It was back in December 2017 that Sky & BT jointly announced that they would broadcast each others channels, in order to dampen the escalation cost of sports rights and ward-off new competition from the likes of Amazon Prime Video & Facebook. Now, finally, 2 years later, they’ve both launched their new packages and revealed their pricing. So what does it mean for customers and what’s the difference between Sky and BT’s offering now?
In order to answer this we’ve looked at 4 key areas: pricing; the channels available; flexibility offered; and the quality of the TV box and the interface provided.
We thought we’d start with the one on most people’s minds, and it’s a tough one to split the two companies.
BT’s packages with Sky channels start from just £10 a month for BT TV Entertainment whereas Sky’s start at £20, but you’ve got to bear in mind that with BT you need their fibre broadband for it to work, adding around £30, so if you just want a bit of TV and don’t need broadband (or use someone else), Sky’s is the cheaper entry package.
At the top end, BT’s VIP contains all BT Sport & Sky Sports & Entertainment channels in HD, plus Sky Cinema for £60 a month (around £90 with fibre broadband). Sky’s alternative including superfast broadband is a whopping £97 and doesn’t include Sky Cinema, but does have a wider number of channels (see below).
Bear in mind that the prices we can compare are for new customers – both providers may offer discounts for their existing customers to switch to the new packages at the end of their contracts.
Winner = draw
One criticism of BT TV over the years has been the restricted number of channels, with shows like Game of Thrones, Billions, Formula 1 etc. not being available. Offering Sky channels is a big step forward and for 90% of customers gives you all the content you need, especially as both Amazon and Netflix subscriptions can be bundled into the package and accessed via the same box.
Sky still edges this one, with over 400+ channels including extra music, Asian and lifestyle content. If you want ‘everything’ Sky is still the place to go, though you will pay more for it.
Winner = Sky
BT’s main message coming to market was that customers could turn on/off extra options as they wish, similar to how Netflix and Now TV already run their subscriptions. This is certainly a welcome change, as customers often feel locked into premium subscriptions, this offers you the ability for example to save money on Sport over the summer, or add Cinema for Christmas. The drawback of this is that you don’t get the best price when you do this, as the VIP bundle we mentioned above includes pretty much all of the add ons, but for those looking to chop and change their package it’s a nice feature.
Winner = BT
TV interface and the box
Neither provider has changed their hardware for the last few years, meaning with Sky you’ll get the Sky Q box, and with BT TV the G5 Youview platform.
BT’s box is easy to use, with a clear programme guide and apps for things like iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. It works well, but is nothing spectacular and crucially, must be plugged into your broadband connection, so doesn’t connect via Wi-Fi. BT are working on a new box with this feature and others, but we don’t have a release date just yet.
The Sky Q box does have Wi-Fi, along with voice recognition and the ability to support Sky Q mini-boxes around your home. Whilst it does have some drawbacks and is generally harder to use, it’s a superior service all round, for now.
Winner = Sky
For those who like keeping score, that means BT 1 and Sky 2. But it really depends what you’re looking for and which of their strengths appeals to you the most. If you want an all-in bundle of fibre with the main TV & Sports channels, choose BT. If you want the basic premium TV channels or the better box, go with Sky.
The prices and packages are correct as of April 2020. We expect offers to change during the year, so for the latest prices on a tailored package based on the TV you want to watch, use our package finder here