area. It’s a small device that sits next to your TV, and only costs around £10-20 (You can see my roundup of some of the best indoor aerials here).
- A Freeview Receiver: Any telly bought in the UK after 2010 should already have a Freeview receiver built-in. So you would just connect your TV to the aerial – let it scan for channels – and that’s it, you have access to all the Freeview channels.
Some people still choose to buy set-top Freeview boxes, for the extra features they provide – such as being able to record TV programmes via the Electronic Programme Guide.You can then watch those programmes whenever you wish, and even fast-forward the adverts. (You can see some of the Freeview boxes I recommend here)
And that’s it – you can start watching the BBC, and ITV, or one of several movie channels, lifestyle channels – you name it – there’s a good chance it’s on Freeview. In fact, if you’ve had a “traditional” pay-TV subscription until now, then you’re most likely already familiar with many of these channels – you just didn’t know you could have them for free.
Another option – which might be better for those who live in an area with bad Freeview reception – is Freesat. It’s a similar service, with its own list of free channels (many are the same as the ones on Freeview), but it broadcasts via satellite – so instead of an aerial, you would need a satellite dish on your roof, and a Freesat box.
Streaming TV – Watch More and Pay Less
Freeview is an excellent starting point – but you would probably want to watch some of the new talked-about programmes, or recent movies -and those are not always available on the free channels.
This is where streaming TV comes in. In this case, instead of broadcasting over the air, the service sends the content to your home via your broadband connection. You would need a streaming device such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick, or a “Smart TV”, and those have dedicated apps for each of the streaming services.
There are plenty of streaming services around these days, but some of the major ones are:
Netflix: The most popular (and best known) streaming service currently costs £8.99/month for the “standard” tier. It has an ever-growing library of thousands of TV programmes and movies, many of which are exclusively available on Netflix.
Amazon Prime Video: Amazon’s competing streaming service, which also has thousands of TV programmes and movies. You can get it either by being an Amazon Prime subscriber (£79/year) or by paying £5.99/month.
NOW TV: If you miss the programmes you used to watch on Sky, there’s a cheaper option even for that – NOW TV is Sky’s streaming service, and it has every show and every movie you would find on Sky – but for a cheap monthly price (so there are no long-term contract, unlike with Sky).
NOW TV divide their offering into several separate “passes” – the Entertainment Pass (for TV shows), Sky Cinema Pass (for films – see my list of the 20 best movies currently available on NOW TV), a Kids Pass for children shows, and Sky Sports for sports fans.
While subscribing to each and every streaming service out there can get expensive – the beauty of these services is that you can start and stop whenever you want. So you can subscribe to Netflix one month, then cancel the next and move to NOW TV, for example. Or, if you’re going on holiday and won’t have time to watch TV – you can cancel everything, and go back to paying when you have time to watch again.
Cutting the TV cord can be intimidating for some – instead of paying one bill, you have to pick and choose, and possibly buy and install a new device. But once you calculate the savings, it becomes a no-brainer… Plus, it gives you the flexibility to only watch – and pay – for what YOU want, and not for some huge TV package you don’t really need.
Happy Cord Cutting!
Or Goren is the editor of Cord Busters, a site dedicated to TV cord cutting, streaming TV and ways to save money on your entertainment needs.