BT TV: Bundles on the box on a budget
BT TV was originally launched by in 2006 as BT Vision, and BT (www.BT.com) was one of the first TV providers in the UK to use the internet, letting you catch up on what you’d missed, watch stuff on-demand, and get extra channels alongside regular Freeview channels.
The change to BT TV began in 2012, when the BT Vision+ set-top box was replaced with YouView. The following year, BT launched BT Sport, its challenger to Sky Sports, which has helped make BT the third most popular subscription TV provider in the country.
Since then, BT’s made Sky Cinema, Netflix and more available on BT TV. Now you can watch a huge range of shows, films and music videos whenever you want, and tailor your package to suit both your tastes and your budget.
What can I get from BT TV?
BT TV's only available when bundled with one of the company’s broadband and phone packages, and essentially comes in three flavours:
- Starter - gives you a compact YouView box that lets you pause and rewind TV, but, regrettably, not record it. You get 80 Freeview TV and radio channels, and catch-up TV from BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. If you want more, you can add extra channels as bolt-ons
- Entertainment - you’ll get everything you get with Starter, but with a superior YouView+ box - which lets you record up to 300 hours of TV and pause and rewind live shows - and over 25 premium channels, including Comedy Central, Syfy, and Discovery.
- Max - BT’s top TV package gives you a YouView+ Ultra HD box, and you’ll also get about 50 extra premium channels. It also has the added bonus of free BT Sport, including BT Sport Ultra HD - so you can watch those sporting moments in fantastic 4K definition.
You can add BT Sport very cheaply onto Starter or Entertainment too, of course - for £3.50 a month.
Live TV comes in through the aerial, but to access catch-up TV, on-demand box sets and extra channels, you’ll need an internet connection. So BT Infinity is by far the better option if you’re after the slickest experience - it’s faster and more reliable than standard BT broadband.
That said, if you don’t want fibre optic internet, or can’t get it in your area yet, you can use standard broadband - it won’t be as fast, but provided you have download speeds of more than 2Mb you can still watch TV. The exception to that (there’s always one, isn’t there?) is BT Sport - read below for more on that.
To see which BT TV and broadband bundles are currently available, including the latest special offers, compare your options with our postcode checker.
What channels can I get with BT TV?
As standard, BT TV gives you 80 Freeview TV and radio channels, including the mainstays from BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. The Entertainment package then gives you another 25 channels, including Comedy Central, Fox, MTV, Eurosport and National Geographic.
There’s also loads of online and on-demand content available. Some is included as standard when you sign up, while others can be added as a bolt-on. These extra bundles of channels are charged on a rolling monthly basis, so you can cancel at any time if you decide you don’t want it any more.
The BT Sport pack is the jewel in the BT TV crown. You get four main channels that show 38 Barclays Premier League games live each season, every Champions League match, football from the FA Cup, UEFA Europa League and top-flight leagues around the world, every Aviva Premiership rugby match, MotoGP racing, UFC events and more. And - AND - it’s free with Total Entertainment.
Every BT user can sign up to watch online via PC, Mac or smartphone app. To watch on your TV through YouView, you’ll need to have a connection with a download speed of at least 6.5Mb. For that reason, every BT Infinity customer can get BT Sport on their BT TV, but only some standard BT broadband users can.
BT Sport Ultra HD, on the other hand, is only available with the Max package.
Find out more in our full guide to BT Sport.
You can also get Sky Sports Main Event and Main Event Extra with any BT TV plus BT Infinity package. Together with BT Sport, this means you can watch a grand total of 154 Barclays Premier League matches live each season - almost a fifth of the matches played - from the comfort of your sofa.
Struggling to choose between BT Sport and Sky Sports, or tempted by both? We put them head to head in our guide: BT Sport vs Sky Sports.
Netflix is the newest addition to the BT TV family. If you already subscribe, you can now watch Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil and loads more TV series and films on the biggest screen in the house with BT TV - no more leaning over a laptop! And if you don’t have a subscription, you can add it when you sign up for BT TV and pay for it as part of your package.
You can get Sky Cinema on demand with any BT TV package, and if you get BT TV with BT Infinity, you get all 11 Sky Cinema channels live too - Action & Adventure, Comedy, Crime & Thriller, Disney, Drama & Romance, Family, Greats, Premiere, Sci Fi & Horror, Select and Showcase.
Curzon Home Cinema
BT’s the only TV provider with which you can rent independent films from arthouse specialist Curzon Cinemas, through its video on-demand service Curzon Home Cinema. You can even watch films on the same day they come out in the cinema.
BT Box Office
You can rent films to watch whenever you want through BT Box Office, which comes with all BT TV packages. There are hundreds to choose from - including the latest bigguns - and it costs as little as 99p per flick when there’s a sale on. You can also buy films to keep from £3.99, which you can watch on your phone, tablet and computer as well as your TV.
What is YouView?
YouView set top boxes combine live Freeview TV, recording functions, and catch-up and on-demand shows delivered via the internet. The best thing about YouView is that it’s all really slickly integrated. Rather than having to manually search a BBC iPlayer to catch up on that all-important episode of Doctor Who you missed, you can just scroll back to it in the electronic guide, and the rest is done for you. It’s impressively simple to use.
Every YouView box lets you pause and rewind TV too. Some also let you record shows to watch later, though the exact recording options depend on which of the two YouView boxes you get with your BT TV package.
You can also get extra YouView boxes to watch BT TV in more than one room. These extra boxes can't record TV, and cost an additional charge each month plus an upfront cost.
What’s good about BT TV?
- Full BT Sport suite - including all Champions League matches - available with BT TV packages, and free with Max
- Free YouView or YouView+ box with every package
- Excellent value for money
- Customisable - you can tailor your TV package to suit your tastes
- Netflix, Sky Cinema, Curzon Home Cinema and BT Box Office make it a great service for film buffs
- Doesn’t require fast broadband speeds - anyone who can get BT Broadband with a download speed of at least 2Mb can use the service
- Very easy to set up, and you can install it yourself
What’s bad about BT TV?
- Only available with a BT broadband and phone package
- Gets expensive when extras are added
- Fewer Sky Sports channels than other providers
- It doesn’t have many HD channels, and those it does have often cost extra
- BT Infinity required to get extra live content, including Sky Sports, BT Kids and Sky Cinema
- BT Infinity and a download speed of at least 23Mb required for Extra Box
- YouView and YouView+ are slow to start up and the user interface is a little clumsy