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TV MoneySaving tricks

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

Over half of UK households are signed up to at least one streaming service, while millions spend £100s a year on digital TV subscriptions. Yet there are loads of ways to slash the cost. 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 tipsDigital TV dealsNetflix hacks and Watch movies & TV online.

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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 top content for FREE including Joker, all Harry Potters, Vikings, Parasite and more

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

    The good news from a MoneySaving point of view, is that many offer free trials, giving unlimited access for a set period. Most services can be streamed on a compatible smart TV, phone or tablet, or via a dongle such as Chromecast or Fire TV stick.

    If you really want to max it, hop from free trial to free trial

    Just remember to cancel before each trial's up. Unfortunately, Netflix and Disney+ no longer offer free trials (see how to cut costs instead), but below we've a list of other biggies you can still take advantage of to watch hours of popular content.

    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 and be charged.

    Free TV streaming trials

    STREAMING PLATFORM WHAT IT OFFERS

    Prime Video*

    30 days' free TV shows, movies and sport. Amazon's video streaming service has tons of popular films and TV shows such as Parks and Recreation, The Walking Dead, Vikings, Parasite, Joker and It Chapter Two. Plus it has Amazon originals such as The Boys, Good Omens, I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Care A Lot, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

     

    Prime Video also occasionally has live sport including Premier League football and international tennis tournaments.


    Britbox

    30 days' free TV shows. 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.


    Now
    Seven days' free TV or movies. You can get a free seven-day trial for Now's Entertainment or Cinema membership (or both).

    Entertainment includes shows such as Succession, Game of Thrones, Euphoria and A Discovery of Witches. Cinema includes over 1,000 movies. You can watch Harry Potter 1-7, Peter Rabbit 2, The Croods: A New Age, A Quiet Place Part II, The Suicide Squad and more.

    Unfortunately, it's not currently offering a free trial of its Sports membership.
     

    Apple TV

    Seven days' free TV and movies. Apple TV+ offers original TV series such as The Morning Show starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell, plus Ted LassoThe Shrink Next Door, Little America and Tehran. It also includes a few movies such as Tom Hanks' Greyhound.

    Hayu

    Seven days' free TV shows. A streaming service dedicated to reality TV, offering shows such as The Real Housewives of Beverly HillsKeeping Up With The Kardashians and Below Deck.
  2. Always-free streaming services where you can watch 100s of films & box sets, including Peep Show, Scrubs, ER, Pretty Little Liars, Lara Croft and others

    Even if you've exhausted the free trials offered by the likes of Prime Video and Now, it's possible to stream big box sets and films online without paying. We've rounded up 40 of the best box sets below, as well as 20+ 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 280 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 over 180 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. 

    • UKTV Play is a catch-up service for Dave, Drama and Yesterday, so you can watch episodes of Taskmaster, Would I Lie To You, New Tricks, Peak Practice and more on demand. It's free to sign up, but you'll have to watch occasional adverts.

    Popular box sets and films you can stream FREE via the services above

    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 Bates Motel, ER and Pretty Little Liars.

    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 and Prime Video. We've also found a decent selection of films available to watch for free.

  3. Freeview gives you over 70 TV & radio channels completely, er, free

    This may seem obvious, but 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 Top Gear on the BBC, Love Island on ITV, Taskmaster on Dave and Come Dine With Me on Channel 4.

  4. Given the amount of free content available, could you ditch Netflix, Prime, Now and other paid-for options?

    As we've shown you above, there are hours and hours of free streaming content available via always-free on-demand services and Freeview, so it's worth considering if you really need to pay for streaming services such as Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Now.

    Of course, if you're desperate to watch certain shows such as The Crown or Succession, then you've little choice, but there's no shortage of decent content to watch that you don't need to pay for.

  5. TV licences are £159 – check if you REALLY need one

    If you only watch certain channels on catch-up, you may be able to avoid paying the £159 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 a year.

  6. 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.

  7. Over 75? Check if you're eligible for a free TV licence & 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.

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Paying for Sky, Virgin Media etc? How to save

Some pay over £1,000 a 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 a 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 November 2020 poll, 86% of MoneySavers who said they tried haggling with Sky were successful, and for Virgin Media it was 77%. 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 membership is cheaper than Sky Sports if you only watch the odd match

    Subscriptions to Sky aren't cheap, with the basic package starting at £26 a month – and many pay a whopping £32 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 or monthly Sky Sports membership via Now instead.

    You can currently pay £9.98 for a combined day pass and mobile month pass, which gets you access to five channels on your smartphone for a whole month. The day pass lets you watch 11 channels on any device for 24 hours.

    The same principle applies to Now's 'Entertainment' pass – if you only pay for Sky to watch a particular show (such as Westworld or The Walking Dead), you could save by cancelling your Sky subscription and buying a Now membership, 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 One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5) 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 a month, or it's included if you upgrade to Sky Q Experience for an extra £13 a month.

Save on streaming, including with Disney+, Netflix, Prime Video & Now

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

  1. Get a month of Disney+ for £1.99 (or £10 off an annual subscription via cashback)

    A subscription to Disney+ costs £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year, but there are a couple of ways to cut the cost...

    Get £10 off a £79.90 annual membership via cashback

    If you were planning to sign up for a whole year, you might be able to get £10 cashback on an annual subscription if you sign up via this Topcashback Disney+* link.

    You'll effectively be getting a year's Disney+ for £69.90. Topcashback says it's an ongoing offer for new or existing Topcashback members, but you have to be new to Disney+. It says the £10 should be credited within 10 weeks.

    Remember, cashback is never certain as things can sometimes go wrong (our Top cashback sites guide has more info), so see it as a bonus rather than a guarantee – even if it doesn't work, as long as you were planning to sign up to a Disney+ annual subscription anyway, you won't be losing anything.

    O2 customer? Get £2 a month off Disney+ or six months' free for newbies

    If you're an existing O2 customer, you can add a Disney+ subscription to your contract and O2 will give you £2 bill credit each month, meaning you can effectively get Disney+ for £5.99 a month (normally £7.99).

    You can add this 'Extra' onto your contract either online through your My O2 account, or by calling 202 from your O2 mobile. What's more, if you've already got a Disney+ subscription, you can still get this offer. See the Disney+ help page to make sure that you're not billed twice. 

    If you're a new O2 customer or you've recently upgraded, you can get six months' free Disney+. After the six months, you'll then be able to get the above £2 a month bill credit offer. See O2 Disney+ T&Cs for full info. A deal like this shouldn't be your only reason for choosing a new phone contract – use our Cheap Mobile Finder tool to ensure you get the best deal for you.

  2. 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 50 in total – including all the big paid-for services, such as Now, Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ – plus free ones such as All 4 and BBC iPlayer.

  3. 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 – 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 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.
  4. Pay upfront to cut the cost – including save £17 a year 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).

  5. Save up to £96 a year by switching to the basic Netflix plan

    Many Netflix users are on its £9.99 a month standard package. Others pay £13.99 a month for premium (previously £11.99). But if you don't need all the bells and whistles – for example, if you only watch on one screen or aren't really fussed about HD – then switching to Netflix's £5.99 a month basic package could save you up to £96 a year.

    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 Netflix Hacks.

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

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

    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.

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

    MSE Chris D says he sometimes 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.

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

    If you're keen to watch films and box sets on Now, you'll need to pay for two separate passes: Entertainment (£9.99 a month) and Sky Cinema (£9.99 a month).

    Rather than pay for both at the same time, MSE Jenny's top tip is to alternate between them each month, so you can binge box sets one month and films the next.

  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 01/01/2022'.

  10. Buy discounted gift cards for Apple, Now and others 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 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.

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