Virgin Media’s new Stream TV box, which lets you watch streaming services, Freeview channels and premium sports via broadband – is now included with some of the company’s broadband plans at no extra cost.
Hot on the heels of the release of Sky’s standalone – and similarly named – Sky Stream box this week, Virgin Media was quick to lower the cost of its own streaming box, while emphasizing monthly price differences between the two.
And indeed, comparing the pricing of TV services on these two competing boxes – Virgin Media comes out cheaper (see full details below), especially in the sports arena, where BT Sport and even Sky’s own Sky Sports plans are cheaper on Virgin Media’s Stream than on Sky’s Stream.
As for the box itself – normally it carries a one-time activation fee of £35, but Virgin Media is foregoing that fee for all broadband packages above 200Mbps (the original announcement mentioned 350Mbps – but it seems they lowered it to 200Mbps, at least as of this writing).
November Update: Virgin Media is boosting its M100 and M200 broadband packages, to M120 and M250.
What Is Virgin Media’s 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, ITV and the rest – are delivered via the internet.
It’s important to remember that the Stream box can’t record – instead, it uses the broadcasters’ streaming apps (like BBC iPlayer and All4), 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.
As mentioned, if you take a Virgin Media broadband plan of 200Mbps and up – you won’t pay the activation fee.
It’s worth mentioning that over the past few months, I’ve heard from people who were able to get Stream without the activation fee even on lower broadband speeds – so you can always try to haggle.
Once you get the box, you pick and choose the paid channels and services you want, with rolling 30-day contracts, and a 10% ‘cashback’ on top every month.
The Stream box also supports a variety of streaming apps and services, like Netflix and Disney+, as well as premium paid TV services like BT Sport and Sky’s entertainment channels.
Normally, if you add some of the streaming subscriptions via your Virgin Media bill, you’ll get a 10% credit back – but customers who sign up to BT Sport, Sky Sport or Sky Cinema at the discounted prices currently available, will not be eligible to that credit on top.
In any case, if you just stay with the Freeview channels – there are no monthly fees at all (which is also the case with regular Freeview boxes – but, again, in this case you don’t need an aerial, which is a plus for those with bad reception in their home).
The main downside of Virgin Media’s Stream, is that it only works with Virgin Media’s broadband – which does carry with it a long-term contract.
This is different from Sky’s Stream box, which is compatible with broadband from any of the UK providers.
Last week, Virgin Media also lowered the pricing on its Social Tariff offer, which is aimed at people on benefits.
Virgin Media Stream VS Sky Stream
To “celebrate” the launch of Sky Stream, Virgin Media is not only foregoing the activation fee on their own Stream box – but also offering several premium TV add-ons at a discounted price, for the duration of your Virgin Media broadband contract.
BT Sport, which costs £30/month to add to Sky Stream, is currently only £10/month on Virgin Media’s Stream.
Sky Sports costs £25/month with an 18-months contract on Sky Stream, and £18.75/month on Virgin Media.
Sky Cinema costs £11/month on Sky (with an 18-months contract), and £10/month on Virgin Media.
Keep in mind that since these are promotional prices, they will go back up to their normal rates once your 18-months contract with Virgin Media is up.
For more on Virgin Media’s Stream box, see our in-depth review of it.