Millions of Virgin Media customers are facing an imminent price increase again, with those subscribed to both broadband and TV seeing major increases. But even if you’re currently under contract – there are cheaper alternatives, if you take action.
Due to the irregularly high price hike, most affected customers will be able to ditch their contract without termination charges – as long as they do it within 30 days of receiving the notification (by post or email).
This means that existing customers should use this opportunity to look around – for better broadband and phone deals, but also for better TV deals – which is where this guide comes in.
It’s worth noting, however, that Virgin Media also announced this week that mid-contract price rises will be added to Virgin Media’s contracts soon – therefore from April 2024, customers will no longer be able to use these increases as a reason to leave penalty-free.
For now, however, if you’ve been on the fence about cutting the TV cord, this is your chance to potentially save hundreds of pounds a year, and still keep watching a lot of excellent TV (there’s almost nothing on Virgin Media’s TV service that you can’t find elsewhere, without long contracts – see ahead).
And even if you do decide to stay with Virgin Media’s broadband – you can use their Stream box to watch Freeview and other premium channels without a long-term contract.
Virgin Media’s 2023 Price Increase: Who Is Affected?
The price increase, which will take place for most customers on their April or May 2023 bills, will affect Virgin Media’s Broadband, Phone, TV and Mobile customers.
Some customers, including “Vulnerable customers” who are on Virgin Media’s Essential broadband package for people receiving Universal Credit, as well as Talk Protected landline customers (a phone-only plan for those over the age of 65 or those with additional accessibility needs) – will not see their prices change.
The increases vary according to your subscription. For Virgin Mobile customers, prices typically go up every year in accordance with the RPI inflation rate, and this year, the total increase – on average – will be 13.8%.
The exact amount is different for every customer (depending on the package you have), but the notification you get from Virgin Media should detail your specific increase.
From the moment you get that notification, however, you have 30 days to leave Virgin Media (if you wish to do so), without paying any fees – even if you currently have months left on your contract (just remember to wait until you get the notification).
That’s the perfect time to take a closer look at your bills – and especially what you’re paying for your TV watching.
As a side note, it’s worth remembering that even if you want to stay with Virgin Media and keep your current package – you can use this contract-breaking-point to haggle with them and keep the costs down – or at least get more for your pounds: See our How To Haggle With Virgin Media guide.
Virgin Media’s Response
A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We know that price rises are never welcome, particularly right now, but like many other businesses we are experiencing significantly increased costs while investing to keep pace with growing demand, as broadband usage rose more than 10% last year and speeds increased by 40%.
“We’re committed to supporting customers in this tough climate and are freezing prices for vulnerable customers and those taking our social broadband tariffs.
“The introduction of inflation-linked price changes, which comes into effect in 2024 when RPI is projected to be at around 1.5%, will give customers clarity and certainty about what to expect from their bills while fuelling the investment required both now and in future.
“We will be clearly communicating these changes directly to our customers over the coming weeks.”
And now, here’s our step-by-step guide to finding a cheaper alternative to Virgin Media:
Step 1: Decide What You Need
Broadband is pretty much a given these days – but what many people don’t know, is that with many companies, you can sign up for broadband ON ITS OWN, without any additional services and costs (or, at the very least – Broadband + A landline phone).
If you want, you can even stay with Virgin Media, just for the broadband part – you’d need to let them know that you’re breaking your existing contract, but interested in signing up for a new Broadband-only package.
In any case, it’s always a good idea to check broadband prices among several different companies, just remember that they all come with 12 or 18 months-long contracts:
- Virgin Media Broadband Deals
- BT Broadband Deals
- Sky Broadband Deals
- NOW Broadband Deals (Also includes bundles with NOW’s TV memberships)
But what about TV, you say? There’s very little reason to keep an expensive pay-TV contract these days – either with Virgin Media, Sky, BT TV or any of the other “traditional” TV companies.
Everything you get from VM (or the other pay-TV companies) is replaceable, and – in many cases – will be cheaper, and without a long contract. Let’s take a closer look…
Step 2: Understand What You’re Getting From VM
First, let’s remember what a typical customer gets from Virgin Media, if he’s subscribed to one of their “traditional” TV bundles. Some customers might still have older equipment – but the basic premise is similar for most (and there’s also Stream – see more about that option below).
- The Virgin TV 360 Box: A Freeview recorder box that lets you watch and record Freeview channels, access premium channels as well as some streaming and catch-up apps like Netflix, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and more.
- Premium TV Channels: The selection depends on your particular bundle and the price you’re paying – You can get some of Sky’s channels (such as cinema, some TV – but not Sky Atlantic), sports from Sky and BT, and more.
What you pay depends on your specific bundle, the deal you managed to snag, and numerous other aspects – but roughly, a typical package with most of the TV channels, M100 broadband and a phone line, currently costs around £60/month with an 18-months contract, for new customers.
And if you’ve been with them for long, without haggling – you might be paying more than that. Much more.
And that’s BEFORE the 2023 price increase.
Step 3: Replace Virgin Media’s TV Service By Cutting The Cord
What does cord cutting mean? We have a comprehensive article about that, but in general terms, it means ditching traditional pay-TV companies like Virgin Media, at least for their TV services – and moving to cheaper streaming companies like Netflix and Disney+.
So, let’s start with the hardware. If you leave Virgin Media, they’ll take away your TV 360 Box (or older device) – but No Worries!
Getting Freeview Without Virgin Media
If you just casually watch Freeview channels, you don’t even need a recording box – every TV sold in the UK after 2010 already has a Freeview tuner built-in.
As long as you have decent reception around your house, you just need to connect an aerial (it can even be a cheap indoor aerial in most cases)
If you do want to be able to record Freeview channels (and then watch later, plus be able to pause, rewind and fast-forward live channels), you can get a Freeview recording box like the Manhattan T3-R (you can see more of our recommended Freeview boxes here).
A recording box like that typically costs around £160 (depending on how much digital storage space you want for your recordings). True, that’s not exactly cheap – but remember, this is a one-time cost.
Once you have the Freeview box and decent Freeview reception, you don’t need to pay anyone else for the privilege of watching and recording Freeview, ever again (Well, except for the annual TV licence – but that’s also true when you’re with Virgin Media).
The Manhattan T3-R also supports Freeview Play, so it comes with streaming apps for the major public broadcasters – BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and more.
If you want more information, see our full Freeview Guide.
Getting A Streaming Device Without Virgin Media
Next, we want to be able to watch the streaming services – either the paid ones like Netflix, or the free catch-up ones from the public broadcasters, like BBC iPlayer and ITVX.
For that, you first need broadband, of course (and preferably high-speed broadband) – but we took care of that in Step 1.
Next, you need a streaming device to replace the Box 360. If you have a Smart TV from the past 4-5 years or so, there’s a good chance you already have most of the major streaming apps and services built into your TV.
If not, you can buy a dedicated streaming stick – these are small, cheap devices that give you access to a huge library of apps and services.
There’s a wide price range, but you mainly need to decide whether you want a 4K streaming stick, or if HD (1080p) is enough for you. In most cases, I would go for a 4K stick, as that future-proofs your purchase, even if you don’t currently have a 4K TV.
Two excellent choices for streaming sticks are the Amazon Fire TV 4K Max (see our review) and the Roku Streaming Stick 4K (see our review). The Fire TV sticks are more popular in the UK, but the Roku sticks have a much simpler and easy-to-use interface, so that may be a plus for some.
But you can’t go wrong with either one of those two. If you want something cheaper, but still get 4K – Roku also sells the Roku Express 4K (see our review)– which isn’t as powerful, so might be slightly more sluggish – but is still an excellent choice.
And if you don’t need 4K at all, take a look at the cheap Fire TV Stick Lite.
Virgin Media’s Streaming Option: The Stream Box
Last year, Virgin Media started offering its own streaming device and service – the Stream box.
Unlike Virgin Media’s traditional TV boxes (like the TV 360), Stream is based on broadband. Therefore all of its content – from streaming services like Netflix and Freeview channels like BBC, Channel 4 and the rest – are delivered via the internet.
Virgin Media’s Stream box offers a long list of Freeview channels (though not every Freeview channel is available) – and since they’re streamed to you over broadband, there’s no need for an aerial or good reception in your house.
It’s important to remember that the Stream box can’t record – instead, it uses the broadcasters’ streaming apps (like BBC iPlayer and ITVX), as well as Virgin Media’s own catch-up library – to let you stream content on-demand.
Virgin Media’s Stream box is available with no monthly costs or any long-term contracts, except for the one-time activation fee of £35.
But there’s one main catch: the Stream box is only available to Virgin Media broadband customer. So if you’re with them already, that’s a decent option to consider. If not – there’s no reason to switch to Virgin Media’s broadband JUST for the Stream box.
Getting Premium Streaming Channels Without Virgin Media
Once you have a streaming device, it’s time to decide what it is you want to watch.
First, remember that all the top streaming devices will already have the catch-up streaming apps from the major broadcasters, which you can then watch for free (though sometimes with adverts) – BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All4 and My5.
Then there are the premium streaming services, that cost money – but are still rather cheap.
The most crucial difference to remember between these streaming services and Virgin Media (or other pay-TV companies), is that there are NO LONG-TERM CONTRACTS.
Instead, you only pay for a month at a time – and can cancel at any point (unless you want an annual deal that lowers the price – but you don’t HAVE to get those).
So, for example, you can sign up for Netflix one month, watch some shows, then cancel the next month and switch to Disney+. Going on holiday for a couple of weeks? Cancel everything. The choice – and flexibility – is yours.
Some major Streaming Services examples include:
- Netflix (See our Review), at £10.99/month for the HD package with up to two simultaneous streams (to separate devices), or £15.99/month for the 4K package. There’s also the ad-supported tier, at £4.99/month – but you have to watch adverts.
- Amazon’s Prime Video (See our Review), at either £5.99/month for the video service or £95/year for the full Amazon Prime service which includes Prime Video.
- Disney+ (See our review): Disney’s streaming service, with content from the worlds of Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, National Geographic and their more “mature” category, Star. It normally costs £7.99/month or £79.90 for a full year
How Can I Get Sky’s Channels Without Virgin Media?
Even if you want to watch Sky’s premium channels – you can still do that with streaming, without the need for a VM subscription (or a Sky subscription for that matter).
This is where NOW (Formerly NOW TV – see our review) comes in. Sky’s monthly subscription service for cord cutters costs £9.99/month for the TV (and Kids) package, £9.99/month for the Sky Cinema package and £34.99/month for Sky Sports.
And, unlike Sky on Virgin Media – with NOW’s Entertainment Membership you get ALL of Sky’s entertainment channels and content – including Sky Atlantic. And everything’s available on-demand, and not just on “live” channels – so you can watch whenever you want.
There’s also Sky Stream (see our review) – a standalone streaming puck that lets you subscribe to Sky’s channels without a long-term contract – but it’s more expensive than NOW.
How Can I Get Sports Without Virgin Media?
There are quite a lot of options for streaming sports these days, without the need to sign a long contract with Virgin Media.
While these options are not always cheaper than getting the sports services as part of a bundle – you do get the flexibility of cancelling and re-joining whenever you want. Only interested in Premier League, for example? Cancel everything during the off-months.
Your streaming sports options include:
- BT Sport Monthly Pass – A flexible way to watch BT Sport on a variety of devices, for one monthly fee: £29.99/month.
- The NOW Sports Membership – With all of Sky’s sports channels (both live and on-demand), at £34.99/month (there are also day passes).
- Eurosport Player: It’s now part of Discovery+, offering up to 18 LIVE channels, from tennis (such as The Australian Open) to cycling, boxing, football and more.
- Amazon Prime Video: Amazon’s streaming service has been doubling down on sports in recent years, with Premier League matches, tennis and more.
The Bottom Line: Save By Ditching Virgin Media’s TV
No one likes price increases.
However, by moving to streaming TV and Freeview instead of Virgin Media’s TV (or other traditional pay-TV companies), you can save hundreds of pounds a year – and not just by avoiding the current price increase.
Some people keep saying to me that if you add all the streaming services’ costs up, you end up paying MORE than you did with Virgin Media. In theory, that’s true.
However, that’s exactly the point – you DON’T NEED all these services together, at the same time. Most people won’t have the time to watch Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, NOW, BT Sports, and the list goes on – during the same month.
There are only so many TV-watching hours in a day.
So every month just pick one, or two – depending on your needs and how much you want to pay. Or just take one of the major ones like Netflix or Disney+, keep it for 6 months, then switch to something else.
That flexibility is where the real money-saving lies.
Featured Image: Deposit Photos / Peter Fleming