Ask our Expert

How do I record my favourite TV shows?

How do I record my favourite TV shows?

Dear Jon, I’ve recently bought a Sony Bravia TV with built-in Freeview. I was under the impression that I would be able to record any of the Freeview channels onto my video recorder, provided I am watching the same channel that I am recording.

However, all I’ve been able to record so far are the standard analogue TV channels, BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Can you please tell me what I need to do in order to record the other channels?

Any help would be gratefully received!

Tracey Butfield, via comments, Monday 24 January, 2011

Our digital TV expert says...

Hi Tracey, thanks for getting in touch - I can understand your frustration at not being able to record your favourite Freeview channels. Unfortunately though, your old video recorder (VCR) runs on the analogue signal, so you won’t be able to use it once you’ve switched to digital.

You’ll need a digital TV recorder, or Personal Video Recorder (PVR) as they’re also known, if you want to record TV programmes after you’ve gone digital. A PVR is a piece of digital TV hardware that lets you record programmes. They are sometimes also called digital video recorders or DVRs.

Why should you invest in a PVR? Read on for more information on the hardware you need and some of the digital TV providers who offer PVRs as part of a subscription TV package…

PVR vs VCR: Is it time to upgrade?

PVRs have several advantages over VHS recorders, which are definitely worth bearing in mind if you’re thinking about ditching your old machine.

The storage capacity on a PVR is huge and models are constantly being improved

Unlike video recorders or DVD recorders, which use removable tapes or discs to record programmes, a PVR stores all your recorded films and programmes to an internal hard disk.

This means that the storage capacity on a PVR is huge - typically more than 100 hours of TV, though models are constantly being improved, so users can record high-definition (HD) content as more HD channels become available.

As well as not having any tapes to rewind and store, PVRs offer another benefit: picture and sound quality of a programme will not deteriorate, no matter how many times you watch it. Programmes will be just as good as watching them live.

There are plenty of digital TV recorders on the market and all of the UK’s major digital TV providers offer their own PVR set-top boxes. The one you choose really depends on the TV service you have - you can either sign-up for a new TV service, or ask your current provider to upgrade your existing set-top box.


Satellite TV giant Sky ( offers subscribers its award-winning PVR, the Sky+HD box. This lets you:

  • Pause, rewind and record “live” TV, and fast forward through programmes you have recorded
  • Record one channel while watching another
  • Record a whole series with the Series Link feature
  • Record up to 185 hours of standard definition programming or around 60 hours of HD content
  • Programme your box to “remote record” using your mobile phone or the internet.

In addition, the Sky+HD box lets you watch all the Sky high-definition channels (as long as you subscribe to the HD pack). The Sky+HD box is now free when you take the HD pack and sign-up for a 12-month contract with Sky. Visit for more information.

Virgin Media PVR

Virgin Media ( offers its cable TV customers the V+HD box. This gives you all the functionality of a standard PVR and more:

  • Pause, rewind and record “live” TV
  • Record two programmes on different channels at the same time, while watching something on a third channel
  • Record a whole series with the Series Link feature
  • Record up to 80 hours of TV
  • Watch catch-up TV with the BBC iPlayer, 4oD, the ITV Player and more
  • Watch the Virgin Media HD channels (subject to your monthly subscription).

The V+HD box costs a one-off charge of £49.95, plus £40 installation. There may also be a charge of £5 a month on top of your standard Virgin Media TV subscription if you opt to have the box activated to offer HD channels.

Virgin Media often discounts its installation charge though, so be sure to look out for special offers. Visit for more information.

BT Vision PVR

The Vision+ box from BT Vision ( has been redesigned and now comes in a sleek black box to match the new BT Home Hub. It uses 12% less electricity than the previous model, and also lets you:

  • Pause, rewind and record “live” TV
  • Record a whole series by simply pressing the record button twice
  • View all the on-demand shows on the BT Vision menu
  • Record and store up to 80 hours of Freeview TV
  • Watch HD content in crystal clear high-definition.

The PVR from BT comes free when you sign-up for one of its Value packages, or can be purchased from just £60 as a standalone product. You will need BT Total Broadband to get BT Vision, so this could be a good option if you’re looking to upgrade from Freeview and already have BT broadband. To find out more, visit

Freeview and Freesat PVRs

If you opt for a free-to-view provider such as Freeview or Freesat, you will have to buy your PVR separately. Freeview digital recorders range in price from about £50 up to £200 for a high-definition version, with prices varying depending on how much storage you need.

Though the free-to-view TV recorders can be quite expensive, it is important to bear in mind that this is a one-off cost, and that you will not have to pay the ongoing monthly subscriptions charged by Sky, Virgin Media or BT Vision.

VHS recorders will no longer work after you’ve switched to digital, so if you’re worried you’ll miss your favourite soaps while on holiday, you’ll need a PVR.

Take a look at some of our recommendations here:

If you want to be able to record digital TV Tracey, you will have to purchase some kind of PVR - whether it’s a Freeview or Freesat model, or one that comes with a subscription TV service.

Ask us a question

If you have a general switching or provider query please email us at

We want your views, register and comment on this article

 Already Registered?
We will contact you if we can help with your issue, your number will not be given to any third party.
We would like to send you our newsletters with the latest deals, news and expert advice. If you do not want to receive these then simply untick this box. Please read our full privacy policy.

Terms and Conditions Apply


i have bought a hd ready tv with built in freeview and can only record the analogue channels.i have a pioneer dvr-433h recorder with a built in hard drive,is this not a pvr,im not sure,ive been told ill have to connect my old freeview box back again. - Mar 11 2011 10:10AM
mark lakeman, chichester,west sussex

In response to Tracey Butfield's request of 24th Jan - I also have a Sony Bravia Freeview TV and a video recorder, and I can record the freeview chanels. The video is connected to the TV via a scart lead so on the video I select Line 1 as the source. With the TV on and tuned to the channel I want to record, I just start recording, I can also program the recorder to record from the TV at a later time, but beware of the TV turning itself off due to lack of activity. - Feb 7 2011 4:24PM
David Oram, Surbiton UK

Consumer choices
More sites
Get help
Handy guides
TV providers
Registered Address: Third Floor, High Holborn House, 52-54 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6RL Company Reg No:05341159
Copyright © 2006-2011 All rights reserved. (v5.59)