Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Tuesday, 6 May 2008 13:25 UK

Q&A: Compare digital TV packages

BBC and ITV's Freesat has launched, offering a free-to-air satellite TV service. With the switch to digital-only TV already under way, what are the options for viewers?

WHAT IS ON OFFER?
Virgin Media

The UK's biggest cable TV provider. Most new TV customers must also sign up for phone and/or internet services.

Freeview

Basic multi-channel option that comes through normal TV aerial with no monthly subscription.

Freesat

Basic satellite deal with no monthly subscription.

Sky

Long-established subscription satellite service. Has also run its own free service - Freesat from Sky - since 2004.

WHAT DO I NEED AND HOW MUCH DO THEY COST?
Virgin Media

A box will be supplied and connected to your TV and phone. The standard installation cost is 30. The company offers a basic package for 11 per month along with a phone line subscription, and up to 125 per month for a VIP package.

Freeview

One-off payment from as little as 20 - for a set-top box - with no monthly subscription. Some new TVs come with built-in Freeview equipment. Some homes will need an aerial upgrade.

Freesat

The BBC and ITV's service costs 80 for a dish and installation and from 49 for a box. HD boxes cost from 120. No viewing card is needed.

Sky

From 16 a month, with additional costs for extra services. There is a standard set-up fee of 30 for a satellite and set-top box.

Its free service, which requires a viewing card, has a one-off fee of 150 with no monthly payment - or 20 if you already have a Sky dish and box.

HOW MANY CHANNELS ARE AVAILABLE?
Virgin Media

Basic deals include about 40 TV channels, including the BBC, ITV and Channel 4's digital channels. Also news, children's and limited sport, music and film. More expensive packages offer a wider choice with about 145 channels.

Freeview

The basic BBC, ITV and Channel 4 digital channels plus news, shopping and some music and other general entertainment. Extra channels available with a top-up card for 9.99 a month, via Top-Up TV.

Freesat

The BBC and ITV offering will initially have 80 channels, increasing to 200, including news, shopping, music and other general entertainment.

Sky

The basic packages have about 40-100 channels. This includes the main ones plus your choice of bundles featuring variety, children's, documentaries, music and news. Movies and sports are extra.

Sky's free offering has more than 120 channels - but no access to major movies or sports without upgrading to Sky subscription.

HOW MUCH OF THE UK CAN RECEIVE THEM?
Virgin Media

50%

Freeview

75%

Freesat

98%

Sky

98%

HOW POPULAR ARE THEY?
Virgin Media

3.26 million customers (all digital cable services)

Freeview

9.57 million homes

Freesat

Has only just launched.

Sky

8.29 million

A further 1.05 million watch Sky's free satellite service.

Other digital TV services such as Tiscali TV and BT Vision, which provide TV through an internet connection. Other local cable companies also offer different services. It is also possible to receive non-subscription satellite TV by buying and installing your own equipment.


SEE ALSO
Q&A: Digital TV
15 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
Timetable for digital switch-over
15 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
Free satellite service war begins
07 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
BBC and ITV to start Sky TV rival
07 Sep 05 |  Entertainment

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