Don’t overpay for Sky, Virgin, or BT TV. Existing
customers can haggle up to 50% off with just a phone call, and new
customers can slice chunks off if you sign up the right way.
Digital TV often costs £300-£600 if you add it up over a year, so this step-by-step guide, including best buy comparisons, will help you slash the cost.
Existing customer deals
New customer deals
It really works!
Before we get into the how-to, here are some successes to show you how easy it is:
Got half price for six months, then half price for another six months after that! All because I suggested we were moving to Virgin Media.
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."
"We phoned up after doing quotes and got it down from £75/mth to £35/month for 12 months. That's with Sky Sports added on!"
There's a full how-to and lots of tips in the Haggle With Sky, AA & Others guide. In a nutshell:
Step 1. Calculate the real cost
If you have a subscription, multiply your package's monthly cost by 12 to establish the annual cost. Unpleasantly, it's likely to be between £300 and £600. This isn't churlish anti-TV sentiment, but an elbow in the ribs to consider whether this huge sum represents good value.
The costs don't stop there
Many people may also get a phone package with their TV. It's often a penalty, not a bonus.
These can be monumentally expensive, and substantially more costly than the cheapest providers (see Cheapest Home Phones guide).
For example, a 10-minute daytime Virgin Media call to a mobile averages about £2.55. Using BT it's about £1.27, and with cheap calls provider 18185, just 75p. So don't believe any "digital TV free with a phone service" hype. Effectively, you're paying.
The formal approach to examining your usage should be a sofa-side notebook, detailing when, where, and how long you watch each channel for. But that's a bit nerdy. Scanning through channels (with the family) should let you know which are important.
Remember, real past viewing habits are a better guide than guessing at future preferences. Most important is how often you really watch the premium sport and/or movie channels.
TV providers' brochures aim to corral you into a narrow range of categorised packages, designed to make you pick multiple (and therefore more expensive) options. Yet there's more flexibility on both price and package than they let on.
Before pushing for a better offer, arm yourself with the best deals and comparisons below, as these can often bite chunks out of the annual cost.
Treat the results only as a benchmark, as the comparison won't include the myriad of special offers pushed through letter boxes and stuffed in magazines (worth watching for).
Step 4. How to haggle
The obvious haggle start-point (you've little choice) is with the customer service staff. Ask about the cost of your package (or a reduced package if the channel audit shows you're over-using) and see what deals are available.
Make sure they realise you've the opportunity to shift to a more competitive package elsewhere or can just use Freeview. Yet give them hope with "can you offer me a deal? I'd much prefer to stick with you".
If they're not willing to play ball, the powerhouse maneouvre is threatening to leave. Remember 'disconnections' is often internally named 'customer retentions', as that's their business aim. They've much wider discretion to give better deals, as ultimately their job is to keep your custom.
Don't be ruled by pride
Remember this is a haggling – not a leaving – exercise. One danger is you threaten to leave, it doesn't improve the offer, and you feel embarrassed into actually leaving. Don't do this. Buy time to reconsider by saying "right, I'll think about this and get back to you".
When we polled over 3,000 MoneySavers, a huge 52% of people who tried got big savings when haggling with Sky, while 31% got a minor reduction. For Virgin Media, 39% got a big saving, 41% got a minor reduction.
For more handy hints and tips, see: Haggle With Sky, AA & More.
With the end of the football season only a few days away, if you only take Sky Sports and ESPN to watch the Premier League, you can cancel penalty-free and save yourself a few quid this summer. But act quickly, as cancellation can take up to 31 days with some providers.
Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and BT have all confirmed, regardless of whether you're in contract or not, you'll be able to drop the Sky Sports and ESPN channels for the summer, so you'd needn't pay for channels you're not going to watch. Full how-to details below.
Of course, cancelling the channels means you won't be able to watch other sports, including Ashes cricket, British Lions rugby, and Formula 1, which feature on these premium channels. But if you're not interested in these, there's no point paying for them. Here's how to cancel:
Premium channels such as Sky Sports and ESPN can be changed at any point, either via your set-top box, by phone or through Sky's website. You have to give 31 days’ notice but there's no charge for cancelling. You can take the channels again at any time.
Because Sky Sports and ESPN are add-ons with no minimum contract (ESPN comes free on the XL package), you can cancel and add them back at any time without charge. You must have the channels for at least a month, though.
Cancellation is instant, but as you pay for a month upfront, it's worth waiting until the end of your billing month before cancelling. Call Virgin on 0845 840 7777 to cancel.
Like Sky and Virgin Media, TalkTalk lets you take Sky Sports as an add-on with no monthly commitment. You can cancel anytime, penalty-free, by calling TalkTalk or logging in to your My TalkTalk account and amending your package. The change will be instant.
Because you pay for the service upfront each month, if you cancel mid-month TalkTalk will refund the remaining charge as a credit on your account.
Like the other providers, you can remove Sky Sports 1 and 2 temporarily. But, if you're within the first month of your Sky Sports 1 or 2 subscription, you'll be charged for the remainder of the month. Call BT on 0800 443 311 to cancel the channels.
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 you need to grab them while you can.
We've blagged MoneySavers a TalkTalk* deal that gets digital TV, unlimited calls and broadband with unlimited downloads for the equivalent of £21.09/mth. It's a little complicated, so we've broken it down:
- The TalkTalk TV, broadband and calls package is £10/mth for six months, then £15.50/mth for the remaining 12 months of the 18-mth contract.
- You must take TalkTalk's line rental to get this deal, which is usually £14.95/mth. But if you pay £114 upfront for the first year, it's equivalent to £9.50/mth. You'll then have to pay £14.95/mth for the remaining six months.
- Go via the link above before 11.59pm on Thu 23 May and you'll also get a free £70 Love2Shop voucher. Only available to customers who do not require a new line.
This works out to £449.70 over the 18-month contract (if you opt for self-installation - more info below). Factor in the voucher as cash though, and it's £379.70, equivalent to £21.09/mth.Full info/what can I get?
What do you get?
- Free YouView TV box (RRP £299), which lets you rewind, pause and record Freeview programmes. It also gives you access to the TalkTalk Player, which offers on-demand content from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5.
- Broadband with unlimited downloads and speeds of up to 14Mb.
- Free installation if you select the "self installation" option. With this option, it’s free delivery within three working days. A guide with a 24-hour helpline is supplied in case you get stuck. if you choose to get the box installed by TalkTalk, a £25 installation fee will apply.
Want more channels? If you're looking for more than just the basic Freeview offering, then you can get more channels with TalkTalk's pay-as-you-go add-on packages below. You can opt out of these after a month:
- Sky Sports £30/month
- Sky Movies £15/month
- Kids' Boost £5/month
- ESPN £10/month
When will I get the TV installed? Expect installation to be around two to three weeks after placing your order if you don't opt for self-installation.
Warning! Beware paying upfront; there's a risk of losing your cash if the provider goes bust. This risk is bigger with smaller companies than with TalkTalk.
Speedily check comparisons for bespoke bundlesThe best comparisons
Simply enter the channels you're looking for (as established in your channel audit - step 2 above) and it shows the alternatives available in your area.
If you're an existing TalkTalk phone and broadband customer, you can upgrade to TalkTalk TV*, and the current deal is really hot.
It's a little complicated, so follow these steps to get it:
- Go via the link above and it's £15.50/mth for the duration of the 24-month contract.
- Line rental's normally £14.95/mth, but pay upfront for a year and it's £114, working out at £9.50/mth (you'll need to log in to your account once set up to do this). Once this finishes you'll have to pay for another 12 months upfront, at £114 again, as there's a 24-month contract.
Factor in the two years line rental upfront, and the package is equivalent to £25/mth over the 24mth contract. 85% of the UK can get the deal.
Warning! Be aware that when paying upfront, as there's a risk of losing your cash if the provider goes bust. This risk is minimal with a big company such as TalkTalk, but it's worth bearing mind.Full info
What do you get?
- Basic Freeview TV on an 24-month contract
- Free YouView box (lets you rewind, pause, record & catch-up TV on the TalkTalk Player) - will be sent within three days of upgrading
- Up to 15Mb broadband with unlimited downloads
- Line rental with anytime calls
The TalkTalk player offers unlimited access to on-demand content. There are plenty of shows, box sets and films to choose from, including Two and a Half Men (season 9), Grey’s Anatomy (seasons 1 – 7), and Scrubs (Seasons 1-5).
Want more channels? If you're looking for more than just the basic Freeview offering, then you can get more channels with TalkTalk's pay-as-you-go add-on packages:
- Sky Sports £30/month
- Sky Movies £15/month
- Kids' Boost £5/month
- ESPN £10/month
Freeview costs from as little as under £20, with no expensive installation costs. In its basic form you can get around 50 permanent channels, less than other types of one-off digital boxes but sufficient for most.
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.
How to pick the right package
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.
Are you locked in?
18-month contracts are common now and can protect you from future market price shifts. 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.
Broadband speed & download limit
Internet speed is measured in Kb, the amount of information transferred per second. Basic broadband is 512Kb, nearly 10 times faster than dial-up, yet 8Mb (c.8,000 Kb), a further 20 times faster, is common, while many now enjoy up to 100Mb download speeds.
For those just doing basic surfing, 2Mb is enough. If you download music and films (including services like iPlayer) a faster connection of 8Mb is better. Yet just because a package says "up to 8Mb", 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.
When it comes to downloads, for most people 5-10GB will probably be fine for checking emails and surfing the net. 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 £199 onto 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.
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.
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 pushing hard on the phone for a better deal. That's £300/year saved.