TV MoneySaving Tricks

TV MoneySaving Tricks

How to save on Sky, Netflix, Now TV, Prime Video & more

Over half of UK households are signed up to at least one streaming service, while millions spend £100s/year on digital TV subscriptions. Yet there are loads of ways to slash the cost, and these tricks are even more important in the current lockdown. So whether you're a Netflix addict, Sky TV customer or just want to make the most of Freeview, here are our best tips to save.

Let us know how YOU save on the cost of watching telly. Please tell us any tricks we've missed in the forum. Also see: 20+ TV Licence Fee TipsDigital TV Deals18 Netflix Hacks and Watch Movies & TV Online.

The basics – how to watch for FREE

Let's start with some TV MoneySaving fundamentals:

  1. Make the most of streaming-service trials to watch Star Wars, Toy Story 4 and lots more for FREE

    Streaming sites have become a huge deal in the world of TV watching – stats from BARB (The Broadcasters' Audience Research Board) earlier this year, show that more than half of UK households now use at least one of the big ones.

    But the good news from a MoneySaving point of view is that many offer free trials, giving unlimited access for a set period. So you can binge on Good Omens, OutlanderThe Marvelous Mrs Maisel and other big series such as Chernobyl to your heart's content – plus watch popular films like Frozen 2, Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerToy Story 4 and Avengers: Endgame.

    If you really want to max it, you can hop from free trial to free trial – just remember to cancel before each trial's up. Unfortunately, Netflix got rid of its 30-day free trial last year – see the MSE News story for full info – but there are others you can still take advantage of.

    Important: You'll usually have to enter debit or credit card details, and the subscription will auto-renew, so mark it in your diary to cancel if you don't want to continue.

    • Amazon Prime Video* – 30 days free. As well as tons of popular films and TV shows (incl Parks and Recreation, The Walking Dead, The Imitation Game and Blinded by the Light), Amazon originals include Good OmensStar Trek Picard and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel.

    • BritBox – 30 days free. BBC and ITV have teamed up to create a streaming service for 'British box sets', including Downton Abbey and Broadchurch. Although it's worth noting a number of the box sets on offer can already be streamed for free on iPlayer and All 4, such as The Inbetweeners, Misfits and Peep Show.

    • Hayu – 30 days free. A streaming service dedicated to reality TV, offering shows such as The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and Dance Moms.

    • Quibi – 14 days free. A new mobile streaming app to rival Netflix and co, Quibi (apparently short for 'quick bites') is designed for watching on your phone in short bursts rather than lengthy binge-watching. Shows are 10 minutes or shorter, and big names appearing in its original series include Thor actor Chris Hemsworth, Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner and musician Jennifer Lopez.

    • Now TV – seven days free for each pass. You can get a free seven-day trial for each of the Entertainment, Movies and Kids passes (but not the Sports pass unfortunately). To really max it, get them in separate weeks rather than all in one go. You can watch Succession, every Game of Thrones episode, plus Frozen 2, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, The Favourite and Toy Story 4.

    • Apple TV+ – seven days free. Launched last year, Apple TV+ offers originals such as The Morning Show, starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell, plus Little America and Dickinson.
  2. TV licences cost £157.50 – check if you REALLY need one

    If you only watch certain channels on catch-up, you may be able to avoid paying the £157.50 annual fee. If you watch live TV, or anything on BBC iPlayer, you'll need a licence, but you won't for other catch-up sites. See our Do I need a TV licence? guide for full details.

    Plus if you decide you do need a TV licence, make sure you don't pay by quarterly direct debit – that costs an extra £5/year.

  3. Do you need to pay when Freeview gives you over 70 TV & radio channels completely, er, free?

    If you're not bothered about watching certain shows or having hundreds of extra channels, Freeview may be the best option. Newer TVs have basic Freeview built into them, giving over 70 TV and radio channels (if you have an older TV, basic Freeview boxes start from about £10). And as the name suggests, there's no subscription to pay.

    Within those 70 channels you'll have plenty of choice, including popular shows such as the BBC's Killing Eve, Taskmaster on Dave and Come Dine With Me on Channel 4.

    To get the most out of Freeview though, you could consider a YouView+ box, which lets you record, pause or rewind live TV or record whole series. These start at around £70 for a box with 500GB of memory (which records up to 250 hours of TV).

  4. Watch 100s of films & box sets FREE, incl Peep Show, Scrubs, ER, Dawson's Creek, Dallas Buyers Club etc

    Even if you've exhausted the free trials offered by the likes of Amazon Prime Video and Now TV, it's possible to stream big box sets and films online without paying. We've rounded up 50 of the best box sets below, as well as 30 free films you can currently stream online.

    Where to watch free shows online

    You can watch plenty of free shows on Channel 4's catch-up service All 4, and (if you have a TV licence) BBC iPlayer, plus Rakuten has a whole host of free films:

    • All 4 has a whopping 269 box sets available, and you DON'T need a TV licence to watch these online. They include sitcoms such as Green Wing, Peep Show and The IT Crowd. You'll also find some films, as well as the entire back catalogues of popular TV shows such as First Dates and One Born Every Minute. You'll need to register (for free) and watch adverts before and during each show.

    • BBC iPlayer's advert-free catch-up service offers a decent selection of box sets, including Fleabag, Luther and Gavin and Stacey. Plus there's usually a selection of films available. It's worth noting you DO need a TV licence to use it. You'll also need to register (for free).

    • My5 is Channel 5's catch-up service, where you can watch recent episodes of shows such as NCIS and Neighbours, as well as find entertainment for the kids, including selected Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol episodes. It also offers a decent number of films to stream for free. You'll have to watch adverts before and during each show.

    • Rakuten offers a number of free films on top of its pay-per-view service. Again, you simply need to register for free and, like All 4 and My5, you'll have to watch adverts. 

    Could you ditch Netflix? Check out our round-up of popular box sets and films you can stream FREE

    We've rounded up some of the biggest box sets available to stream for free right now – from British classics such as Doctor Who, Father Ted and Jonathan Creek, to big American shows such as ER, Dawson's Creek, Scrubs and 90210.

    Some have over 10 series to work through, so you may find there's enough here to ditch the paid-for options such as Netflix, Now TV and Prime Video. We've also found a decent selection of films available to watch for free.

    • Free box sets available online

      90210 All 4 1-5
      Absolutely Fabulous iPlayer 1-5
      Ashes to Ashes iPlayer 1-3
      Call The Midwife iPlayer 1-9
      Catastrophe All 4 1-4
      Community All 4 1-6
      Cuckoo iPlayer 1-5
      Dawson's Creek All 4 1-6
      Death in Paradise iPlayer 1-9
      Derry Girls All 4 1-2
      Doctor Who iPlayer 1-12
      The End of the F***ing World All 4 1-2
      ER All 4 1-15
      Extras iPlayer 1-2
      Father Ted All 4 1-3
      Fleabag iPlayer 1-2
      French and Saunders iPlayer 1-6
      Fresh Meat All 4 1-4
      Friday Night Dinner All 4 1-6
      Gavin and Stacey iPlayer 1-3
      Heroes iPlayer 1-4
      Hustle iPlayer 1-8
      The Inbetweeners All 4 1-3
      The IT Crowd All 4 1-4
      Jonathan Creek iPlayer 1-5
      Killing Eve iPlayer 1-3
      Life on Mars iPlayer 1-2
      Line of Duty iPlayer 1-5
      Luther iPlayer 1-5
      Miranda iPlayer 1-3
      Misfits All 4 1-5
      The Missing iPlayer 1-2
      My Family iPlayer 1-11
      Outnumbered iPlayer 1-5
      Peep Show All 4 1-9
      Peter Kay's Car Share iPlayer 1-2
      Porridge iPlayer 1-3
      Scrubs All 4 1-9
      Seinfeld All 4 1-9
      Shameless All 4 1-11
      Sherlock iPlayer 1-4
      Spooks iPlayer 1-10
      Teachers All 4 1-4
      The Thick of It iPlayer 1-4
      Torchwood iPlayer 1-4
      Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps iPlayer 1-9
      W1A iPlayer 1-3
      Waking The Dead iPlayer 1-9
      Wallander iPlayer 1-4
      Waterloo Road iPlayer 1-10
    • While there aren't quite as many films available for free online, we found a decent selection, including Dallas Buyers Club, The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and The History Boys.

      It's worth noting these aren't always available for as long as box sets – some are only online for a few weeks, others for months. However, the BBC currently has a selection of 'silver screen classics', which it says will be available on iPlayer for over a year.

      Free films available online

      Angriest Man In Brooklyn Rakuten No end date given
      Anna Karenina  My 5 Until 20 May 2021
      A Simple Plan iPlayer For four months
      The Blair Witch Project iPlayer For one month
      Bright Young Things My5 Until 20 May 2021
      Bringing Up Baby iPlayer For "over a year"
      Citizen Kane iPlayer For "over a year"
      Control Rakuten No end date given
      Cosmopolis Rakuten No end date given
      Dallas Buyers Club Rakuten No end date given
      Dangerous Liaisons iPlayer Until 1 September
      The Duchess iPlayer Until 17 August
      Everyone Says I Love You Rakuten No end date given
      The History Boys iPlayer Until 8 August
      Howards End All 4 Until 1 September
      The Immigrant Rakuten No end date given
      The Inbetweeners 2 All 4 Until 5 August
      The Iron Lady All 4 Until 21 August
      The Jackal iPlayer For five months
      King Kong iPlayer For "over a year"
      Lara Croft Tomb Raider iPlayer For three months
      Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life iPlayer For three months
      Let Me In My5 Until 23 September
      Man On The Moon iPlayer For four months
      Monster My5 Until 28 October
      The Ninth Gate Rakuten No end date given
      Paranormal Activity iPlayer For two months
      Poltergeist iPlayer Until 30 August
      Primary Colours iPlayer For four months
      Rush iPlayer Until 9 August
      The Salesman iPlayer Until 25 August
      The Shining iPlayer Until 23 August
      Summer In February Rakuten No end date given
      Super Rakuten No end date given
      Twelve Monkeys iPlayer For four months
      Two Night Stand Rakuten No end date given
      x+y iPlayer Until 10 August
  5. Student? There's a trick to watch live telly and use iPlayer WITHOUT a licence

    In some circumstances you won't need to get your own licence, even if you've moved into your own digs. TV Licensing says you may be covered by your parents' licence if your 'out-of-term address' (ie, your parents' address) is covered by a TV licence, you only use TV-receiving equipment powered solely by its own internal batteries, and you haven't connected it to an aerial or plugged it into the mains.

    See our Do I need a TV licence? guide for full details.

  6. Over 75? Check if you're eligible for a free TV license & more

    Free TV licences are now limited to those over-75s receiving pension credit. The BBC says 1.5 million households could be eligible to keep their free licence – but an estimated 600,000 of these have yet to claim pension credit so could lose out.

    Pension credit is a tax-free benefit aimed at retired people on low incomes. It's means-tested, but for those who qualify it can be worth £1,000s a year. As well as a free TV licence, you could qualify for a council tax reduction, free dental treatment and more. For full details, and how to check if you're eligible, see our Pension Credit guide.

Paying for Sky, Virgin Media etc? How to save

Some pay over £1,000/year for a digital TV subscription with the likes of Sky, Virgin, TalkTalk or BT TV, yet it's often possible to cut the cost. See our Digital TV Deals guide for full help, but to get you started:

  1. Ask yourself if you REALLY need to pay for digital TV

    Switching from a TV contract to Freeview can save many a small fortune, so weigh up if what you're paying is really worth the extra. After all, there are now lots of places to watch programmes on demand for free (or just the cost of the licence fee) – from BBC iPlayer and All 4, to the less traditional video found on YouTube or even Facebook and Instagram.

    Even if you do watch enough TV to make it worth paying for, switching to cheaper services could save you cash.

  2. Do a full 'channel audit' – and axe those you never watch

    There's no point paying for channels you won't watch, so decide what you want and make sure you're on the right package. As channels are usually bundled up into much larger lists, such as 'entertainment' or 'sports', you may find you're paying for access to 20, even though you only really use one.

    Also, if you're a keen footie fan, only sign up to the sports channels for the duration of 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.

  3. Find the best digital TV deal

    TV packages are notoriously complicated, often with many optional extras and a variety of bundles. Choosing one can be hard, but weighing up each decision carefully could stop you shelling out £100s/year for add-ons you don't need. Our Digital TV Deals guide has full help, but in brief:

    • Only pay for channels you know you'll watch. As channels are usually bundled up into much larger lists, such as 'Entertainment', 'Sports' or 'Kids', you could end up paying for access to 20, though you'll only really use one. If this is the case, think carefully and weigh up if it's really worth it.

      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.

    • It's not always cheapest to get broadband and TV from the same provider. Many offer TV bundles that include broadband. Sometimes opting for a complete package can be the cheapest way, but never assume so. Our Broadband Unbundled tool will show you when it finds a cheaper combination from more than one provider – just select 'TV' and 'Include Unbundled deals'.

    • Cashback sites may pay you for signing up. As an extra boon, members of specialist cashback websites can be paid when they sign up for some products. Do check that it's exactly the same deal though, as terms can be different. And remember, the cashback is never 100% guaranteed until it's in your account. For full help and the pros and cons, see our Top Cashback Sites guide.

    Always keep a note of when each contract ends and make a note in your diary to ditch and switch, or haggle, around a month before your promo deal finishes, as you'll likely see your prices are suddenly hiked.

  4. Haggle a better deal EVERY year – eg, 'I saved £360'

    If you choose to stay with your digital TV provider, you can still save money. In a nutshell, call up and ask for a better deal. Say you're paying too much or rivals' deals are cheaper. If that doesn't work, tell it you're leaving. You'll usually get put through to companies' super-powerful hidden deals departments. For more tips and tricks, see Haggle with Sky & more.

    In our February 2019 poll, 84% of MoneySavers who said they tried haggling with Sky were successful, and for Virgin Media it was 76%. David told us: 

    After reading your tips on haggling with Sky I called them and ended up with a £30 a month reduction without losing any of my channels/extra boxes. A £360 a year saving from a 10-minute phone call is fantastic!

  5. Now TV passes are cheaper than Sky Sports if you only watch the odd match

    Subscriptions to Sky aren't cheap, with the basic package starting at £22/month – and many pay a whopping £30 extra every month to access Sky Sports channels. But if you only watch the occasional match or event, you'll likely be better off buying daily, weekly or monthly Sky Sports passes via Now TV instead.

    Passes start at £5.99 for the mobile month pass, which gets you access to five channels on your smartphone for a whole month. Or you can pay £9.98 for a day pass (it's £14.98 for a week), which lets you watch 11 channels on any device.

    The same principle applies to Now TV's 'Entertainment' pass – if you only pay for Sky to watch a particular show (eg, The Walking Dead), you could save by cancelling your Sky subscription and buying a Now TV pass, which you can cancel when your series has finished (and start up again when a new series begins).

  6. Turn your games console into an additional Sky box using Sky Go Extra

    If you're a Sky customer with Sky Go Extra, you can use a console (including Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4) to stream Sky TV, which may work out cheaper than buying an additional Sky box for your home.

    Sky Go Extra costs an additional £5/mth, or it's included if you upgrade to Sky Q Experience for an extra £13/mth.

Save on streaming, including with Netflix, Amazon Prime & Now TV

Streaming's become an increasingly popular way to watch TV – and there are tons of ways to save:

  1. Free tool to check what's on where – so you only pay for the streaming services you'll actually use

    If there are specific shows or films you want to watch, check which services have them, then weigh up what the best – and cheapest – option is for you.

    To help you, there's a clever free online tool, JustWatch, which catalogues what shows and films are shown on different streaming services. It includes more than 20 in total – including free ones such as All 4 and BBC iPlayer.

  2. Check if you can share your account with family and friends

    Many streaming services let you share your account with others, which can be a great way to save money if you all chip in – though exact rules vary:

    • Amazon Prime – members can share Prime Video with one other adult. If you have the full Amazon Prime subscription (but not if you only pay for the £5.99/mth Prime Video membership) you can share certain benefits with one other adult "in your household" by forming an Amazon Household. You'll keep your personal account, but you'll both need to link your accounts and agree to share payment methods. (We've asked Amazon whether the other adult needs to live at the same address and will update this when we hear back.)

    • Apple TV+ – share with up to five family members. You can share your Apple TV+ subscription with up to five other members of your family – see Apple Family Sharing for more information. Apple told us you can share with family members living elsewhere, eg, children who have moved out; so you don't need to live at the same address.

    • Netflix – share with others living at the same address. You can split the standard and premium plans with other people in your household, eg, the standard plan costs £8.99/mth and allows you to watch on two screens at the same time (you don't have to be watching the same thing). This means you could get one subscription, split the cost with your other half, a family member or housemate and pay just £4.50/mth each.

      Bear in mind that sharing with someone who lives elsewhere is technically forbidden (but in 2016 Netflix said it wasn't "obsessed" with enforcing this rule).

    • Now TV – share on up to six devices. You can use your account on up to six devices (but only watch on two at the same time). The exception is the Sky Sports mobile month pass, which you can only watch on one smartphone at a time. We've asked Now TV to confirm if those you're sharing with have to live at the same address – it's not replied, but we'll update this guide if and when we hear back.
  3. Pay upfront to cut the cost – eg, save £17/yr on Amazon Prime

    While many services offer a monthly payment option, you can often save by paying for a year upfront. For example, the full Amazon Prime membership is £79 upfront for a year, but if you choose to pay monthly you'll end up paying £95.88 over the year (£7.99/mth).

    Similarly, Apple TV+ is £49.99 upfront for a year, but if you opt to pay monthly you'll end up paying £59.88 over the year (£4.99/mth).

  4. Save up to £72/yr by switching to the basic Netflix plan

    Many Netflix users are on its £8.99/mth standard package. Others pay £11.99/mth for premium. But if you don't need all the bells and whistles – eg, if you only watch on one screen or aren't really fussed about HD – then switching to Netflix's £5.99/mth basic package could save you up to £72/yr.

    To do this, log in to Netflix, go to 'Account' and then under 'Plan Details' hit 'Change plan'. You'll be switched to your new plan right away, but won't get money back – you'll just pay less the next time you're billed, so do it as close to your next billing date as possible.

    For lots more tips and tricks to save, see our 18 Netflix Hacks.

  5. Try the 'pretend to cancel' trick (often a winner with Now TV)

    A number of MoneySavers report being offered discounts when they try to cancel their Now TV passes online – for example, MSE Kelvin tried it and was offered a three-month Sky Cinema pass for £2.40/mth (normally £11.99/mth).

    So if you're happy to continue your subscription, it's worth starting the cancellation process to try to bag a discount. Make sure when you're asked why you're leaving that you say it's because you 'can't afford' the service.

    Let us know if you've successfully tried this trick with any other streaming service.

  6. Getting a weekly Now TV Sky Sports pass? Time it carefully to max the value

    MSE Chris D says he often buys a weekly pass, and plans his viewing carefully beforehand, as the passes expire exactly seven days after you activate them.

    So if he wants to watch a match on a Saturday afternoon, he'll check what's on the following Saturday, and may wait until right before kick-off to buy his pass – that way he can watch a match that's on earlier in the day the following week too.

  7. Bought an Apple product recently? You may be able to get Apple TV+ free for 12 months

    Apple's new video subscription service launched last year, and Apple said customers who have bought a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod Touch since 10 September 2019 (direct or from one of its authorised resellers) can get one year's Apple TV+ for free. You'll need to claim the offer within three months of first setting up your new device – simply sign in with your Apple ID and go to the Apple TV app to view the offer.

    You'll have to pay once the trial is up, so make a note to cancel if you don't want to keep it. Your trial will end as soon as you cancel (and you'll lose access to Apple TV).

  8. Swap between films and box sets each month to slash the cost of Now TV

    If you're keen to watch films and box sets on Now TV, you'll need to pay for two separate passes: Entertainment (£8.99/mth) and Sky Cinema (£11.99/mth).

    Yet MSE Jenny's top tip is to alternate between them each month, so you can binge box sets one month and films the next. That way you're never paying for both passes at the same time.

  9. Check how long a series will be available for – so you're only paying when what you want to watch is on

    The beauty of most streaming services, from a MoneySaving point of view, is that you can dip in and out of subscribing as often as you like, as there's no minimum contract term. That means if you know what's on when, you can ensure you're only paying while it's showing the stuff you want to watch. To help plan, most tell you when something is due to be taken off.

    For example, Netflix will tell you if a programme is being removed within the next 30 days. Open up the info on any series or movie and click the 'Details' tab – it'll say something like 'Availability Until 01/01/2021'.

  10. Exchange 50p in Clubcard vouchers for £1.50 Now TV credit

    You can swap Tesco Clubcard vouchers* for credit to use at Now TV, including on Entertainment, Sky Movies and Sky Sports passes. Best of all, you'll triple the value of your Clubcard vouchers, so 50p becomes £1.50 in Now TV credit – in fact, it's one of our top ways to boost your Clubcard points' value.

  11. Buy discounted Apple, Now TV etc gift cards to cut the cost

    It's worth looking out for discounted gift cards, as you'll essentially be getting a discount on the cost of your subscription. For example, Tesco has previously offered 20% off £10 Now TV gift cards (making them £8).

    Buying gift cards comes with a risk though – they're easy to lose and companies can go bust before you spend them. So make sure if you do this you spend them straightaway.