Subscription costs could cloud your viewing heaven

Personal video recorders seem to promise much, but package prices vary widely. Chiara Cavaglieri reports

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.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsSchool leaver's pic YouTube video features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

    £20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

    Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

    Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

    Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain