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Why there's never been a better time to ditch your TV package...

Martin Lane Photo
Written by Martin Lane, Managing Editor

2 January 2019

If you're paying a fortune each month for a Sky or Virgin Media subscription, now could be the time to think about cancelling. Here are the best ways to get your TV and movie fix for less.


If it's live telly you're after, some of the UK's most popular shows are available on Freeview.

Last year, millions of us tuned in to watch Planet Earth II, The Great British Bake Off, and I'm A Celebrity - all of which were shown on terrestrial channels.

Freeview offers over 70 TV channels, 15 HD channels and more than 30 radio stations, including:

  • BBC One HD

  • BBC Two HD

  • BBC News

  • ITV HD

  • Channel 4 HD

  • Channel 5 HD

  • ITV 2

  • Dave

  • Film4

  • More4

  • Really

  • E4

  • Food Network

  • Travel Channel

  • Sky News

  • Cbeebies

Along with soaps, sport and original dramas, digital channels like E4 show US sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. You can also watch movies with Film4, which show a mix of Hollywood blockbusters and world cinema.

If you have a TV with Freeview built in, it won't cost you anything to start watching digital channels. If you have an older TV, Freeview boxes cost less than £30 and just need to be plugged into your TV with your aerial and a scart lead or HDMI cable.

Catch up services

If you prefer to watch TV shows and films on demand, the main UK terrestrial channels all have free online catch up services that let you do exactly that:

  • BBC iPlayer includes a host of catch up TV, sport and films. You can access iPlayer on a range of devices including your smart TV, and most of the titles can be viewed in HD if your internet connection is fast enough.

  • ITV Hub includes mainly catch up TV, but also has the odd film from time to time. It also has the latest episodes of Family Guy and American Dad, but they're only available for 7 days after they've aired on TV.

  • All 4 has loads of catch up TV and boxsets you can stream for free, like Catastrophe and This Is England 88. You'll need to register an email address and password to access the content, but it's free to do and means you can stream on most devices.

  • My5 is good for watching catch up telly, but the film selection isn't great. While boxset content is limited, you can catch kids' favourites Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam. It's free to use but unless you're a Neighbours fan, it's probably not worth it.

All of these services are free, but you'll need a TV license to use them. The length of time content is available for varies, so check the terms and conditions for details.

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime video includes over 15,000 TV shows and films, including original series like Transparent and The Man in the High Castle.

Prime also includes several other perks like free delivery from Amazon, a music streaming service, free Kindle books and digital photo storage. It costs £7.99 a month or £79 a year.

If you just want to watch films and boxsets, you can opt for Prime Video, which is only £5.99 a month.

Here is where you can get a 30 day free trial of Amazon Prime to try it out.

You can keep the service if you are impressed with the range of films and TV shows as well as Prime's other features. If not, you can cancel it after 30 days and pay nothing.

Here's more about Amazon Prime and whether it's worth the cost


Netflix is one of the most popular streaming services, thanks to original content like Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black.

It also includes content from the BBC and Channel 4 original boxsets, like Sherlock and Skins.

You get the first 30 days of your Netflix subscription free, you don't need a TV license, and the monthly cost is much cheaper than cable TV packages:

Basic £5.99/monthOriginal £22/monthPlayer £29/month
Standard £7.49/monthVariety £32/monthMix £39/month
Premium £8.99/monthBox sets £38/monthFull house £55/month

*Excludes Sky Cinema and Sky Sports

Netflix contracts only run for 30 days, so you can cancel whenever you like without paying a fine.

The Standard and Premium packages also let you stream from more than one device, so if you know someone who already has an account you may be able to watch content for free.

Now TV

Now TV is a non-subscription service, which lets you pay daily, weekly or monthly for the TV you want to watch. It's good if you watch seasonal TV shows, like Game of Thrones or Westworld, or if you want to watch certain live sports.

There are lots of ways to get Now TV for free:

  • Free trial: Get the first 14 days for free, including an Entertainment Pass, Sky Cinema pass and Kids TV pass.

  • npower offer: If you get your energy from npower, you can claim a free Week Pass for Now TV Sky Sports.

  • Vodafone offer: If you're on a Red Value Bundle pay monthly contract, you could get 24 months of Now TV Entertainment for free.

Now TV Combo

You can now get broadband, home phone and TV in one bundle with the Now TV Combo.

Their cheapest bundle is £29.99 a month, compared to the equivalent Sky package which would set you back over £50 a month.

Like Now TV, the Combo package comes without a contract, so you can cancel whenever you like. You can tailor your package too, so you can get faster broadband and more channels if you pay more.

Pay per view

There are plenty of alternatives to using Sky or Virgin's pay per view movie channels:

  • iTunes: You can rent and buy films using iTunes, but you'll need to download the software and set up an account. Prices vary depending on the popularity of the film or TV show, but you can expect to pay between 99p and £5 to rent a film.

  • Amazon: You can still buy and rent films and TV series on Amazon if you don't have Prime, but it could end up costing you more. Prices range from £3.49-£9.99 to buy a film, and £6.99-£24.99 to buy a TV series.

  • TalkTalk TV: Previously Blinkbox, the TalkTalk TV store lets you buy and rent films and boxsets. Films start from £3.45 to rent and £8.99 to buy; TV shows start from £1.89 per episode or £5.99 per series to buy.

  • Wuaki.TV: On top of TV and films to rent, you also get some movies for free. If you're on EE, Orange or T-Mobile, you can get a movie each week for just £1 by texting FILM to 141. And you also get a free Wuaki film if you spend more than £15 with Deliveroo.

The boxes themselves are. They work similarly to software like Windows Media Player, so you're not going to get arrested just for owning an unaltered Kodi box.

However, when they're pre-loaded with add-ons that let you watch films, TV or paid sport for free, you could be breaking copyright law.

UK law is still unclear, but is likely to rule the same as with other forms of illegal streaming: the distributors will face fines and potential prison sentences.

While you're unlikely to be fined for streaming content using a Kodi box, it's still against the law, so you're best off staying clear.

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