Subscription costs could cloud your viewing heaven
Personal video recorders seem to promise much, but package prices vary widely. Chiara Cavaglieri reports
Sunday 12 July 2009
Sports fans have a multitude of events to enjoy over the summer, with football World Cup qualifiers, the British Open golf, and, of course, the Ashes, to mention just a few.
Many of those wanting to watch the action from their couch have turned to the latest digital technology to enhance their viewing pleasure and ensure they don't miss a shot, stroke or goal.
Only a fortnight ago, Ofcom revealed that the number of personal video recorders (PVRs) sold in the UK has reached almost nine million, an increase of nearly one million since the start of the year. "We strongly recommend that everyone who is getting digital TV buys a PVR. We work with a huge variety of customers, young and old, and they all constantly rave about them," says Charlie Ponsonby, chief executive officer of digital TV and broadband comparison service Simplifydigital.co.uk.
These digital recording devices have revolutionised the television experience and allow viewers to take control with the option to fast forward adverts, store programmes to watch and even pause live television when the phone rings. The big players are Sky+, with five million customers; Freeview+ with more than 2.6 million and V+ from Virgin, which has about 600,000 subscribers. Other options include BT Vision and Top Up TV and a range of high-street PVR boxes.
"The choice of PVR on the high street is almost limitless, but the ones that come with digital TV suppliers are very impressive and heavily discounted – or free – due to the channel subscription you will pay," says Michael Phillips of price comparison service BroadbandChoices.co.uk. The advantages of these devices may seem clear but the big question is: how much do consumers have to pay for the privilege of controlled viewing?
First, there is the initial cost of the box itself and/or installation fees. With Virgin Media, for example, the V+ box is free but there is a £99 installation fee. After this there is a monthly fee to pay, usually on a minimum 12-month contract. Right now the Sky+ box is free with packages costing from £16.50 per month, but as soon as you start adding sports and movies that price shoots up. Combining all the entertainment packages on offer plus Sky Sports and Movies channels would cost £46 per month.
With these kinds of figures, it's clear that a more advanced viewing experience doesn't come cheap, but there are ways to cut costs. First, for anyone not wanting to cough up for a monthly subscription, a Freeview box is one of the cheapest and most popular options. Viewers can make the most of 48 digital channels and boxes start from as little as £20. For those not wanting to miss out on all the mod cons, there are Freeview PVRs available on the high street with prices ranging from £60 to £470. Similarly, Freesat PVRs can be purchased with prices starting at about £200 and available storage for up to 200 hours of programming. However, with both options premium sports and movie packages are not available.
Another money-saving option is to "bundle", by combining TV, phone and broadband packages from one provider. Bundles typically offer much better value for money and could save on average £360 per year, according to Simplify Digital. But deals do vary from one week to the next.
With Tiscali, TV bundling is compulsory and subject to a minimum contract of 12 months. Prices start at £19.99 per month for TV Variety Pack, up to 8MB broadband, phone line rental and UK weekend and international calls. Sky Sports and Movies can be added to packages starting at £22.50 per month. There is also a £50 charge for an upgrade to a PVR, which enables you to record two channels and watch a third.
There are several other considerations when purchasing a digital TV package, and one of the most important is to check the contract length. With Sky, for example, although a 12-month commitment is required for its basic service, customers are free to switch from one specific channel pack to another from month to month.
Also, viewers who already subscribe to a TV package but want to switch to something more advanced should always contact their current provider to see what they might offer instead. Providers want to keep their existing customers so may well come up trumps with a discounted deal to prevent them from taking their business elsewhere.
Of course, TV watchers who have so far shunned the advent of digital may soon have to change their approach. The national switchover from analogue to digital TV has already begun and will roll across the country over the next few years. As a result, digital refuseniks could soon find their screens going blank.
Crowd-to-let: How crowdfunding sites can give investors a slice of the property market for £500
After the election: What will Britain's financial future look like on 8 May?
General Election 2015: How you vote next week could affect your finances
Social tenants locked into energy tariff for 40 years
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
- 2 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...
£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...
Day In a Page
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings