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Should I choose BT Vision or Sky?

Should I choose BT Vision or Sky?

Hi Jon, my area isnít due to switch until 2011, and my Freeview reception is pretty poor at the moment. Iím considering signing-up to a subscription TV service, but canít decide between BT Vision or Sky. Can you outline the pros and cons of each?

Which would you recommend?

Freddy Duff, via email, Updated: Thursday 27 September, 2012

Our digital TV expert says...

Dear Freddy, when it comes to choosing a digital TV package, there are a lot of options. Choosing a subscription TV service such as Sky ( will give you a bigger selection of channels and programmes than a subscription-free TV service like Freeview or Freesat.

Subscription services also offer interactive menus, and some also have on-demand content to choose from, such as BT Vision ( or Virgin Mediaís catch-up and TV Choice services.

But which service should you choose? This really depends on the amount of TV you watch, what programmes you like watching, and how much you are willing to pay for your package. If you havenít already, read our article Which digital TV service should I choose?, then take a look at the information below, to help you decideÖ

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Cost - BT Vision or Sky?

Cost is a major factor when choosing a service. The table below shows the cost for the basic packages from BT Vision and Sky:

Basic TV packages

CompanyPackage NamePriceChannels 
Sky Entertainment TV£21.50Get channels like Sky 1, Sky Living, Sky Atlantic and more

BT Vision prices are often discounted for the first few months, so look out for special introductory offers, and make sure you know what the price reverts to after that. Click on BT Vision in the table above to go to the BT website, which will give you full pricing details.

With BT Vision itís important to remember that youíll also have to pay for your BT Total Broadband subscription each month, as the BT TV service is only available to BT broadband customers.

Installation and hardware prices do vary with the suppliers, depending on the level of hardware you choose and the type of set-up. Please refer to the suppliersí websites for these costs:

Programmes and channels - BT Vision or Sky?

The amount off TV you watch, the types of programmes you like and the channels you want will all help determine which provider would suit you best.

When it comes to channels, Sky offers the largest selection. You can choose from six different ďpacksĒ, which offer a range of channels from various genres. The packs are:

  • Variety - Includes Sky 1, Sky 2, Living and Dave
  • Knowledge - Includes the Discovery channel, National Geographic and the History channel
  • News & Events - Includes Sky News, Sky Sports News and CNBC
  • Style & Culture - Includes Sky Real Lives, Good Food and Discovery Real Time
  • Music - Includes MTV, Magic, Kiss and MTVHits
  • Childrenís - Includes Disney, Nickelodeon, Boomerang and Cartoon Network.

Sky subscribers can also add on premium channels to their package, such as the Sky movie channels and the Sky sports channels, and ESPN.

As well as all the basic Freeview channels, BT Vision also offers additional on-demand TV and channels in packs. Customers can choose either two, three or all four packs. The packs for BT Vision are:

  • PictureBox Film - Gives customers 28 films every month
  • Sports - Shows Barclays Premier League (not live) matches, Moto GP, TNA Wrestling and sporting classics like the 1966 World Cup official film
  • Music - A range of new and old music videos, festivals, documentaries and concerts, as well as Vision Music Karaoke
  • Kids - Over 100 kidsí TV series from some of the best known channels, including BBC, Milkshake and Nat Geo Junior.

BT Vision customers can also access pay-per-view content, including sporting fixtures and films. ESPN is included with BT Vision Unlimited, but is not available to BT Vision Essential customers.

Any BT Vision customer living in an area where BT Infinity broadband is available can add the Sky Sports channels to their package. You can find out if you're eligible via

You can add either Sky Sports 1 or 2 to your BT Vision service individually,with the cost of each channel reduced if you sign-up for both. However, if you want to watch every Premier League match, you will need ESPN, as 23 of the live games will be shown on ESPN, with the rest being shown on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2.

Hardware and set-up - BT Vision or Sky?

One of the main differences between the services from BT Vision and Sky is the set-up and the hardware each uses. While Sky is a satellite TV provider, BT Vision is an internet TV (IPTV) service, which comes through your BT phone line. Each service has different requirements:

BT Vision requires:

  1. You to live in an area that can receive BT Vision - If you are unsure if your house can receive BT Vision, use our postcode checker to see if itís available.
  2. A rooftop aerial - If you donít have an aerial youíll be unable to receive the Freeview service.
  3. An active BT phone line - If you are a Virgin Media cable customer you will not be able to receive BT Vision.
  4. A BT Total Broadband subscription - If your internet is provided by another supplier you will not be able to receive BT Vision.

Sky requires:

  1. You to live in an area that can receive Sky - If you are unsure if your house can receive Sky, use our postcode checker to see if itís available.
  2. A satellite dish mounted on the side of the house - If you live in a flat, rented accommodation or a listed building, this may not be feasible.

The two suppliersí services also come with different types of hardware. Sky offers various set-top boxes. Itís Sky+ and Sky+HD boxes allow customers to record pause and rewind live TV. For more information, read our guide What is Sky+?

BT Vision uses a similar box to Sky, called Vision+. As well as serving as a Freeview set-top box, it offers customers the option to record and store up to 80 hours of Freeview TV with a 160GB hard drive. The box is HD ready, letting you watch your favourite programmes in high-definition picture and sound.

Which digital TV service should I choose?

The service you choose will really depend on all of the factors mentioned above, so itís important you read all the information and choose a package thatís going to suit your household. If all youíre really looking for is the basic Freeview channels with a few extras, BT Vision is probably the cheapest option for you - but remember this is only available if you have BT Total Broadband.

If you think Sky may be a better choice for you, read our guide to find out more information about Sky and visit to sign-up for the new service.

Other digital TV providers, such as Virgin Media and TalkTalk TV offer alternatives to BT Vision and Sky, so it may also be worth reading up a bit on these before entering a contract with a provider.

I hope this helps you decide between BT Vision and Sky, Freddy. If you want more information on what the providers offer, you should definitely check out the provider guides for each.

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