Top digital TV packages
With the Great British Digital Switchover already finalising in 2012, now is the time to put those old analogue TV sets out to pasture and find the best digital TV package to revolutionise the viewing experience.
Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it. Well, that’s because the improvements enabled by digital technology really are pretty spellbinding, especially for viewers used to all that fuzziness and ghosting that is part and parcel of analogue TV viewing. With digital TV, that is all history – crystal clear images, superb sound and a wide variety of different channel options are the order of the new digital age. Moreover, analogue sets just won’t work when the switchover is completed, and they don’t make very attractive objets d’art.
For those willing to pay a little extra for cutting-edge viewing technology, the largest digital TV provider in the UK – Sky TV – offers enhancements to its standard packages such as HD (High definition) channels and even 3D TV (as does Virgin Media). But as Digital catches on, the number of providers is also increasing and not all of them require a monthly fee. Much depends on two factors: budget, and viewing references.
Freeview Digital TV is the most popular free digital service in the UK, offering around 50 different digital channels without charge (all that’s required is a digital set-top box). For viewers who want the HD experience, a little extra cost will be necessary but the Freeview+ High Definition box allows pausing, rewinding and recording of live HD programmes with a casual tap of the remote.
Freesat Digital TV is the new kid on the digital block after its launch in 2008 and, like Freeview it doesn’t require monthly fees and contractual subscriptions. It also offers recording on its HD option.
The widest choice
By far the most spectacular diversity and technological options, however, undoubtedly come from the industry titans, Sky and Virgin Media. Before opting for either, it’s important to work out exactly what one’s viewing preferences are – why sign up to a package including sports if you would rather watch paint dry? Depending on how many channels consumers want (and what type) the subscription to these services varies – in general, the more comprehensive the package, the greater the monthly subscription fee will be.
Both Sky and Virgin Media offer excellent and responsive customer support, efficient pricing and highly reliable service provision. Sky remains “the daddy” as far as market share is concerned and is unique in that it offers not just incrementally more channels in its deals, but distinct packages which can be clumped together or omitted, such as children’s channels, entertainment, news, movies and, of course, sport. It has by far the greatest range of HD and 3D TV channels available in the UK, although customers do have to pay a little extra for these. For those whose budgets can stretch to it, though, the HD and 3D options are well worth it.
It’s probably wise to “shop around” before selecting a digital provider and make sure the service under consideration ticks the boxes as far as budget and channel range are concerned. But the days of being stuck with a handful of grainy channels that shimmer and frizzle every time an aeroplane flies overhead are well and truly over.