Don’t overpay for Sky, Virgin or BT TV. Existing customers can haggle for £££s off with just a phone call, and new customers can slice chunks off signing up the right way.
Digital TV subscriptions can mount up to £1,000+ if you add up the price over the contract. This step-by-step guide, including best buys, will help you slash the cost.
In mature industries such as digital TV, companies grow by tempting customers from other firms, not by grabbing customers new to that market. So just call up, threaten to leave and your existing company will often offer kick-butt discounts.
New customers can still call up companies to haggle, armed with the best deals below, but where this technique comes into its own is for existing, out-of-contract customers.
Before we get into it, here are some successes to show you how easy it is:
Called Sky, told them I was leaving and was put through to retentions. They kept me on the same package but reduced it to £30/month, a £180/year saving.
I rang Virgin Media, as I was being charged £38/mth for broadband, TV and phone before call charges. I mentioned a family member had signed up to all three for only £30/mth. It immediately reduced my package by £10/mth.
Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are easiest to haggle with. We polled 7,000 MoneySavers to see where hagglers had most success, and they reported at least 80% success rates with those three providers. See full results.
How to haggle - step-by-step
We've pulled out the top tips here, but for more see our full Haggle with Sky & more guide.
1Benchmark the best buys
The first step is to ensure you know the type of price you should be looking to beat. New, hot customer offers abound on digital TV packages - you should aim for these.
Then call your supplier near the time you're due to renew. Quote the best buys and ask for a price match.
2Be polite and charming
Don't be aggressive. You've no right to a discount - just a right to leave. Think of it like financial flirting.
Good haggling is simply an exchange between two people trying to agree on a win/win deal. It should be done with seduction, a gentle patter and a touch of firmness. Aim for polite, firm and non-combative.
It's rumoured some operators have quotas on the discounts they can give, so make them want to give you a price cut.
3Get put through to 'retentions'
If you're coming to the end of your contract, or are out of it, then you’re wielding a powerful weapon: customer loyalty. Companies desperately want to keep you, so if they believe they'll lose you, you can often get much better deals.
If you don't get the deal you want from the first person you speak to, tell 'em you're considering leaving. Then you get put through to 'disconnections', which is really 'retentions'. It's this department's job to keep you, and it has more power deals.
4Don't be forced to disconnect
If your bluff is called, and the deal isn’t good enough, then consider leaving. Yet don’t be forced into a corner to disconnect. An easy 'get out of jail free' card is to say: "I need to check with my husband/wife/dog/etc first – I’ll call you back."
5If you fail, try again
Don't assume one setback means a no. Wait a few days and try again. You may have been unlucky - your operator might have already hit a quota of discount deals, so it's worth trying again. Or maybe you got somebody in a bad mood, or perhaps you just didn’t use enough of your haggle charm.
If you're a new customer, or your haggle didn't give you a big enough discount, the current top deals are below. Here, it's all about timing. Offers come and go, so grab 'em while you can.
Sky TV 40% off packages & £100+ bill credit*Applies to all TV bundles incl Sports, Movies and Family
Until 11.59pm on Thu 23 Apr, we’ve blagged a cracking deal for new Sky* customers (or those who left it 12 months+ ago). You get 40% off a year's contract on all its TV packages (excluding the upgrade to watch Sports and Movies in HD) plus a £100 bill credit (£125 on the Family/Complete packages). A one-off £10 set-up fee applies.
To get the deal go via our link above (if you don't want to sign up straightaway you can go via the link, enter your name and address and a personalised code will be emailed to you so you can use it later - you can redeem it any time until Thu 23 Apr.)
The savings can be huge. When we ran a similar offer previously, Aimi tweeted: "Will save £385 over the next 12 months with the Sky code, plus the bill credit - thanks."
Here's a quick breakdown of the deal:
- 40% off all Sky's TV packages. Choose from the following (monthly prices effective from 1 June when Sky hikes prices - until then you'll pay slightly less):
- 40% off the Original bundle. About 40 channels, incl Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, Fox and Good Food. Reduced from £21.50/mth to £12.90/mth.
- 40% off the Variety bundle. The Original bundle plus kids' channels. Reduced from £30/mth to £18/mth.
- 40% off the Family bundle. The Original bundle plus kids' channels and HD versions of included channels - you won't need the HD upgrade to view these. Reduced from £36/mth to £21.60/mth.
- 40% off the Movies bundle. The Original bundle plus 12 movie channels. Reduced from £38.50/mth to £23.10/mth.
- 40% off the Sports bundle. The Original bundle plus seven sports channels, including Sky Sports 1-5, Sky Sports News and Sky Sports F1. Reduced from £47/mth to £28.20/mth.
- 40% off the Complete bundle. Everything above plus box sets on demand and Sky 3D. Reduced from £75.75/mth to £47.55/mth (this bundle also includes the HD upgrade for Sports and Movies channels).
- £100+ credit. You'll get £100 (if you opt for the Original, Variety, Movies or Sports bundle) or £125 (for the Family or Complete bundle) in credit added to your first bill.
- Compulsory £10 set-up fee. This is unavoidable whatever TV package you get, and isn't reduced.
- Half-price broadband if you take its line rent. With Sky's £16.40/mth line rent, you can opt for a year’s half-price unlimited b'band (£3.75/mth on a 12mth contract) or six months' half-price fibre (£10/mth for 6mths, then £20/mth for rest of the 18mth contract)
You'll have to pay £6.95 for a router and it's £20 installation if you need a new line (or to change from cable).
Is HD included in the 40% off?
Free-to-air HD channels are included in all packages. If you take the Family bundle you'll also get HD versions of included channels which you'll be able to watch without any further charge (Sky Atlantic HD for example).
However if you want to watch Sports or Movies in HD it's an extra £5.25/mth, which isn't reduced by the 40% off code. (If you get the Complete bundle though HD is included and you won't have to pay extra).
What about line rental, is that included in the deal?
No - standard line rental costs £16.40/month on top.
Are channels such as BT Sport/ESPN or other sports channels included?
No, additional premium channels (including BT Sport/ESPN, MUTV and Chelsea TV) aren't included, even if you sign up to the Sports package.
Can I add any extras?
Yes, you can add Multiscreen. It costs £11.25/mth on top of your bundle choice and comes with Sky Go Extra at no extra cost. You can add Sky Go Extra on its own but that'll cost £5/mth.
TV, b'band & line rent equiv £28.29/mth * with upfront line rent. Equiv £29.40/mth paid monthly
Until Sun 26 Apr, newbies to TalkTalk can get its Plus TV* bundle for £28.29/mth including upfront line rental, on an 18-month contract (it's equiv £29.40/mth if you pay line rental monthly). It includes seven Sky channels and the ability to watch Netflix via your TV (though you'll need to subscribe which is an additional £5.99/mth).
- TV, calls & broadband. It's £9.25/mth for 12 months, then £18.50/mth for the remaining six months. Details
a) Plus TV, which has the Freeview channels, seven Sky channels, including Sky 1, Sky Living and Sky Sports News HQ. You also get a YouView set-top box that lets you pause and rewind for up to 30 minutes (but not record). Sky Movies and Sports cost more.
b) Unlimited broadband, (up to 17Mb speed) - available to 85% of the UK. There's no fair usage policy.
c) Unlimited anytime calls to UK landlines, 0845 and 0870 numbers (redial after 60mins, or you're charged thereafter). Chargeable calls have a 16p connection fee.
- Line rental. It's £16.70/mth so £300.60 over 18 months. When signing up you can choose to pay £180.36 upfront for the first year, then £16.70/mth for the remaining six months - £280.56 in total, equiv to £15.59/mth.
- Mobile Sim worth £5. Talk Talk Plus TV customers can claim a Sim worth £5 per month at no extra cost. It includes 100 minutes, 250 texts and 200MB of data (if you sign up online, otherwise you only get 100MB).
- You get a 'free' router but delivery is £6.75. This is compulsory.
- Need a new line? Some customers will have to pay £20.
Assuming you pay for the first year's line rental upfront, then monthly for the remaining six months, it's £509.31 all-in over the 18-month contract for existing customers, equivalent to £28.29/mth. Pay line rental monthly for the 18-month contract and it's £529.35, equivalent to £29.40/mth.
TV, fibre b'band & line rental equiv £31/mth* With upfront line rent. Equiv £32.99/mth paid monthly
New customers who sign up for Virgin Media's Big Easy Bundle* can get TV, fibre broadband and line rent with weekend calls for £12.99/mth for the first 12 months and then £22/mth for the remaining six months, plus line rental.
Here's how the offer stacks up:
- Virgin Media TV, broadband and line rent with calls. Details
a) Virgin Media TV - includes 500GB TiVo set-top box and 68 channels.
b) Unlimited broadband - up to 50Mb speeds, available to 50% of UK.
c) Weekend calls - these are max 60 mins (hang up and redial).
- You need line rental - call Virgin to get a year upfront for £164. Line rental's usually £16.99/mth, but if you call 0845 840 7777 after signing up via the above link, you can opt to pay upfront for a year at £164. Crucially you need to phone to do this before installation, otherwise you'll pay more.
Pay upfront for a year and it effectively works out at the equivalent of £13.67/mth over 12 months. It'll then be £16.99/mth for the remaining six months. After the first year, if you want to stay with Virgin, it's likely you'll be able to pay upfront for another year, though obviously prices could change.
- £9 off for 12 months. Go via the link above and the Big Easy TV and fibre broadband deal is £12.99/mth for 12 months (it'll then be £22/mth for the remaining six months).
- Installation is free. This includes if you need a new line (which if you've a BT line you will do).
Factoring in the £9 off for 12 months, bundle price, and line rental paid upfront, it works out at £553.82 over the 18-month contract for new customers, equivalent to £30.77/mth. If you pay for the line rental monthly, it's £593.70 all-in, equivalent to £32.99/mth.
TV, fibre b'band & line rent equiv £44.32/mth plus £100 Sainsbury's vch* With upfront line rent. equiv £47.15/mth paid monthly.
If you want to stick with BT, its TV Entertainment* package is a competitive bundle for new customers who want a decent number of channels and fibre broadband. It also includes weekend calls and is one of the cheapest ways to get BT Sport. Plus until Mon 20 Apr you'll also get a £100 Sainsbury's gift card.
It's a 12-month contract, here's what you'll get:
- BT TV Entertainment and fibre broadband. £25.50/mth over 12 months. Details
a) BT TV Entertainment - 70 Freeview TV and radio channels plus 20 additional channels, including National Geograpic, Comedy Central and Fox.
b) BT Infinity 1 broadband- Up to 38Mb speeds, no usage limit.
c) BT Sport is free to watch on your TV, the app or online player.
d) Free Youview+box to pause and record up to 300 hours of TV.
- Line rental. It's currently £16.99/mth. But if you pay upfront for 12 months, it’s £169.90, equivalent to £14.16/mth.
- £49 set-up fee. There is also a £6.95 router p&p cost.
- Free phone line. If you need a new phone line (ie if you don't have one or you;re switching from cable), it'll be installed free.
- £100 Sainsbury's voucher. Annoyingly you have to claim this voucher using this online form after the broadband is activated - it will be sent out within 30 days after that. As it's not automatic so set a diary alert to help you remember to claim.
Factoring in the bundle price, line rental paid upfront, set-up fee and router p&p, it works out at £531.85 all-in over the 12-month contract, the equivalent of £44.32/mth. If you pay for the line rental monthly, it's £565.83 all-in, equivalent to £47.15/mth.
Plus you get the £100 Sainsbury's voucher. If you were going to spend that at the supermarket anyway, factor it in and it's £431.85 all-in over 12 months if you pay upfront, equiv to £35.99. If you pay monthly, it's £465.83 all-in over 12 months, equiv to £38.82/mth.
Providers usually offer the best deals for new customers, but sometimes run promotions for existing customers too. Otherwise you may have better luck haggling - see our How To Haggle guide for tips on how to blag a better deal.
Until Sun 26 Apr, existing TalkTalk broadband customers can get its Essentials TV* bundle (including basic TV, calls and unlimited broadband) on a 18-month contract for £24.16/month. You can cut it to £23.05/mth equivalent if you pay for the line rental upfront for the first year.
Here's how it stacks up:
- TV, calls & broadband. It's £4.25/mth for 6 months, then £8.50/mth for the remaining six months. Details
a) Basic TV, which is essentially Freeview plus catch-up services for BBC, ITV etc. You also get a YouView set-top box that lets you pause and rewind for up to 30 minutes (but not record). Sky Movies and Sports cost more.
b) Unlimited broadband - available to 85% of the UK. There's no fair usage policy.
c) Inclusive evening and weekend calls to UK landlines, 0845 and 0870 numbers (redial after 60mins, or you're charged thereafter). Chargeable calls have a 15p connection fee.
- Line rental. It's £16.70/mth so £300.60 over 18 months. When signing up you can choose to pay £180.36 upfront for the first year, then £16.70/mth for the remaining six months - £280.56 in total, equiv to £15.59/mth.
- You get a router but delivery is £6.75. Includes a compulsory router, but you must pay a one-off fee of £6.75 for delivery.
- Need a new line? It's free with this deal (usually £20).
Assuming you pay for a year's line rental upfront, it's £414.81 all-in over the 18-month contract for existing customers, or £23.05/mth equivalent. Pay line rental monthly and it's £434.85 over the 18-month contract or £24.16/mth.
Ask yourself: "Do I really need every channel?" If the answer's 'no', and you're not bothered about getting Premier League matches or hundreds of extra channels on your TV, Freeview may be the best option.
If you've a fairly new TV, it'll probably have basic Freeview built into it, giving you over 60 permanent channels and 12 HD channels. (If it doesn't and you want Freeview, basic boxes start from £10).
Some people can't get Freeview because of their location (check at Freeview) which means you'll need to look at one of the other options. Freeview says 98.5% of people will be able to get it, with channel line-ups dependent on their area.
If you want to really get the most out of Freeview though, and be able to record, pause or rewind live TV or record whole series, you'll need a Freeview+ box. These start at around £90 for a box with 320GB of memory (records up to 150 hours of TV).
Use our MegaShopBot to compare prices, but here are our top picks (prices are correct as of 2 Apr 2015).
Goodmans: Record 250hrs of TV - £60* Cheapest we can find, with 320GB hard drive
This Goodmans* Freeview+ box, currently available for £59.99 from Amazon, is the cheapest we can find. It's not HD (see below if that's what you'd prefer), but does have sufficient capacity to record over 150 hours of TV with its 320GB hard drive. Plus it lets you record whole series and pause/rewind live TV.
This box is designed to work with standard terrestrial aerials - it won't work with satellite dishes, you'll need a Freesat box for that (similar to Freeview but for satellite dishes).
Humax: Cheap HD recorder - £130*Cheapest we can find allowing you to record in HD
The cheapest HD box we can find is also from Humax*, currently priced at £129.99 via Amazon (other HD boxes cost significantly more, with some running into £100s). However user reviews are mixed, so bear that in mind.
It comes with a 320GB hard drive and allows you to record two channels at the same time, or watch one and record another. It allows you to store up to 80 hours of HD recordings and 200 hours of standard recordings.
You'll need an HD TV to watch HD channels - decent TVs start at £160 but for more info and deals, see our Cheap HD TVs guide.
If you're not sure what extras you want, read these tips on what to watch for:
Only pick the channels you know you'll watch
There's no point paying colossal prices to have access to channels you won't watch, so decide what you want and get the right package.
If you're a keen footie fan, only sign up to the sports channels for the football season. Cancel for the summer and you'll save a wad of cash. Some providers may insist on 30 days' notice, so set a reminder to do it in time.
See the cheapest ways to watch Premier League games
Our Cheapest Football On TV guide shows how you can watch every Premier League game this season for the cheapest possible price.
This guide includes all the different options for watching the Premier League, sets out what's on offer from each of the big UK TV providers and explains how to haggle a discount.
Moving house imminently? Check if fees apply
18-month contracts are common now for TV packages. If you're moving soon, most providers will charge a fee or ask you to pay the remainder of the contract - a lot of cash if you're at the beginning of a contract. At the outset, check if you can take the contract to your new postcode and if any fees apply.
Buying a deal with broadband? Check the download speed & limit
If you're interested in a bundled TV and broadband package, check the download speed and limit - especially if you're likely to download vast volumes of content.
Internet speed is measured in Kb, the amount of information transferred per second. The average speed of broadband is 22.8Mb, according to Ofcom's latest research, but some providers offer speeds of up to 100Mb download speeds.
For those just doing basic browsing, 2Mb is enough. If you download music and films (including services such as iPlayer) a faster connection of 8Mb is better. Yet just because a package says "up to Mb", don't assume that's what you'll get; it depends on your line, so your speed may be much less. Check yours using the speed detector on Think Broadband.
Most top broadband deals are unlimited so what you use it for is no longer a big issue. However, if a deal does have a limit, bear in mind how much data you need. For most people 5-10GB will probably be fine for checking emails and browsing the net, but if you download music, TV and films, you'll need more. For more details on speed and downloads, read the Cheapest Broadband guide.
Do you want to record programmes?
Get special equipment from your provider and you'll be able to record, pause and rewind digital TV programmes. This can add up to the installation costs, but you may be able to negotiate on this.
It's worth noting that the more expensive the TV package, the more they're likely to discount this, and some bundles may even include the box for free. It's also possible to get Freeview Plus boxes with the ability to do this.
Do you really need to pay for TV at all?
Switching from Sky/Virgin to Freeview saves many £400+/year, enough to supplement the loss of movie channels with DVD rentals! However, even without ditching, the savings can be huge.
For more details on renting and downloads, read the Watch movies & TV online guide.
While filming one of Martin's TV programmes, one family that followed this step-by-step technique cut its Sky bill from roughly £50/mth to £25/mth, without losing any regularly-watched channels, and through pushing hard on the phone for a better deal. That's £300/year saved.
If you signed up to an MSE Blagged Deal – a best-in-market deal we’ve negotiated exclusively – which involves you being sent a voucher, we’ll always do our best to ensure you get the voucher.
But as we warn above, there can occasionally be problems with the deal tracking. In particular, if you were running adblocking software or cookie blockers when you signed up for the deal, or exited your browser while in the process of signing up, this can stop it tracking correctly.
- Many vouchers are supposed to arrive within three months of installation. If it hasn’t been that long yet, please be patient.
- If you’re waiting for an email voucher, please do check your spam folder regularly in case it’s been diverted there.
If you've satisfied the criteria above and still don't know what's happened to your voucher, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sky: Line rental and broadband deals
The Sky deal below ended on 11 Sept 2014 - we've posted it in full as a reminder of what was on offer. With this deal, there was a voucher but you had to claim it within a certain period. It usually then arrives within 28 days.
If it's been that long and your vouchers still haven't arrived, please email email@example.com and we'll make sure Sky gives you them. Please include the full name of the Sky account holder, order date and connection date, the email address you signed up with, your Sky account number and details of the promotional deal you signed up to to ensure you get a quick response.
Sky 50% off codes, ‘free’ broadband & £25 voucherPlease note: This deal is no longer available
We featured the following deal for Sky newbies (ie, anyone who hadn't had it in the last 12 months) who got a code via us and applied via a special link. The deal included the following:
50% off Sky TV packages. A 50% reduction on all Sky TV packages for a year was on offer (barring the £5.25/mth HD upgrade and a compulsory £10 set-up fee). Once you had the code you could get the following packages:
You could get 50% off any of Sky's TV packages, bar the £5.25/mth HD upgrade. The options included:
- 50% off the standard Sky TV package. About 40 channels, including Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, Fox, Sky Living and Good Food. Reduced from £21.50/mth to £10.75/mth.
- 50% off the Variety bundle. Standard TV plus kids' channels and HD channels. Reduced from £28/mth to £14/mth.
- 50% off the Family bundle. Standard TV plus kids' channels, TV box sets on demand and more HD channels. Reduced from £33/mth to £16.50/mth.
- 50% off the Movies bundle. Standard TV plus 12 movie channels. Reduced from £38/mth to £19/mth.
- 50% off the Sports bundle. Standard TV plus six sports channels, including Sky Sports F1. Reduced from £46/mth to £23/mth.
- 50% off the complete bundle. Everything above plus box sets on demand and Sky 3D. Reduced from £71.25/mth to £38.25/mth (this includes the HD pack, which isn't half price and still costs £5.25/mth).
- A year's free broadband if you got its line rental. The code also meant that if you signed up for a year's line rental for £15.40/mth you could also get a year's free broadband (though all Sky Sports customers were eligible for two years free in a deal that was available when this one was). A router was included but p&p was £6.95 on top.
- £25 in Tesco/M&S vouchers or prepaid Mastercard credit - but you had to claim this part. You needed to claim your voucher or credit through your online Sky account within 90 days of activation. It was sent out within 28 days.
- Compulsory £10 set-up fee. This was unavoidable unfortunately. Also, if you needed a new line installed, there was an additional £20 fee.
If you're experiencing problems with this deal, please look at the points below first:
- This deal was only open to new customers - so those who didn't have Sky and hadn't had it for at least 12 months.
- Vouchers take 28 days to arrive after you've claimed. Please wait the necessary time before getting in touch.
- Emailed vouchers may be picked up by spam filters. If it's been over 28 days since you claimed your voucher and you haven't received it, please check your spam folder first.
Still got a question? In order to get your voucher, the deal had to track properly - adblockers and disabling cookies can sometimes prevent this. If you've satisfied the criteria above and still don't know what's happened to your voucher, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When emailing, please make sure you include your full name, home address, date of purchase, Sky account number and, the email address you signed up with. This info will help ensure you get a quick response. We'll try to answer your query as quickly as possible.
If you have a problem with your TV provider and need to complain, contact it and keep a record of the date, what you said and the person you speak to. If that doesn’t work, you can also take your complaint to Ombudsman Services (CISAS if you're complaining about Virgin Media).
One way to do this is to use a free service from a company called Resolver which will manage your complaint and take care of the administration, including escalating it, if necessary.