How To Cut The Cord And Watch TV Without Sky/Virgin/BT: The UK Guide

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Cord cutting is one of the biggest TV buzzwords in recent times. After years of having to pay hundreds of pounds a year to cable/satellite companies such as Sky and Virgin Media, you can now watch great programmes on your telly at a lower cost, without the need for a traditional pay-TV subscription.

But how do you cut the cord? What devices do you need, what are the best streaming services, and how much money can you save? I’m here to help, with the ultimate guide for UK cord cutters looking for alternatives to Sky and the like. So get your scissors out – and let’s start this journey.

What Does “Cord Cutting” Mean?

Until a few years ago, the only way to watch anything beyond the free, over-the-air channels (like the BBC or ITV), was to get an expensive, 12-month (or more) contract with a premium pay-TV company such as Sky, Virgin Media, BT, etc. You would pay anywhere from £30 to £80 a month, sometimes even more, and get a “package” of channels.

Hand holding scissors cutting the cable cord

The more you paid – the more channels you got in your package. That, unfortunately, did not necessarily mean more good things to watch – as many of those channels were often useless to the average viewer. However, you would still get them all as part of that unbreakable expensive “package”.

Back in the day, when you wanted to watch a show, you had to sit down and watch it live – exactly when it was broadcast on the channel. Then we had VCRs, and then we had digital recorders such as TiVo, which were basically glorified VCRs – you could record shows and watch them whenever, but the actual recording still took place at the exact time the programme was broadcast.

Things started to change once fast broadband came into the picture. Now, you can watch TV via your internet connection – and no, not just cat videos on YouTube. There’s no need for “channels”, or telly guides listing broadcast times – now, you subscribe to a cheap (and legal!) streaming TV service such as Netflix or Disney+, and get your programmes streamed directly to your TV (or phone, or tablet) via the internet.

The added plus – broadcast timings are a thing of the past with streaming TV services. The programmes are there in the cloud, waiting for you to watch when you want. And, in many cases, once a show is available on your streaming service, the whole series is already there for the taking, and you can watch the entire thing in one, long sitting (that’s called Binge-Watching). Don’t forget the crisps!

To sum up, by becoming a cord cutter, you can:

  • Watch TV on your own time, wherever you want and on any device
  • Save hundreds of pounds a year
  • Ditch those annoying 12/18 months contracts
Cord cutter tearing up TV contract

What Do I Need For TV Cord Cutting?

If you want to watch TV without Sky or the other traditional pay-TV companies, here are the things you need:

1. Fast Broadband

Once you cut the cable/satellite cord, most of your TV programmes will be streamed to you via the internet. And for that, you need broadband at a decent speed. The faster broadband you get, the more streaming you can do – and on more devices at the same time.

Netflix’s official “speed recommendations” list a minimum of 5 Megabits per second for HD quality streaming, and 15 Megabits for 4K streaming.

In the real world – that’s usually not enough. Sure, the streaming might WORK with a 5 megabits broadband connection, but you will probably get a lot of buffering, and there won’t be any internet bandwidth left for other online activities in your house (while streaming TV is being watched).

What Is Buffering?
Streaming TV is downloaded to your device in real time. To prevent disruption in the middle of the programme or movie you’re watching, a small portion of it will be preloaded onto your device.

Then, while you’re already watching, the device will keep downloading the next chunk and the one after that, with you still watching the previous chunk that was already downloaded.

If your broadband connection is too slow, the streaming device can’t keep up – you will ‘finish’ watching the preloaded part before the next one has enough time to download, and your programme will STOP, until the device can fill the buffer again – i.e., download the next chunk.

What Broadband Speed Do I Need For TV Cord Cutting?

For HD streaming on ONE DEVICE at a time and no one else at your house doing anything “heavy” on the internet, the common 17Mb broadband package is usually enough.

If you have a bigger household, with more than one person intending to watch streaming TV simultaneously (or use the internet for other heavy needs such as gaming or video calls), you should get a speed of at least 38Mb.

For 4K streaming on one device (and the possibility of HD streaming on other devices simultaneously), I would recommend a speed of at least 50Mb.

Chart of Recommended Broadband Speed For Cord Cutters

Important Tip:
Get a broadband package with no monthly limits. Streaming TV downloads A LOT of data via your internet connection.

For example, An hour of HD content on Netflix will download up to 3GB of data. An hour of 4K content is up to 7GB of data. That means that even if you watch only 3 hours of HD TV a day, you will download 279GBs of data over a month.

So skip those broadband packages that limit your monthly data usage. As a cord cutter, you would reach those data caps pretty quickly.

2. A Streaming Device

So you have a fast enough broadband connection, you have a TV, now you need a device that will stream the programmes and movies you want to watch from the internet to your telly.

You can, of course, settle for watching everything on your computer, your smartphone or your tablet – if you have any children at home, you know that’s what many of them do these days.

But most cord cutters still want to watch at least some of the content on their TV, while sitting on the sofa with a bag of crisps. For that, you need a streaming device connected to your TV.

Alternatively, most TVs sold today are “Smart TVs” that already come with streaming apps. It’s a decent solution in many cases, but if you want a faster experience with a better user interface and more options – standalone streaming devices are still usually better.

There are many devices out there – from small ones that hide behind your TV (such as the Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick or the Roku 4K Stick), to full-featured set-top boxes like the Roku Express 4K, or gaming consoles (PS4/5, Xbox) that also function as TV streamers.

All these devices have pros and cons, but if you want to jump right in, our recommendation for an all-around good streamer is the Amazon Fire TV 4K Stick, with the Roku Streaming Stick 4K being another great option.

For a detailed comparison, see our Best TV Streaming Device In The UK.

3. Streaming Services

Before you cancel your current pay-TV package (assuming you’re not under contract), you need to subscribe to a video streaming service that offers content on demand.

Netflix on TV
Photo: Deposit Photos

The main paid options in the UK are:

Disney Plus phone and titles
(Photo: Deposit Photos – Daniel Constante)

The streaming services all differ in their content offerings – Netflix and Amazon’s strong points are “box-sets” of programmes, where you get every episode of the series at once. (Note that there’s also a way to watch the American version of Netflix in the UK – here’s how.)

NOW has some of those, but focuses more on its catch-up service, with episodes coming up week-to-week. The plus side is that you get newer programmes as they’re being broadcast.

If you want to jump right in, some streaming services still have a free trial (a month on Amazon, and sometimes seven days on NOW. Netflix and Disney+ no longer offer free trials in the UK) – so you might as well check all of them and see which one’s better for you.

Of course, serious cord cutters might join more than one service at a time (that’s what I usually do) – and you would STILL pay less than you would for a comprehensive satellite/cable TV package. Plus, there are also many places where you can stream movies for free.

But remember – unlike a long-term Sky/VM/EE contract, with a streaming service you can easily cancel each service when you want to save some money, or just don’t have enough time to watch TV. And then, just as easily resubscribe – so there’s no need to pay for ALL the services ALL the time.

In addition to the Big Four, there are several smaller streaming services in the UK that you might want to consider, such as:

  • Paramount+ (See our review): A streaming service that offers content from CBS, Showtime and Paramount Pictures, as well as exclusive, original programmes and films, at £6.99/month.
  • Apple TV Plus (See our guide): The streaming service from Apple, which you can get for free when you buy an Apple device (up to 3 months), or by paying £8.99/month. It’s made up entirely of original shows and films – but the number of titles is lower than on some of the other services.
  • Discovery+: A streaming service that focuses on lifestyle, reality TV, nature and sports. Some of the content is available for free, and the top tier also includes a variety of sports from Eurosport. Last year, they also added a “Premium” tier, which includes TNT Sports – the new name of BT Sport. You can subscribe directly – or via Amazon Prime Video Channels.

In light of this competition from streaming services, Sky also offers its own line of streaming devices/services: Sky Glass (see our review) is a streaming TV from Sky that lets you stream Sky’s content via broadband, without needing a dish – and it also lets you sign up to Sky without a long-term contract (but you do have to buy a new TV).

Sky Glass with movies hero
Sky Glass

Sky Stream is similar to Sky Glass, but it’s just a small set-top box that lets you stream Sky’s content – without having to buy a whole TV (see our Sky Stream review).

How Can I Watch The Free Channels, Such As BBC One and Channel 4?

If you’re used to getting your TV from Sky or one of the other pay-TV companies, then that’s where you’ve been getting your free channels as well (the BBC channels, ITV, etc.). When you cut the cord, can you still keep watching these channels?

Of course!

There are several ways to watch the free, over-the-air channels – online via the internet, with the Freeview service, the YouView service, the Freesat service, or the new Freely service.

Most streaming boxes (and certainly the ones I’ve mentioned here) already come with dedicated apps for the big UK free channels, or you could use your laptop. Some of the free content available online:

With these apps and websites, you can stream programmes from your favourite free channels, directly to your TV, via the internet (just like with Netflix).

The selection usually includes both catch-up programmes (aired week-to-week) and box-set packages offering a whole series. (Keep in mind that on channels with adverts such as ITV, you would need to watch adverts on their streaming apps/websites as well.

Doctor Who classic collection
Doctor Who – Watch it on BBC iPlayer

What’s Freeview And How Can I Watch It?

Freeview, a joint venture of the BBC, Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, is the United Kingdom’s digital terrestrial television platform. It lets you watch over 80 free, over-the-air channels, without any subscription fees (except for an annual TV licence).

Freeview is perfect for cord cutters, because it complements your streaming services with live channels. While it’s true that with Freeview, you still need to follow TV schedules and watch stuff on THEIR time (unless you use a Freeview Recorder or their 7-day catch-up service with Freeview Play), sometimes you just want to watch the news or a major live event, or just sit back and flip some channels – so Freeview is perfect for that.

To get Freeview, you need two things:

  • An aerial (either an outdoor one on your roof/outside wall, or an indoor aerial connected directly to your telly) – See our Best Indoor Aerial For Freeview review roundup.
  • A Freeview receiver – If you have a newish TV, manufactured and sold in the UK after 2010, it should already have a Freeview tuner built-in. Otherwise, or if you want more advanced features, you would need a dedicated tuner – see our Freeview Boxes review roundup.
Manhattan T4-R Next to TV
Manhattan T4-R Freeview Recorder

With the right box (such as the Manhattan T4-R), you can also get Freeview Play – a combination of over-the-air channels and programmes on-demand via the internet, giving you access to the BBC’s iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4 and My5, all in one device. Of course, if you already have a decent streamer, you would already have these apps on that device.

In 2024, Everyone TV (the company behind Freeview and Freesat) finally launched Freely – a broadband-based version of Freeview, where the channels are streamed to you via the internet, instead of over-the-air.

However, for now, Freely is only supported on new, next-gen Smart TVs, with set-top box support possibly being added in the future.

Furthermore, Freely only streams channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and STV for now (and you still need an aerial for the rest) – so, until that list expands – Freely is far from being a broadband-based replacement for Freeview/Freesat.

On the other hand, you can also stream Freeview channels with one of the pay-TV boxes – Sky Stream, Virgin Media Stream, the EE TV Pro Box and EE’s Apple TV box.

Two other options for free channels are YouView, which is a similar service to Freeview, but requires a different box (see our YouView recommendations here), and Freesat, which uses a satellite dish and usually offers better reception (and more channels) – see our Freesat guide right here.

… And that’s it! Once you have fast broadband, a streamer box with a streaming TV subscription, and a Freeview aerial and tuner – you’re all set to cutting your TV cord!

How Much Money Can I Save With Cord Cutting?

It really depends on your circumstances and how much telly you’re going to watch – the more streaming services you subscribe to, the more you will pay. Still, you will pay less than you would have for a cable TV contract in almost every case.

Let’s look at a typical example. We’re not including broadband prices as part of the comparison, since we’re assuming every household is paying for broadband these days, whether you use it for TV or not.

The Sky Entertainment+Cinema HD bundle, which currently includes:

  • Sky’s movie channels
  • 300 Basic TV channels
  • 35 entertainment channels including Sky Atlantic (but some are simply a part of Freeview)
  • HD Upgrade
  • A Sky Q set-top box

This package typically costs around £50/month for new customers, + £20 installation fee at the time of this writing – with an 18 months contract. Keep in mind it’s impossible to follow all the packages and deals traditional pay-TV companies offer – but this is a typical price as of 2024.

Plus, remember that these are prices for new customers. Once your contract is up, the prices usually jump up considerably (unless you haggle).

A similar cord cutter’s package includes:

  • Netflix – £10.99/month for the HD package – you get TV programmes + movies
  • NOW Entertainment Pass for Sky’s TV channels including Sky Atlantic – £9.99/month
  • Amazon Prime Video – £5.99 per month for the video-only tier

This comes down to a total of £27 per month. (Even if you add a ONE TIME cost of a streamer – even a more expensive one – the effective price across the first 12 months would still be around £30 per month.)

Cable vs Cord Cutting 2024

Even if you add an indoor TV aerial for Freeview, or a Freeview box, it would still come out cheaper than most comparable TV packages.

Now, keep in mind, cord cutting is not JUST about cost. If you shop around enough, you might find pay-TV deals that include cheaper broadband and mobile phone SIMs, for example, where the price ends up closer to a cord cutter’s price.

But by being a cord cutter, you get the freedom of choice: There are no contracts. You can add or remove streaming services whenever you want, depending on what you want to watch or your financial situation on that month.

Frequently Asked Questions

My favourite series isn’t on a subscription service – what can I do?

First, make sure the programme really isn’t available on any of the subscription services. You can use a site like JustWatch, where you pick a show, and the site shows you where it’s available.

If you do find it on a subscription service, the beauty of cord cutting is that you can join that service for a single month, just to watch that one programme you’re interested in (and possibly find out other programmes to watch while you’re there).

Still no luck? In most cases, you will be able to buy that specific programme directly, on VOD stores such as the Google Play Store or the Amazon Video Store.

You pay for the entire series (even if it’s still being broadcast – you will get a message each time a new episode is available), and watch it on your TV using the relevant store’s app. An entire series can cost anywhere between £4 and £25.

Can I watch sports as a cord cutter?

Sports used to be a bit of a problem for cord cutters, but there are quite a lot of streaming sports options these days:

  • A lot of sporting events are broadcast on the BBC, so you can watch them on BBC iPlayer.
  • TNT Sports (which used to be BT Sport) has a Monthly Pass that offers sports fans a flexible way of watching TNT Sports (and Eurosport) on a month-by-month basis.
  • You can get Eurosport via the Discovery+ streaming service (it’s cheaper to get it without TNT Sports).
  • You can subscribe to the NOW Sky Sports Pass – they offer day and monthly passes. Learn how to get NOW for cheap with this guide.

Do I need to pay a TV licence fee?

The short answer is – Yes, for most people.

In the past, you only needed to pay a yearly licence fee to watch live TV, but since September 2016, you also need to pay the fee if you watch anything on BBC iPlayer and, as before, if you watch any live TV channels.

So, the only way to avoid the licence fee is to not watch (or record) any live channels or BBC shows on any device. See our complete TV Licence Guide right here.

Can’t I just Torrent/download everything I want to watch, for free?

Technically, perhaps. But there are at least two excellent reasons not to do this:

  1. It’s illegal, and it could get you in trouble. Sure, a lot of people do it without legal consequences, but why take the risk when there are so many excellent, cheap and LEGAL options out there?
  2. If you like to watch a lot of telly, it’s only right that you support the folks who create your favourite programmes. When you go to a restaurant, you pay for your food, because the chef had to buy the ingredients, he had to learn how to prepare your meal, and he had to stand there all day and actually make it for you – so you don’t have any problem with paying him. So why would you not want to pay the people involved with creating the TV programmes you’re watching?

I’m still under contract with my cable/satellite TV. Can I cut the cord?

If you have several months left on your Sky / VM / EE contract, you’re in a bit of a pickle, as you would have to wait until the contract is done.

However, I recommend you start your cord cutting journey BEFORE the official end of the contract. When you have two or three months left on your contract, start testing the waters.

Get a cheap streaming device, join Netflix (or you might already have Amazon Prime), and start checking out the programmes and movies, so you can see if the selection – and technology – is good for you.

That way, when IT IS time to leave your cable company, you will already know it’s a good option for you. Then, when the contract’s up, be sure to CANCEL it. Your cable company will kick and scream and offer you anything from a discount to a toaster made of gold (OK, I’m making that one up… I think) – Be strong!

Remember – if you decide this isn’t for you after a month or two of being a cord cutter for whatever reason, the cable company will be THRILLED to take you back. But at least give it a go first, before you sign up for another 12 months.

I assure you – most people who cut the cord, never look back.

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69 thoughts on “How To Cut The Cord And Watch TV Without Sky/Virgin/BT: The UK Guide”

  1. Hello. Could you tell me if the answer to Oliver on Oct 23 2021 about watching UK tv channels live without a satellite feed is still valid?
    Unfortunately our housing block is suffering a wall failure and all our satellite dishes and feeds fixed to it have to be removed. There is no alternative space. A terrestial Freeview feed will be unaffected.
    I understand those with SKY contracts can apply for a broadband feed and, I am told, it is now possible (February 2023) to view all the UK broadcast tv channels in HD via an Ethernet box.
    I cannot find a reference to it so my question remains; when the satellite feeds are removed how can I and the other residents manage to view UK HDTV channels without a satellite feed? Thanks.

  2. I finally got my girlfriend to ditch Sky almost 5 years ago now, after I introduced her to Roku and Plex! Now it’s grown, we have 50 inch Hisense Roku TV in the lounge, and 3 Roku Devices in the bedrooms, plus my ex-wife and her partner have 4 Roku Devices and then my friend in Neath and my sister back in the Midlands, all connected to Plex.
    We pay for Netflix, Disney+, Discovery+ and Amazon Prime (I don’t watch them, but my partner and the kids do!, Unless Eurosport are showingMotorsports 😉 ) I’m happy streaming BBC iPlayer, Plex and Pluto TV.
    I am toying with the idea of adding my 4 Freeview TV receivers to Plex in the near future, this way of the family want to watch or record their favourite shows and watch them again.
    So, the Cord Cutting bug really worked here, and it sure did change our TV viewing habits for the good!

    • Yes you can. Your BT box will still work perfectly well to record Freeview programmes off-air. You don’t need a BT account. All you will lose are some BT-specific online channels.

      You can plug it into your home internet for catch-up services, but you don’t need to, it will be quite happy without.

  3. Big problem with watching iPlayer or Freeplay using the apps because one’s TV still needs to receive a terrestrial signal to use the app over the web! It is stupid but true, try it with a smart TV connected to the web you will still need an aerial!

    • I’m not sure which device or TV you’re using – but in most (if not all) cases, a terrestrial signal (or an aerial) are NOT needed for BBC iPlayer – just a broadband connection (and the app).

      • I can back this up. I’ve never had an aerial or a set-top box connected, and iPlayer has always been functional using the apps on my PS3 and Xbox 360, one of which is connected by ethernet cable, the other wirelessly to my network router, whether using ADSL or fibreoptic internet. I haven’t used iPlayer in several years, but I’ve never heard of that being changed at all. You don’t need a terrestrial connection or an aerial. It sounds to me as though there may be something wrong with your smart TV. Did you ever set the channels up properly?

  4. Hi,

    I’m looking for the cheapest way, preferably free, to be able to watch all UK terrestrial channels live by buying a box with only broadband connection and no satellite or aerial. The UK TV on-demand apps do not all offer a ‘watch now’ option – which is what I would like. If the ‘box’ can have my netflix account added to it, that would be ideal.

    Any ideas please ?


    • Unfortunately, for now, there’s no device that can give you all the Freeview/Freesat channels without an aerial/dish. The TVPlayer app, that you can install on some of the streaming devices, will give you SOME of them (but certainly not all).
      Ironically, the one that comes closest to what you’re describing at the moment, is the new Sky Glass TV (it streams all of its channels – including Freeview – via broadband) – but even that one doesn’t have ALL the Freeview channels, AND you have to buy a new TV to use it…

  5. True, I’ve only had a quick look at this but it seems to me that you are cutting one cord then immediately grabbing hold of another cord. I’m looking for a way of watching just the very basic tv channels without paying for a load of other channels that I don’t ever watch – without paying through the nose. Doesn’t seem like I’ll find it.

    • The whole point of cord cutting, is that you then get the flexibility you didn’t have before – you can subscribe to as many stand-alone streaming services as you want (Netflix, Disney+, NOW, etc.), on rolling 30-day contracts – or none at all. You can also just rely on Freeview – you then pay nothing, except for the annual TV Licence.

    • Viv, not sure why you say it doesn’t seem like ‘I’ll find it’ because there’s plenty in this guide to identify things like freeview. Yes you’d need to have a box & aerial, but how are you watching t.v at the moment?
      I have a Youview box from Pusnet, with an outdoor aerial that was put up many years ago. It only cost me £4 per month but Plusnet have now removed this from their services. To watch ‘very basic tv channels’ as you stated, I can use the box for freeview channels without cost now, so it really does mean I pay nothing for freeview.

      • Thanks Ty. I’m watching TV with cable (VM). I do have an arial and watch TV in another room on Freeview but the main TV has TIVO. Trouble is that where we are we get superfast internet speeds that I can’t tell my husband he has to let go of and (VM have you pretty well sown up by charging very little for the TIVO service. If we left them, we’d have comparatively slow speeds and then have to buy a box. We could watch TV with Freeview on the main box but TIVO offers recording on 6 tuners, plus pause on live channels. It sounds good but the thing has a temperament of a 2 year old just now so not so good.

    • It’s different with every service (and streaming device) – but most of the streaming services do have subtitles, for all or most of their content. It’s usually a setting you need to turn on in each individual streaming service.

  6. Can you do this successfully without a Smart TV? As long as you have a streaming service? I can’t connect to the internet from my television. This is something I’m considering, I pay £45 a month for Sky at the moment, and I don’t even get most of the channels I really want! I also need the best and most cost effective internet service I can find! Does anyone have any advice?

    • You can use a standalone streaming device (like the Amazon Fire TV or the Roku Stick) instead of a Smart TV – but you would still need to connect the streaming device to the internet.

  7. Please help me, have virgin tv, tries Netflix films only watched a few don’t watch box sets. Only alternative is virgin on demand or rent from them. I’m a carer with little time to watch TV but have watched all reruns of only fools, friends, Brooklyn eldest son watches sometimes old top gear on Dave but says so much repeats and film repeats. I like lots of different films but find I like indie stuff or films that are never put on TV like Four Rooms or Reality Bites amongst others. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you

    • You might want to look into Amazon Prime Video – in addition to the regular selection that comes with the subscription, you can also subscribe to additional “Prime Channels” (which have a monthly cost, but can be started and stopped monthly), and some of those have a selection of indie films.

  8. Hi Or !
    So happy to find this resource. I feel trapped by the convenience of Virgin and am desperate to “cut the cord”.

    From reading so far it seems if I get an antenna fitted ( I just have Cable now) , a couple of record freeview boxes and retain Virgin BB I can pretty much dump my unholy £160 a month all-in Virgin package. Is that right ?

    Multiroom, freeview as default plus ability to record and stream from Netflix etc.

    Its confusing as heck, thats why I have stayed with hyper expensive Virgin for years.

    Thanks for any help you can give me !


    • Hi Dave, congratulations on your intentions to cut that expensive cord!

      The solution that’s best for you depends mainly on what you want to watch. An indoor/outdoor aerial would solve your Freeview needs (though keep in mind that some areas don’t have good reception, and it’s almost impossible to know for sure until you actually try it out), and either a TV that supports Freeview, or a Freeview recorder if you also want to record over-the-air programmes.

      The streaming part – as in, Netflix, NOW TV, etc’ – requires either a Smart TV (preferably from the last couple of years) or a streaming box/stick. Some FreeviewPlay recorders also have limited streaming capabilities (mostly for the UK broadcasters like ITV Hub and BBC iPlayer), but you’re usually better off with a dedicated streamer for that, like the Amazon Fire TV or a Roku streamer – they’re pretty cheap (depending on the model).

  9. Hi. I need some very basic advice as not having had a TV for about 15 years things have changed just a little!! Apologies in advance for being clueless. Ive just been given a TV made in 2013 which has HDMI ports but no other connection cables. I primarily want to watch films on a large screen via web based services such as MUBI. I’m not bothered about accessing loads of TV or Netflix or Amazon Prime but would like to watch bbc iplayer. What’s the best way for me to do this without paying for unwanted services? Thanks in advance and for all your info you’ve generously shared.

    • Sorry, but I don’t find netgem.TV a compelling offer at all. They package what is basically a free service (Freeview), with Amazon Prime (which is cheaper when bought directly), and a Freeview box (which you can buy elsewhere without a monthly fee) – all for a high monthly “subscription”. For now, it’s a NO from me.

  10. I am coming to the end of my Virgin contract. For past 18 months or so, everything we have watched has been on Nowtv, Netflix and Amazon Prime, BBC iplayer and (bloody BGT!). We watch these through our xbox or firestick or roku box, we also have the free version of TVplayer.

    I have been attracted to sky, as I have access to a voucher that entitles me to 25% (which is a good deal), for £65 I get all singing all dancing (netflix, sky cinema and multiroom). I will also get channels that I will never watch.

    I really hate the thought of paying for things that are not needed (extra channels), also being tied into contracts.

    So two things, I guess I am well prepared to be a ‘cord cutter’, the other thing what broadband speed would you recommend, if we had 3 devices streaming at the same time (on occassion online gaming – xbox one)

    • If you’re already watching everything on Netflix/Amazon/NOW TV/etc’, I really don’t see any reason to pay Sky £65, when getting everything as a cord cutter would cost a fraction of that. And most importantly, you won’t be in a contract (other than for your broadband), so you can mix and match streaming services as you see fit throughout the year.

      As for broadband speed, I would say it depends on what you’re streaming – if the 3 devices all stream 4K video at the same time, for example, then you would need better speed. Generally speaking, with three devices and gaming, I would suggest you get at least around 70Mb. 100Mb is even better, but that only leaves Virgin Media as an option in most areas.

  11. Hi, really appreciate your knowledge in this field. To be honest, I don’t even know if we have cable TV. We only pay TV licence and broadband package with BT, without BT TV. Our television is a smart TV we have purchased in Jan 2013. Brodband speed download 68Mb, upload 19MB. All this time we have watched Free Wiew, but feel it is not enough. Please give us advice on cheapest option out there, where we can watch good films with famous actors made over the last 30-40 years, great comedy’s like Only fools and horses, and great entertainment for kids, Disney, films, animations, cartoons ect. It would be good to record a little.
    What would be the best option please?

    • If your Smart TV is from 2013, it might no longer support all the common streaming apps. If it does – great. If not – you might want to consider a streaming device, such as the Amazon Fire TV stick for example. As for the service itself – you won’t find ONE that has ALL the types of content you want to watch, but most of the major streaming services have a free trial which you can use to see if you like their content. I would start with Netflix, as it’s the most comprehensive one.
      You’re also welcome to join our new Facebook group, where we discuss such topics.

  12. Hi!
    I have a brand new large TV put into a showroom, it was sent from Holland, so doesn’t have any UK TV installed. No aerial, or cable – but good broadband. I want to watch the rugby world cup on ITV HD, how can I get it? Tried ITV Hub, but no HD version. Thanks!

  13. Hi I currently have virgin which has just been whacked up to nearly £80 p/m, I’m out of contract now. I mainly like to watch regular channels on recording and my husband likes to watch motor GP on BT sports, our tv is about 3 years old and we have an amazon fire stick but have never really used it! Do you thing a freeview recording box would be our best bet and would we get BT sports through this? Many thanks

    • Sports can be a bit tricky without a cable contract. You won’t get BT Sports on Freeview, so the main option for “premium” sports content, without a contract, would be the NOW TV Sports Pass – but check first whether they actually have the content you’re looking for (such as motor GP). Also note that the Amazon Fire TV stick does NOT have a Now TV app, so you’ll need another device – such as the NOW TV stick…
      You can read more about NOW TV in my review, here.

      • Great resource, thank you. We are out of contract with Virgin on a bundle costing £80 a month. Currently VM and Sky are the only services to include Eurosport, which we watch a lot as cycling and ski-jump fans. Threatening to leave, Virgin offered me another 18 month contract with nothing changed, at £73. I can subscribe to Eurosport Player for a few pounds a month but Freesat tell me there’s no way to record this on their recorder box. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Gemma,
      Virgin Media just hiked my bill as well.
      So I cancelled, as I am out of contract.
      Freeview works great here in Brum. I connected a hard drive to my 3 year old TV, and it allows me to record, and pause live tv.
      I had a tv, broad band, and phone package with Virgin, this was £73.00. Although there were loads of channels, in reality I only really watch 1,2,3,4 and 5, so the tv could go.
      Anyway….Virgin Media got in touch, and after some, no-deal is definitely On the table, I now have Phone and 100mb broad band including a new modem and phone, for £26.00 a month for a year.
      So call their bluff, but like Boris, you have to be prepared to walk away….. 🙂

  14. Hi, I have free view built into my tv, which works fine.
    I currently have Virgin everything. If I cancelled my tv package, could I still use the Tivo box pause function, which is the only one my dear old mum ever uses?

    Thank you,


    • Unfortunately, no. Assuming the TiVo was supplied by Virgin, it’ll most likely stop working once you cancel their package. So your best bet if you want to keep recording and pausing live TV, is to get a set-top Freeview recorder (like the ones I recommend here)

  15. I would like a device that could provide the following:

    Free view play
    Ability to install plex
    Amazon video app
    Netflix app
    PVR functionality (may not need this with free view play)

    Does such a device exist? Or am I wishing a bit too hard?

    I don’t want multiple remotes and keep it simple for the kiddies

    • Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a device that has ALL these features/apps. The closest thing is a Smart TV that has all these apps and a Freeview tuner. Usually there’s no PVR, but there might be TVs that let you record to a USB stick. Obviously, you would have to buy a new TV, so that’s not an ideal solution…

      The Humax FVP-5000T has a Freeview PVR, the FreeviewPlay apps, and a Netflix app – but no Plex or Amazon video.

      Another option is to get a streamer like the Amazon FireTV which has Netflix, Amazon, Plex and all the UK catchup apps – and for Freeview, use something like the TVPlayer app. Again, not ideal, but it’s close.

      • I think a Playstation 3 with a PlayTV box might cover all that. I don’t use mine for DVR or Freeview, as I don’t have the box, but I’m told you *can* do that, and I already use my PS3 to stream Plex, Netflix and Prime Video.

  16. Hi,
    Great help, thanks very much.
    I’m wondering if you can suggest a Freeview box one that I can plug an external usb hard drive into so I can record and playback tv. I have a spare 1TB external drive and rather than paying for a box that has built in storage I thought I could get a cheaper box without storage and just use my spare hard drive.
    Any thoughts on best way to do this please?
    Many thanks, Scott

    • There are a few cheap Freeview boxes that can record on a USB stick, such as the August Freeview Box. Whether it will work with a USB cable and an external drive (which is not as fast as a USB stick), is something you should probably confirm with them first.

  17. We like to watch Formula 1, we are elderly and just want to buy something that will enable us to watch that only. Which is the best way to do that?

  18. Hello Or – what a fascinating article. Having been tied to cable since 1993 I decided last year that I was watching more Netflix and Youtube weekly and hardly any “TV” channels so cut back the Virgin subscription. I was told by them I must keep a phone line (we have not had a land line handset since 2007!!) and the basic package or I would lose the broadband. I found out today that was not rue and I am ditching the phone and TV and saving over £50.00 a month. I have a 200mb BB connection and regularly get this (and more). I would like a set top box that records but via a lan connection rather than an aerial. Is there a UK box you would recommend? Many thanks

    • Thanks for writing, Mark – it’s good to hear you’re finally ditching the landline and the TV package – it’s awful how they mislead people by neglecting to mention broadband-only IS available.

      As for your question – If an aerial isn’t an option and you want Freeview channels via the internet, then your best bet is probably something like TVPlayer (See this link). It lets you watch most of the Freeview channels online or on your TV (if you have a streamer, such as the Amazon Fire TV) – and their premium tiers also let you record shows in their “cloud”.

      • I’m actually with Virgin (on a Broadband Only package). As far as I know, they’re the only major provider with a Broadband Only offer (that is – without a landline as well). But you can always compare prices – sometimes the landline doesn’t add much to the cost, if you get a good deal. And if you’re in some areas of London, you can also try Hyperoptic or Relish.

    • That depends on what your needs and plans are. Are you thinking about cancelling Sky? And if so, what would you want to watch on each TV? (Netflix? Just Freeview? etc’…)

  19. From the articile:
    “If you’re used to getting your TV from a cable company, then that’s where you’ve been getting your free channels as well (the BBC channels, itv, etc’). When you cut the cord, can you still keep watching these channels?”

    You answer this by proposing on-demand streaming, but that’s not the same thing. I guess terminology has changed and “Channel” now means “brand”. But I came here looking for a solution for an elderly relative who does not want to change how she watches TV, but needs a non-aerial solution.

    I.e. she wants to watch a channel without interacting, to see the programmes as broadcast in the TV guide. Is there an internet service which can do this please?

    • If an aerial isn’t an option, then your best bet is probably something like TVPlayer (See this link). It lets you watch most of the Freeview channels online or on your TV (if you have a streamer, such as the Amazon Fire TV). It’s still an app on your TV, and not quite as easy as flipping channels with a Freeview box – but it comes close.

  20. Is there any way that I can get the equivalent of Sky + (eg recording 2 channels at once while watching a prerecorded programme) or anything close using my broadband connection only (no TV aerial, no satellite dish). All the content I want to watch is available for free (terrestrial channels) but I cannot find a device that can do what Sky + does. I am not limited by broadband speed or monthly limit.

    • Most recording solutions do require an aerial (even an indoor one would suffice in most areas). But if that’s not an option, what you could do is use something like TVPlayer. It lets you watch most of the Freeview channels online (either on your computer or on TV with a streamer).

      The free tier doesn’t let you record, though – but the Premium one does – you can either watch programmes on demand or record them and save for later. While not free, it still costs considerably less than a Sky subscription.

  21. I have lousy reception via aerial due to my house location which is why I switched to Virgin Media (Cable and Wireless in those days) many moons ago. As such how I can I cut the cord without aerial reception? I’d also prefer to keep Virgin as my broadband provider. They charge me a small fortune though as I have to have xxl package to be able to get Fox and Eurosport! Advice appreciated

    • One way to deal with bad Freeview reception is to switch to Freesat, see here –

      However, Freesat gets a bit expensive if you need to install a new satellite dish. So another option, assuming your broadband connection is fast and stable, is to go streaming-only – you can watch all of the Freeview channels via online services such as TVPlayer. But you’ll need either a Smart TV or a streamer such as the Amazon Fire TV, in order to install the TVPlayer app and watch their channels on your telly.

      As for the other, premium channels – most are available either through a NOW TV subscription. or – Eurosport, for example – as an Amazon Prime Video Channel. See here:

    • Hi Or,
      I am as well with Virgin and I pay a lot. I would like to change things and I have a problem with my aerial as well.So did I understand you right I can watch Freeview channels via Amazon Stick?Don’t have a Smart Tv that’s while I was concidering to get an Apple TV,to make it smarter?But I have an Amazon Stick.I really enjoyed your article,trying to understand all of this.Thanks

      • If you have an Amazon Fire TV stick, I would say there isn’t much need for an Apple TV, as they basically do similar things (unless it’s an older and slower Fire stick model, or if you specifically need a device that supports Apple’s products).

        As for Freeview on the Fire stick, that’s a bit tricky – you can watch some individual channels via their apps (like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, etc’), and there’s also the TVPlayer app which gives you SOME of the Freeview channels for free, but requires payment for some of the others.

        Unfortunately, there’s no “official”, free solution that would let you stream all the Freeview channels to a streamer, without an aerial.. at least not yet.

  22. I tend NOT to watch movies but I do like series like Game of Thrones, Vikings, Knightfall and I do like some of the stuff on the History Channel. And, I like to record these programmes and later ‘binge’ watch them. How do I do that? Thanks Mike

    • If you watch the shows “On Demand”, you won’t need to record them anymore. So your best bet would probably be to subscribe to at least one service, the one that has most of the shows you like (so Netflix/NOW TV/Amazon etc’), and then if a particular show is still missing, just buy it directly for streaming – from Amazon Prime Video for example.

    • Just make sure you don’t change your broadband plan to a limited-usage one, or to a lower speed. If it stays the same, they shouldn’t do anything to your broadband.

  23. Unless I’ve missed it, you don’t seem to mention “Freesat” or FTA satellite reception using a generic receiver, both of which at least give reception of not only “terrestrial” channels but also some of the channels cord-cutters might otherwise lose, (with recording facilities on some boxes). As for Sports TV reception, there is the FreeSports channel which is on satellite as well as Freeview.

    • Thanks for the comment, John.

      You’re right – I recently wrote a full Freesat guide, but neglected to link to it here. Fixed!

      And I’ve added a mention of the FreeSports channel as well.

      Thanks again.


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